Anti-lock braking systems, known as ABS for short, are a popular inclusion on many vehicles today. Of course, we all know that braking can have a direct influence on tyre damage.

Specifically, when car tyres normally undergo braking, they stop rotating, causing excessive friction and tyre wear on the part of the tread rubbing against the ground. ABS tyres (tyres fitted onto ABS brakes) don’t have this problem, as the braking system ensures the wheels don’t ‘lock’ in place. As such, ABS brakes have a unique relationship when it comes to tyre damage.

What is the relationship between ABS braking & tyres?

In some situations, it is very close. Driving on a car without ABS, hard braking - even on a smooth surface - can cause a flat tyre. ABS often prevents this, which is why it is often of great benefit to your tyres.

How likely am I to damage my tyres when braking hard without ABS?

The chances are high, as you don’t even need to be driving that fast. Even speeds of around 50-55 miles per hour will be sufficient (perhaps even lower, depending on the vehicle and road surface) and the car doesn’t even have to come to a stop. It is the tearing motion caused by hard braking that causes this additional wear and, without ABS, your car is likely placing a lot of strain on the tyres.


An example of a worn out tread, which could easily occur without ABS braking.

Can pulse braking help?

Many drivers think that pulse braking - quickly applying and removing pressure from the brakes in quick succession - can prevent the wheels from getting locked. Yet this doesn’t mean the tyres don’t experience abrasion. While they might not be locked, the rolling and rotation of the tyres is still reduced.

Of course, pulse braking also extends your braking distance, which impacts your road safety. As such, there are few benefits to pulse braking, especially in an emergency.

Is ABS braking better on wet or dry surfaces?

Usually, ABS is highlighted as being most beneficial on wet surfaces, as it allows you to avoid the various obstacles that the such conditions bring. However, the system also proves useful on dry roads.
While in the wet, a locked wheel will not wear out in spot and become flattened, you only need to brake hard at around 55 miles per hour on a dry road for the tyres to become unusable. The car doesn’t even need to reach a complete stop, as mentioned earlier, and the front tyres often wear out first. ABS, however, will help to prevent all of this.

Does damaging one tyre mean I have to replace two?

Yes. Your tyres should be the same on each axle. They need the same tread and the same groove depth. Any differences, especially in the tread pattern, could prove fatal. A change in parameters will change how the car behaves and, with different parameters on each side of the vehicle, it could be much more erratic.