Is ABS Good For Off-Road? Here Are The Facts


ABS is an incredible technology that can help save your life in the unfortunate situation that you have to suddenly slam on your brakes. ABS is made standard on all vehicles today whether it be just a small sedan, Jeep, or a big truck. The whole purpose of ABS is to stop your wheels from locking up, ABS stands for the anti-lock braking system. When you start braking hard, you don’t want your wheels to completely lock up because then you will lose all control of steering and that could lead to some bad collisions. 

Is ABS good for off-roading? ABS is good for off-road situations. ABS in no way impedes a vehicle’s ability off-road and can help you maintain steering control in situations where you are going down steep inclines or are on slippery terrain. Disabling your ABS isn’t recommended by any manufacturer and can be very dangerous in most situations. 

There are some off-road enthusiasts I have heard say that disabling your ABS when you go off-roading allows you to do better off-road. From my research and everything I know about cars, this makes no sense to me. There is only one instance in which it might be helpful to have ABS off but I will talk about that later in the article.

Why ABS Is Good For Off-Roading

When you are off-roading you are going to face a lot of unexpected terrain and obstacles. With all of these obstacles and difficulties, you are going to be slamming on the brakes a lot more often than you would even on regular paved roads. To add, when off-roading it is often more difficult to control your car and the steering. The ABS designed in your vehicle is designed to help with both of these difficulties. The whole point of ABS is to help keep you safe and keep you in control during both of these situations. 

For example, if you come around a corner real fast and there is a giant boulder sitting on the left side of the road, you are going to slam on your brakes. But you might not be able to slow down in time, so you will also have to turn right to avoid hitting it. 

Without ABS, your car will barely turn if you have the brakes completely held down because your wheels will be locked out. With ABS you are still going to be able to turn the car because the ABS will allow your wheels to still rotate while braking which will allow you to still effectively turn the car out of the way of the boulder. 

Disabling your ABS while mudding or off-roading can be very dangerous and frankly there isn’t any reason that you would need to. The ABS in no way prohibits your vehicle from off-roading better than it would with ABS. Your vehicle doesn’t magically get any better off-roading or mudding capabilities when you disable the ABS. Nowadays, cars are plenty smart to be able to know when ABS is or isn’t needed and have the technology needed to help give your car the best traction and control in all situations. 

Can You Off-Road Without ABS?

Off-roading without ABS is possible and some people do it regularly. Turning off the ABS on your vehicle isn’t going to hurt the off-roading capabilities of your vehicle in any way; it will only affect your car if you do any hard braking at any point. Without ABS, your vehicle’s wheels are going to lock up and you won’t be able to turn at all when trying to brake, so you are going to be stuck going straight into whatever is in front of you. 

The only situation in which you may want to disable the ABS is in where you are going down a very steep hill that is made up of gravel or sand. In this situation, you would want your wheels to completely lock up but the other 95% of the time that you are mudding or off-roading you are going to want the ABS on. To disable your ABS, the simplest thing you can do is to remove the fuse that is connected to the ABS. Manufacturers don’t recommend this approach so you are going to be doing this at your own risk. 

Can You Add ABS To An Older Off-Road Vehicle?

Adding ABS to an older off-road vehicle is possible but there is one thing you might want to consider before you go throwing one onto your vehicle. Aftermarket ABS systems or any ABS for that matter are really expensive. It is so expensive that you might want to just look at buying a new car. Most ABS systems are going to cost 10 to 20 thousand dollars just to buy all of the components and then you are looking at a few more thousand dollars for the installation. 

It isn’t always even a guarantee that these systems will work on your specific vehicle after they have been installed. I understand that some vehicles may have sentimental value or they may even be classic. Adding ABS to a classic would only take away from its value. In either of these cases, you might want to stop worrying about installing one unless you have a very, very good reason for wanting one.

How To Maintain ABS If You Off-Road Frequently

Off-roading frequently can be hard on your ABS due to two reasons, dirt and wear. When you are off-roading and especially if you are doing an activity like mudding, your vehicle is going to get very dirty. Part of the fun of off-roading is getting mud splattered all over and throwing up some dust behind you as you barrel down a road, but some problems can occupy that fun. 

Dirt and muck can be hard on your ABS and cover up the ABS sensors that are in contact with your wheels, so you will want to make sure that you are cleaning your vehicle after you take it off-roading. 

Giving your car a good spray down with a pressure washer should be good enough for general cleaning after every off-roading session but you are going to want to make sure that you are getting under the car as well and getting in all of the cracks and crevices. Every once in a while you are going to want to give your car a bit of a deeper clean and your brakes more specifically which may require you to remove the tires. 

Taking your car into the shop to get your brakes serviced is also a good way to make sure that your brakes stay clean and are in good condition; this will help your ABS work better on your vehicle. The less you have to use your ABS, the better condition it is going to be in when you do have to use it. By using smart driving techniques and being aware of your surroundings, you can avoid having to slam on your brakes more than needed so you can avoid engaging your ABS. 

Overusing your ABS can cause the system as well as the brakes themselves to wear down over time. If your ABS and brakes start to wear down, it can be very dangerous for you and others. Driving at slower speeds down hills and taking turns at slower speeds as well can help you to avoid engaging the ABS too. When going down steep hills, shifting down a gear or two can help take pressure off your brakes and the ABS, so if you smell or feel your brakes getting hot, then it would probably be a good idea to start using this method.

Related Questions

Why won’t my ABS work after mudding? The likely reason your ABS doesn’t work after you have gone mudding is that one or multiple of the ABS sensors have been covered in dirt or debris and can’t properly sense when ABS is needed. Another possible reason may be due to a connection that has come loose or has been damaged. Click here to view the full article.

Can you add ABS to a car? It is possible to add ABS to a vehicle. You’ll likely hear that it is not possible because it can be a very complicated process and cost quite a bit of money. To put an ABS system in a vehicle that originally doesn’t have one will cost a decent amount of money and likely will require customization to make sure it works correctly. To see the article in full, visit by clicking here.

Kyle Cannon

Kyle currently works as a mechanical engineer and graduated with a minor in automotive engineering. His passion for cars is his daily motivator and is constantly working on his projects such as restoring his 1966 Bronco, 1968 Firebird, or modifying his 2022 Bronco.

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