Does the ABS symbol illuminate on your car dashboard?
And you’re wondering:
- What does the light mean?
- Why does it come on?
- What should I do?
Don’t panic! In this article, I will walk you through everything you need to know about the ABS, why your ABS light turns on, and how to fix it.
What Does ABS Light Mean?
What Is an Anti-Lock Brake System?
An anti-lock brake system is an important feature in your car that prevents you from applying excessive pressure to your brakes or “locking” up your brakes so that the wheels and axle stop spinning completely.
If your wheels suddenly stop rotating while your car is still in motion, the car will start skidding, causing you to lose control over the vehicle. The ABS allows you to possibly steer out of the road to prevent an accident or severe injuries.
What Does It Mean When the ABS Light Comes On?
The ABS warning light on your dashboard indicates that the antilock system has been disabled due to a malfunction. Until the problem is found and resolved, the light will remain on.
Whenever you turn on your car, the light should come on briefly as part of a system check and turn off afterward. But if the light stays on, it means something is not working and the feature has been shut down.
Is It Safe to Drive with the ABS Light On?
Yes, it is safe to drive your vehicle carefully with the ABS light on. The illumination of the ABS icon does not impact your car’s functionality or normal braking, which is why you can still drive your car with the ABS light on. However, I recommend you get the vehicle checked as soon as possible and fix the problem.
There are also instances where it is unsafe to drive when the ABS symbol comes on with the brake system warning light.
Driving when both lights are illuminated simultaneously is dangerous. The rear wheels could lock more quickly in an emergency stop than under normal circumstances.
Have the vehicle towed to a dealer or repair shop to inspect the brakes immediately.
Why Does the ABS Light Come On?
The ABS light can come on for different causes. Below, I have highlighted five major causes of ABS light.
Bad ABS Module
The ABS module, often known as the brain of the anti-lock braking system, plays a significant role in ensuring that the ABS is highly functional. The module helps ensure that your car’s wheels maintain proper friction with the road to prevent it from spinning uncontrollably. A bad ABS module will activate the ABS light.
Solution: Sometimes, the problem of the module may be a minor issue or something serious. The best solution to this is to employ the assistance of a professional to find out and fix the issue.
A fuse in a vehicle serves as a connection between the control unit and the anti-lock braking system of your car. When this fuse gets blown, it no longer supplies electricity to the system, and this can cause the ABS of your car to malfunction.
Solution: The solution is to get the blown fuse replaced with a better one. If the problem is beyond your control, I advise that you seek the assistance of a professional.
Low Brake Fluid Level
The brake of a car’s system uses hydraulic, requiring a certain level of fluid in your brake system. A low brake fluid level will lead to a malfunction of your brakes, which will trigger the ABS light to light up.
Solution: Some vehicles have a separate reservoir for ABS brake fluid, so you should check if your car falls in this category.
If it does, read your owner’s manual for instructions on how to check and top the brake fluid. Check other fluid reservoirs and refill them to the specified level.
Damaged Wheel Speed Sensor
The wheel speed sensor is used to monitor the movement of the wheels, and the information obtained is sent to the anti-lock braking system of your car. If the ABS detects a defect in the movement of any of the wheels, it then releases brake fluid pressure to enable the wheel to resume its movement.
A damaged wheel speed sensor cannot relay the proper information to the ABS, which can light up the ABS symbol.
Solution: The best solution to this problem is to replace or fix the wheel speed sensor of your car.
Watch this video to know if your ABS wheel speed sensor is bad.
The ABS of a car can be turned on or off, and sometimes, this can happen accidentally. A turned-off ABS places you at risk, as a car owner, considering that sudden braking emergencies can happen anytime.
Solution: The best way to go about it is to find out why your ABS was turned off and how to put it back on. Ensure that you put your anti-lock braking system back on.
How to Reset ABS Light
The warning ABS light tells you that there is a problem with your ABS, but the real deal is to find out the cause of the problem. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to diagnose and reset an ABS light.
Step 1: Check the ABS fuse
Check if the ABS fuse is blown, and fix it. The ABS fuse supplies electricity to the system, meaning that a damaged fuse causes your ABS to malfunction.
If you get the fuse fixed and the ABS light continues to illuminate, you will need to move on to the next step.
Step 2: Check the braking components
- Brake fluid level
- Brake pedal
- Brake lines, brake pads, brake calipers, etc.
An error in your vehicle’s above-listed areas will cause the ABS symbol to light up. Once you get the problem fixed, the ABS light should go off. If it doesn’t, then try the following step.
Step 3: Use a diagnostic scanner to read the trouble codes
Connect the scanner to your vehicle and turn the ignition on. Then, press the “Read” button on the scanner.
This step will allow you to find out what the issue is so that you can get it fixed.
Make sure the OBD2 scanner is compatible with your car. If you don’t know which one suits you best, click to read my review on Best ABS Scanners.
Allow me to share with you my encounter with this light.
I once used Launch Creader VII+ (Don’t miss my in-depth review on Launch Creader VII+), an OBD2 scanner with ABS SRS, to diagnose and fix an ABS issue in a 2010 Buick Lacrosse.
The scanner detected a fault in the ABS system and displayed the trouble code C0045, meaning “Left Rear Wheel Speed Sensor Circuit”.
I checked the sensor connector and it was corroded. So, I replaced the sensor and the plug as well.
Step 4: Fix the issue
Depending on the codes, the next step usually is to fix or replace the wheel speed sensor.
Please note that if you are not well grounded in the workings of a car, you need to employ the assistance of a car professional to avoid escalating the issue.
Step 5: Clear the trouble codes
Press the “Erase” button on the scanner, then turn the ignition off.
Go for a test drive (50-100 miles) after clearing the trouble codes to ensure your ABS light disappears.
The ABS light only comes on when there is an issue with your car’s anti-lock braking system and shouldn’t cause panic.
All you need to do is diagnose the issue and get it fixed. You can easily use a scan tool to determine the issue.
If it’s still difficult for you to choose, BlueDriver is my top choice for everyday drivers and beginning home mechanics who want to diagnose the ABS and SRS systems.
Here’s my review on BlueDriver. Read it to know why I recommend it to you.