Blog Car Care Advice What Does it Mean When the ABS Light Comes On + How to Fix?
Car Care Advice

What Does it Mean When the ABS Light Comes On + How to Fix?

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ABS, or Anti-lock Braking System, is a safety feature that prevents tires from locking up during hard braking and offers stability control.

But what does it mean when the ABS light comes on?
An illuminated ABS warning light is usually dropping hints about a brake system hiccup. Something you shouldn’t ignore! 

We’ll explore six common triggers for the ABS light and guide you through the troubleshooting process.

This Article Contains:

Let’s get your wheels spinning safely again!

What Does it Mean When the ABS Light Comes On?

All vehicles equipped with an Anti-lock Braking System have a dedicated ABS light on the dashboard, usually yellow or orange in color. When you start your engine, your ABS performs a self-check, and the ABS light flashes briefly for two to four seconds before it goes off, indicating normal operation. 

However, if the ABS light stays on, it signals a malfunction in the anti-lock brake system or a shutdown of your ABS, requiring immediate attention.

The ABS light can illuminate for various reasons, including issues with your ABS module or wheel speed sensors.
Let’s explore some potential causes.

6 Underlying Issues that Can Trigger Your ABS Light 

Here are six possible reasons why your ABS light comes on: 

1. Faulty ABS Module

When the ABS control module is corroded, it disrupts communication with the ABS sensor (also called the wheel speed sensor) on the car’s wheel, triggering the warning light. 

Additionally, the ABS and the vehicle’s traction control system (TCS) share crucial components, like a common control module and speed sensor set, to ensure smooth rotation of all wheels. 

If the Traction Control System (TCS) detects irregular wheel rotation, it uses the braking force to slow down the spinning wheel, triggering the traction control light until normal traction is restored. As both systems share common components, TCS damage can also affect the ABS controller and trigger the warning light.

2. Low Brake Fluid

Brake fluid controls brake pressure that causes the brake pads to grip the rotors and stop the car.

If there’s a leak or you have a low brake fluid level, your vehicle will experience reduced stopping power or a complete brake failure, triggering the ABS light.

3. Malfunctioning Wheel Speed Sensors

Modern cars have a speed sensor on each wheel that monitors rotation and sends data to the ABS, which uses this data to regulate brake pressure effectively.

If a speed sensor gets dirty or damaged, it can fail to send data or give erratic readings to the ABS. The ABS can interpret it as a wheel-locking situation, causing the light to come on.

4. Unresponsive Hydraulic Pump

The ABS controls wheel speed through the hydraulic brake system. If one tire spins too fast, the ABS uses the brake pump to increase brake fluid pressure on the wheel and maintain traction.

However, when the hydraulic pump or its valve malfunctions, the ABS can’t function correctly, triggering the warning light. 

5. Blown Fuse or Corroded Wires in the ABS System

The ABS relies on a functional circuit to communicate with the speed sensor and control module. Blown fuses or corroded wires in the ABS can interrupt this communication, triggering the ABS light.

6. Worn Brake Pads

While worn brake pads don’t directly cause the ABS light to come on, they can result in problems within your braking system that ultimately trigger the warning light.

As the brake pad wears down, your car’s stopping power decreases, leading to a drop in the brake fluid level in the master cylinder. This creates an imbalance in the brake fluid pressure and triggers the ABS light.

So, can you drive with an illuminated ABS light?
Let’s find out. 

Is it Safe to Drive with the ABS Light On?

You can technically keep driving with the ABS light on because it doesn’t affect regular braking. However, it’s not recommended.

The ABS, responsible for emergency braking control, might not work correctly when the light is on. This can cause your car wheels to lock up during heavy braking. It’s better to immediately fix any ABS issue to ensure your brakes work well in hard braking situations and keep you safe.

Now, let’s look at a few ways to clear this light.

How to Troubleshoot an ABS Warning Light?

Fixing an ABS issue can be tricky since it involves checking different brake components, so it’s best to have a mechanic repair it. 

Here’s how a mechanic will fix an ABS problem:

Have more questions?
Check out these FAQs.

3 FAQS on ABS System

Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions about the ABS light:

1. How Much Do ABS Light Repair Services Cost?

An ABS light diagnosis typically costs between $80 to $110. The expenses could be more depending on the required repairs, part costs, and local labor charges.

Here are the estimated costs of some common ABS light repair services: 

2. What Warning Signs Indicate Your ABS Is Failing? 

When your anti-lock brake system isn’t working correctly, you may experience difficulty applying your brakes smoothly. 

You could experience: 

3. What Does a Flashing ABS Light Mean?

Some ABS systems use flashing patterns to determine the severity of the ABS problem. For example, more blinks suggest major issues, while one or two blinks indicate a minor problem. 

You should visit a professional or an auto repair shop for an accurate ABS warning light diagnosis. 

Clear Your ABS Light with AutoNation Mobile Service

The ABS light comes on when there’s a potential issue with the ABS brake system, like a blown ABS fuse, low braking fluid, or malfunctioning ABS controller. If your ABS light is on, you should get it fixed for a safe driving experience.

And if you’re looking for a professional to perform the repairs, try AutoNation Mobile Service.
We’re a mobile auto repair and maintenance service offering upfront pricing and stellar customer service

Contact us, and our experts will address ABS light and other brake repair issues in your driveway.