ABS Light: Meanings, Causes and Is it Safe to Drive with?

If you own a car, there’s a good chance you’ve seen the ABS light come on at some point. It's a confusing sign. It turns on when it is lit. It is safe to drive while it's lit up.

In this post, we’ll answer all those questions and more. You can read the rest of this article to discover everything you need about ABS light.

Índice de Contenido
  1. What is the ABS Light?
  2. ABS Light Causes
    1. 1. Speed sensor bad
    2. 2. Ring with bad ABS Tone
    3. 3. Unsafe ABS Modules or Wirings
    4. 4. Pump Failure
    5. 5. Blown Fuse
    6. 6. Low Brake Fluid
  3. Diagnostic ABS Light
  4. How to Fix an ABS Light
  5. Do I need an ABS light on my car?
  6. ABS Light FAQs
    1. With the ABS light on, how long are you able to go?
    2. Low brake fluid can cause the ABS light to turn on
    3. Are you able to drive without ABS?
    4. ABS issues can be caused by weak batteries

What is the ABS Light?

An ABS indicator light on your car’s dashboard means there is an issue with the car’s anti-lock braking system. Anti-lock Braking System is a safety device that stops wheels from locking up during braking. This warning will let you know that it isn't working properly.

When you turn on the vehicle’s ignition, you should see the ABS light come on for a second as the system performs diagnostics. The light should then turn off after you have completed the self-check.

If it doesn’t light up at all, the bulb might have burnt out. On the other hand, if the ABS light doesn’t turn off or it comes on while you are driving, you need to figure out what’s causing the alert.

ABS Light Causes

1. Speed sensor bad

Abs Sensor Close

The wheel speed sensor measures the speed at which wheels move and sends it back to the ECU. The ABS can be used by the ECU based on this data. If one or more wheels are moving at an excessive speed, the ECU will pump out brake fluid to allow the wheel to accelerate to improve grip.

When the speed sensor stops working, the ECU won’t have accurate data. This will cause the ABS light not to turn on. However, you might also notice that your car may lose traction if you brake hard. The traction control light may also be on. 

It is located very near the wheels to measure their speed. It is located close to the wheels so it can withstand a lot of heat and damage. The brakes can cause damage to the brakes, such as from metal shavings or other foreign objects.

Related: The 4 Warning Signs that Your ABS Sensor is Not working (Replacement cost)

2. Ring with bad ABS Tone

Broken Abs Ring

ABS needs something from which to measure the wheel speed. The ABS tone ring is what this ABS sensor uses. Sometimes, the ABS ring gets rusty, cracking, and the ABS sensor gives an inaccurate measurement. The ABS light will illuminate on your dashboard.

The ABS rings can be found inside the wheel bearing. In that instance, the whole wheel bearing will have to be replaced. You can visually inspect any damage or cracks if the ABS rings are installed on the driveshafts.

RELATED: 4 Symptoms of a Bad ABS Reluctor Ring (& Replacement Cost)

3. Unsafe ABS Modules or Wirings

Abs Broken Wiring

It’s possible for the ABS module to go bad. The wiring could also be at fault. The wires can become corroded, which could cause communication problems between ABS module and speed sensor. 

If the vehicle only needed to have some new wires, it would be much better. Unlucky drivers may be required to change the ABS module, which can cost more.

Both problems will cause a decrease in brake performance. It might be noticeable at first but should get worse over time. It’s also possible that the brakes could lock up or you might hear some clicking noises 

4. Pump Failure

Abs Pump

The ABS system controls the flow of brake fluid through the hydraulic pump. This pump is responsible for pushing brake fluid through the cylinder, so it’s distributed to the brakes when the brake pedal is pushed down. 

Based on data from the speed sensor, the ABS system adjusts each wheel's brake pressure. With this data, fluid levels can be adjusted to ensure that the brakes are working where they need it most. 

Most cases this system functions as expected. But, hydraulic pumps can go out of control or there could be a problem with the hydraulic valve. These situations are neither good nor bad. If the brake fluid is contaminated, debris can build up and cause damage to the pump. This can be prevented by making sure that the fluid is changed on a regular basis.

The pump can cause a breakdown in braking performance. The problem will begin slowly, and then get more severe the longer you allow it to go. The master cylinder can fail, and the brakes may feel great for a while, but then you could lose all power, which can make it dangerous to drive. The defect could also cause a fluid leak. Fluid seepage can cause the pedal to become soft and spongy, eventually sinking down to the ground. 

5. Blown Fuse

ABS works because your vehicle's electric parts are working. Actually, ABS is powered by its own fuse. The fuses can fail at any time. Any reason can cause a fuse to blow. 

Thankfully, it isn’t difficult to check the fuse. In fact, it might be the first step of diagnostics if you aren’t noticing any symptoms other than the light comes on the dashboard. 

6. Low Brake Fluid

To work properly, the ABS pump requires brake fluid. To feed the brake system, the fluid must be pushed through the piston. If there’s not enough brake fluid, you are going to run into issues, including a possible illuminated ABS light.

If the fluid is low, it’s important to figure out why. It’s possible that you have a leaking fluid reservoir, air in the brake system or a seal that is damaged. This can happen if the brakes become worn. If you allow the system to get too low, the ABS module won’t balance the pressure between each wheel, so there will be slippage and skidding. 

You might notice a decrease in brake fluid, which can make it harder to stop. There’s also the chance that more noise will occur when you are braking. 

Diagnostic ABS Light

These steps will help you determine what should be replaced.

  1. Make sure you check the ABS fuse. This is a simple step that can save you many headaches. It’s located in the fuse panel under the dash. You can find a diagram pointing to the fuse location in your owner’s manual.
  2. Make sure you check the levels of brake fluid. Add more brake fluid if it is too low. Drain it and replace it if the brake fluid appears to be low. 
  3. Leakages should be checked. The leaking brake fluid should be visible under your car. The color of fresh fluid is yellow, while the colour of contaminated oil can be darker or even brown.
  4. Use a voltagemeter to test the ABS wheel sensor. You can also read trouble codes with your OBDII scanner that should point out if there’s a fault.

If you are having trouble finding the problem, it’s time to take your vehicle to a qualified mechanic for further diagnostics. 

How to Fix an ABS Light

The cost to repair the ABS light can vary depending on what the issue is. Let’s take a closer look at the most common repairs to fix the ABS light, but you must perform a complete diagnosis to determine what’s causing your problem before you start replacing parts. After all, there is no reason to put parts on the car that aren’t needed. 

Blowing fuses are the most expensive issue. Not only should this fix cost you $20 or less, but it’s easy to fix. You just need to open the fuse panel, and then replace the ABS running it. You can also add brake fluid to the vehicle if you have low levels. As long as no leaks are present, this fix will only cost you half the price of brake fluid. 

You can replace an ABS tone ring or speed sensor that isn't working properly. On average, this repair will cost between $100-300. It is the main problem with ABS lights. There’s also the chance that you need to replace the ABS module or rewire the system. Although fixing the fault in wiring might cost less, replacing the module with a new one will likely run you between $200-$600. 

It is important to repair or replace the hydraulic pump. Replacing the master cylinder could cost between $300-$600. However, the price of replacing a hydraulic pump may easily rise to $1,000. 

Do I need an ABS light on my car?

It depends on what your circumstances are. Warning! If you are certain there is no problem, you shouldn't drive with your ABS lights on. You don’t want your normal braking affected or you put yourself at risk. 

If the ABS light turns on, it will cause ABS to stop working. This can pose a danger to your safety and security.

Even if the braking system seems to be fine, it could fail at any time if there’s a problem. For that reason, it’s imperative to take the ABS warning light seriously. You don’t want to be left stranded somewhere and you don’t want to cause an accident. 

We understand the need to save money and we know that all car repairs don’t always show up at the best times financially. The cost of an accident can prove to be very costly. We recommend scanning the ABS codes immediately to determine the cause of the problem. 

ABS Light FAQs

With the ABS light on, how long are you able to go?

It’s not recommended to drive with an ABS light on at all, especially not if you are not used to driving cars without ABS. But even if you know how to drive cars without ABS, you still want to check what’s causing it. To have your vehicle diagnosed and fixed, you should get it to a mechanic immediately.

Low brake fluid can cause the ABS light to turn on

Yes, if the brake fluid level gets low, it’s possible that the ABS pump will lose pressure and the anti-lock brake system (ABS) will go into “fail-safe” mode. The ABS light will turn on when this occurs.

Are you able to drive without ABS?

ABS can be used, although it is not advised. ABS will reduce your braking power and make it more difficult for you to steer your car in an emergency. You should allow more distance to brake and take extra care when driving on slippery roads if you have to drive without ABS.

ABS issues can be caused by weak batteries

A weak battery could cause ABS problems, but it’s not very common. A bad car battery will lead to other issues with the car. However, if you’re having ABS issues, it’s worth checking your battery to see if it may be the culprit.

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