5 Symptoms of a Bad ABS Control Module (and Replacement Cost)

(Updated on November 5, 2020)

The anti-lock braking system control module, also known as the ABS control module, works to prevent your wheels from locking up as you’re driving. This is especially important when you must put on the brakes suddenly to prevent an accident or crash.

How ABS Works

wheel speed sensor

When you press on the brakes, the brake calipers force the brake pads to clamp down on the brake rotors.

If this clamping force exceeds the available traction between the ground and the tire, that tire will actually stop spinning. This is known as locked brakes.

Under heavy braking, one or more tires may lock and could initiate a slide. During a slide, you are more likely to lose control over the vehicle and your stopping distance will increase substantially. This is because a rolling tire has more grip than a slipping tire.

The ABS system works to limit tire slip by using wheel speed sensors to detect the speed of each tire. If one tire is spinning substantially slower than the others while you’re braking the vehicle, the brake caliper on that particular wheel will be released very briefly so that tire can regain grip. After that, the ABS module will reapply the brakes on that wheel. This process repeats several times per second as long as a tire is losing grip under braking.

ABS systems give you much better braking control over the vehicle. Stopping distances are reduced substantially and it is easier for the everyday driver to stop as quickly and consistently as possible. You will still be able to maintain some control over the vehicle’s steering under full braking.

Note: it is generally a very bad idea to brake and steer at the same time even if you have ABS equipped. While you’re braking, the weight of the vehicle pitches forward, leaving the rear end of the car very light. If you attempt to steer with a light rear end, the car could easily spin. Always brake in a straight line when possible.

Common Bad ABS Control Module Symptoms

The ABS control module ensures that you drive safely and securely on the road. If you have a bad control module and then find yourself having to stop quickly, you may be in for a rude awakening.

Below are some of the most common symptoms that will let you know that your ABS control module is failing. Once you find this out, get to a mechanic and have the module replaced right away.

1) Brakes Locking

disc brake rotor

The whole purpose of an ABS control module is to prevent locking of the wheels. If you notice that your wheels are locking up while you’re driving, then this obviously means that your ABS control module is faulty or damaged.

Generally when an ABS module fails, you will only notice when you slam on the brakes. In other words, you will usually only notice a problem when you need the system the most.

If one tire is smoking or is constantly locked, you may want to check to make sure you don’t have a stuck caliper

2) ABS Light On

abs light comes on

If you have a newer car, then it should have an ABS light on the dashboard. If your ABS control module were to go bad, this dashboard light should come on.

The light will likely be an amber color so it will be easy to recognize. However, if you have an older car, then the “check engine” light will be used to indicate this problem instead of the ABS light.

Some ABS systems may function even if the ABS light is on. Even still, you should have the ABS code read, then get the problem diagnosed and repaired. ABS systems have layers of redundancy and one component or circuit has probably failed. 

3) Brake Pedal is Unresponsive

spongy brake pedal

If you put your foot on the brake pedal and the car does not slow down at all as it normally does, this is obviously a sign that there is a problem.

In the beginning, the symptom will start out gradually where you will have to press your foot down on the pedal a couple of times to get it to work. But then as time goes on, you will have to press down more times just to perform one braking function.

It may eventually get to the point where it stops working altogether.

If you notice issues with the brake pedal, you should also check the brake fluid level and consider having the brake system flushed so you know there is no air in the brake lines. 

4) Increased Brake Pedal Effort

You may be in a situation where the brake pedal of your vehicle works, but it requires a lot more pressure on your part just to perform a simple braking function.

A brake pedal should not require a significant amount of pressure. You should be able to just lightly press your foot down on the brake pedal for the braking to work. If you have to increase your effort just to do this, then your ABS control module may be bad.

5) Speedometer Fails

car speedometer

In rare cases where your ABS control module doesn’t work, the speedometer on the dashboard will stop working. Either it will show you an incorrect speed or the needle will just rest at 0 mph.

This will usually be followed by the ABS or check engine light coming on. But even if the light doesn’t come on, a bad speedometer should be reason enough to get your car checked out by a professional.

ABS Control Module Replacement Cost

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It will cost a minimum of about $300 to replace an ABS control module, but could cost about $1,500. This total  will also have additional fees and taxes added onto it as well.

The exact price of the replacement job will greatly depend on the type of car you have, how accessible the ABS module is, and the prices charged by the mechanic who works on your car. They will typically charge anywhere from $80 to $110 for the labor costs and anywhere from $220 to $1,090 for the parts costs.

35 thoughts on “5 Symptoms of a Bad ABS Control Module (and Replacement Cost)”

  1. I HAVE A 96 CHEVY S-10 AII THE TIME THE ABS/BRAKE LIGHT COMES ON AND CUTS ENGINE OFF STARTS BACK UP RUN GOOD FOR ABOUT 70 MILES BUT HAS STARTED BACK TODAY

    Reply
  2. The brake pedal in my ’06 Silverado 1500 collapsed halfway down and held abruptly at that halfway point. This happened while I was idling at a dead stop in a parking lot. As I depressed the pedal with constant pressure for a minute or so, it simply collapsed suddenly!
    The rear axle grease seals had also ruptured so when I checked the brake lines and changed the rear pads the next day, I also replaced the grese seals and changed the differential fluid.
    After all that, the brake pedal remains at that same halfway height to which it had collapsed!!
    It is not spongy, In fact it is solid, and pumping the pedal it does not have any effect on its height or effectiveness.
    The mechanics at car X have a confirmed there is no leak in the lines or the master cylinder. Yet the pedal remains at half its normal height. They suggested that it might be a failed the ABS, but they couldnt confirm that a 1/2 height brake pedal would be a symptom of that condition. Any ideas??

    Reply
  3. 2010 ford Taurus sel.had break job and master cylinder replaced. Breaks still mushy. My mechanic thinks its the abs control module ,but the abs light is not on?

    Reply
    • It’s certainly plausible. Any air in the system can cause a mushy brake pedal, and the ABS sensors may not detect this. If the brakes were not bled properly, it is possible there is still some residual air left in the ABS module.

      If the pedal goes to the floor with minimal stopping power, this is something that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. However, some cars just have a slightly squishy pedal from the factory by design. If the pedal feels similar to how it did before the brake job, you may be fine. It would be best to get a second opinion from a mechanic who can feel the brakes in person to determine if they need more work.

      Reply
  4. I have 2006 Toyota Tundra whenever I press the brakes I makes a buzzing sound not scrubbing. It that a possibility of the ABS pump going bad.

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    • Does this happen when you lightly tap the brakes or when you push hard and trigger the ABS? I would take it to a shop to get it looked at.

      Reply
    • My 2006 Tundra is doing the exact same thing….a buzzing sound when stopping….not every time though. Of course it never does it when I get the mechanic in the truck with me. I was thinking of unplugging the ABS module to see if that has any effect on the noise. Oh, by the way, every time that happens, I can feel the brake pedal collapse ever so slightly. To Sean’s reply, it only happens when I push hard on the pedal.

      Can someone please follow up on this? I see it has been over a year since Darrell Becton first posted this comment. Thanks.

      Reply
  5. I have a 2005 gmc 1500 2wd. My service brake came on I paid no mind. But now my truck died no one can find the problem.

    Reply
  6. 95 Chevy blazer.
    When I press the brake pedal it pushes back against me and makes a kind of grinding noise. It returns to normal after I drive and the car warms up. The ABS light then comes on and it runs fine. Any ideas? Cost?

    Reply
    • I just had this happen to my 2004 F150. Did you ever get an answer to your question?
      After I first start the truck, the ABS is active whenever I apply the brakes. This only happens a couple of times, then the ABS light comes on and stays on. The brakes then work normally. At least until the truck is turned off.

      Reply
  7. The brake pedal went to the floor without any warning twice on my 2002 Saturn L series. Talked to my mechanic and replaced the master cylinder. Worked great for about a week and a half until yesterday when the LF brake caliper started to lock up. As I limped it down the shoulder the RF brake started grabbing too. I replaced the LF caliper last night, bled the brake lines but that new caliper still doesn’t release. Also noticed that my ABS light came on and now my traction control ON/OFF button doesn’t light up. Is this a failed ABS module? Also, is the ABS module the same thing as the “Electronic Brake and Traction Control Module”?

    Reply
    • I don’t think a failed ABS module would cause calipers to seize like that. Yes, an ABS module is also called an Electronic Brake and Traction Control Module on some vehicles. You may see this shortened to EBCM by some manufacturers (GM likes to do this).

      Reply
  8. Simple question, if i stop using the abs pump and modify to a normal (direct brake) will the engine or brake lights still come on? And also will the speedometer works normal showing the correct speed?

    Reply
    • I’m not sure that question is simple, because it will depend on your specific vehicle. The speedometer will probably work normally, since it’s usually not part of the ABS system. I would expect the ABS/brake and check engine lights to still come on. The ECM likely expects a signal from the ABS module, which it won’t receive if you remove the ABS module.

      Reply
  9. A quick question from a novice. My offside front wheel was hit very violently in an accident. The ABS light and the DSC failure message appeared. Could anyone please explain if the accident of this nature cause the ABS unit to fail. Appreciate your help. Thanls

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  10. 2001 Pathfinder. When driving 3 miles from home, car started slowing down and RPMs started going up. ABS light illuminated on dash. Both front wheels locked up tight. Rear brake lights won’t go off. Smoking under hood appears to come from passenger front tire. Towed car home. Any ideas?

    Reply
    • Sounds like you might have a stuck caliper, or another problem with the braking system. It would be best to have a professional look at it if you aren’t sure.

      Reply
  11. My Abs light is on and my 4 wheel drive and cruise control isnt working on my 2017 dodge ram. Is it the ABS censor or module?

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  12. I got a 2003 Hyundai alantra I did all calipers and rotors. When I drive for a little while my left front and right rear lock up. Then I let it sit for an hour and I can drive it again then it does it again.

    Reply
    • Many master cylinders have two chambers that separate the brake fluid into two circuts, for instance the left front and the right rear is one circuit, and the right front and left rear is another. Check to make sure there’s nothing weird going on with the master cylinder. Make sure you have enough brake fluid. If you didn’t bleed the brakes when you replaced the calipers, you’ll also want to do that.

      Reply
  13. I have a 2006 Chevy Malibu and sometimes the right front brake will grab when stopping then the ABS and Traction Control light comes on after i stop car and turn it off and restart it it’s fine for awhile brake quit’s grabbing . Would this be the module or what ? Thanks

    Reply
    • Are you saying the right front brake will grab when you apply the brakes, but the left front will not? Is the right front brake stuck, even when you are not applying the brakes?

      Reply
  14. my 2005 rav4 while driving, suddenlly brakes and slows down, without i aplying brakes. it is frightening. what do you think

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    • How heavy is the braking? Does it pull to one side? Are all four wheels the same temperature after you are done driving for a while? (the wheels may be hot so don’t touch them directly, just put your hand close to feel if one is radiating more heat than the others)

      You might have a stuck caliper or bad brake hose. I’m not really sure. Do you have any codes stored from the ABS module?

      Reply
  15. I have a 3/4 ton 2002 Chevrolet Avalanche 4wd…intermittently makes a groaning noise upon braking and a very slight shudder…the ABS light has never come on…could this be the ABS module going bad, and if it is the module, will the ABS light come on all the time?

    Reply
  16. I have a problem in braking my car either to stop or slow down. The brakes are not responding. It is a Mercedes Benz E class E320.
    1. Is it the full ABS system that is faulty or something within the ABS system?
    2. Can this ABS system be fixed or only replaced?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • When you say “the brakes are not responding”, do you mean you push the pedal and the car doesn’t slow down? Is the pedal soft or spongey?

      Check your brake fluid. If it’s low, top off the brake fluid and bleed the brakes.

      1. I don’t know. You’ll have to diagnose the problem first.
      2. That depends on the result of #1. Some ABS modules can be repaired, but the module may not even be the issue.

      Reply
  17. I could not get the parking brake to disengage when I parked my 2017 Ford Escape on a slight incline. Had it towed to the dealer. I had just bought my car from a Chevy dealer 4 months ago. They said that I needed a Actuator and it needed to be calibrated. They sent it to the Ford dealership. Then they told me that the ABS modular needed to be replaced. No light came on for the ABS. 3 weeks of being in the shop and me without a car, they are now telling me that they need to install another Actuator on the other side. I am beginning to fear that I have bought a lemon.

    Reply

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