5 Causes of an ABS Light to Come On in Your Car and What to Do

Modern vehicles have what is known as an anti-lock braking system. The purpose of this system is to keep the driver safe by preventing the wheels from locking up as you apply the brake. That way, you can keep control over the steering and your vehicle won’t skid as a result of the wheels locking up.

In addition, there is a warning light on the dashboard which will illuminate if there is any sort of problem with the anti-lock braking system. This is a light that you need to take seriously because it is an early warning sign that your braking system needs to be inspected right away.

5 Common Causes of an ABS Light to Come on

There are many causes which could make an ABS light come on. It doesn’t always mean there is a problem with the anti-lock braking system directly. There could also be a problem with other sensors or components that it communicates with as well.

Below are the top 5 causes of an ABS light coming on.

1) Low Fluid Reservoir

The braking fluid has a lot to do with controlling the braking pressure within an anti-lock braking system. There is a braking fluid reservoir which holds the fluid of the anti-lock braking system.

Sometimes there could be a leak from this reservoir which will cause the fluid levels to drop. Either that or excessive amounts of air may exist within the system.

Either way, it will certainly cause the ABS warning light to illuminate on the dashboard.

2) Faulty Speed Sensor

There are speed sensors built into every wheel’s hub which calculate the movement rate of that wheel. This information then gets transmitted to the anti-lock braking system.

If it turns out that at least one of the wheels is moving too slowly, the anti-lock braking system will increase the pressure of the braking fluid to allow the wheel to move at a normal speed.

But if there is a problem with the speed sensor, the anti-lock braking system will detect that and cause the warning light to illuminate on the dashboard.

Read also: 5 Symptoms of a Bad Intermediate Steering Shaft and Replacement Cost

3) Bad System Module

The module of the anti-lock braking system can form corrosion after a while. This is actually one of the most common reasons for why there ends up being a problem with the anti-lock braking system.

If the module is corroded, then it can’t obtain information from the wheel speed sensor. As a result, the ABS light illuminates on the dashboard. It doesn’t even take a lot of corrosion to cause this to happen either. But you will need to replace the module after this happens.

4) Bulb Check

Some vehicles will perform what is known as a bulb check on the dashboard. This check is for the driver’s convenience, so they know the bulbs of their vehicle’s warning lights are working properly.

These lights will usually turn off by themselves after a certain amount of time. In some instances, there may be a glitch in the bulb check which keeps the ABS warning light illuminated after the bulb check is completed.

5) Worn Hydraulic Pump

If there is one wheel of a vehicle that moves at a different speed than the other wheels, the wheel speed sensor detects this and then notifies the anti-lock braking system.

Once this happens, the system will activate the hydraulic pump to increase the amount of brake fluid pressure. This will allow the wheels to maintain their traction as they’re touching the ground.

Unfortunately, hydraulic pumps tend to get worn out after years of using them. This would certainly cause the ABS light to come on, which means you’d need to replace the pump right away.

What to Do When the Car ABS Light Comes on

When the ABS light activates on your car’s dashboard, it signals that something is wrong with the anti-lock braking system. That means if you need to step on the brake pedal quickly to stop your vehicle, then it might not stop as fast as you want it to. As a result, you could end up in a serious car accident.

Basically, the function of the anti-lock braking system is to keep your vehicle’s tires on the road as you aggressively step on the brake. That way, the wheels don’t lock up or skid uncontrollably on the road during the braking process. This is particularly important if the road is slippery or wet.

There are different reasons for why the car ABS light would come on. The main reason is from simply turning on your vehicle. After you put your key in the ignition and turn it on, the computer does a test on the anti-lock braking system to ensure it is functioning normally.

If the computer doesn’t find a problem, the ABS light will turn off quickly. But if the ABS light stays on, it means there is a problem with your anti-lock braking system.

Sometimes you might be driving, and the ABS light will suddenly come on too. In any case, you need to bring your vehicle to an auto mechanic whenever you experience this issue.

They are the only ones equipped to diagnosing the issue and turning which component of the anti-lock braking system needs repair or replacement.

Can You Drive Your Car With the ABS Light On?

Just because your ABS light is on, that doesn’t mean you can’t drive your vehicle. In fact, you will still be able to step on the brake pedal and slow the vehicle down.

However, you cannot perform any kind of emergency stop by slamming the brake pedal quickly. So, what you need to do is drive slowly to the nearest mechanic after the ABS light comes on. Brake slowly when necessary but avoid braking quickly or aggressively. If you can do that, then everything will be fine.

The only circumstance where you shouldn’t even attempt to drive your vehicle is if the brake system light comes on when the ABS light is on. The brake system light indicates a much bigger issue with your braking system — a problem which may limit your ability to brake the vehicle at all. Therefore, you would need your vehicle towed to the mechanic if you notice both lights on.

Categories Brakes

21 thoughts on “5 Causes of an ABS Light to Come On in Your Car and What to Do”

  1. Hi I am driving a 2008 Toyota Corolla 1.6. When I’m driving uphill, it shows a check ABS light and when the speed is 100 kph it shakes and make a crrrrr(cracking) noise. Can you tell me what is the problem?

  2. Hi I recently had all 4 brakes replaced on my 2011 Lincoln MKX and just a couple of weeks afterwards my ABS lights came on. One mechanic told me he thought it is probably the wheel sensor but he would have to check which one if not all 4 since I had just had the brakes done, but when I took it to him to look at he then said its the entire ABS system. How can I tell if he’s trying to make a lot of money for the ABS system instead of just a sensor? Thanks

    • You could go to O’Reilly’s or an auto parts store that has testing equipment with abs functionality and test it for yourself it’ll tell you what tire it is or if it’s the actual ABS system itself

      • If it’s the actual ABS module that is pretty spendy but if it’s one of the tires then it’s just the wheel speed sensor and it could also be one of the connectors or wires that’s going to and from the ABS module computer you can get an volt reader and do that test yourself bc all kinds of vids on YouTube

  3. My ABS light goes off and on my engine light also goes on at the same time but stays on longer than the ABS ..I needed roaders and brakes that my guy already fixed. Well the ABS light and engine light are still going on but today when they both went on and the car stop but started quickly ..I noticed that this almost happened before the brake job also

  4. my abs light will come on and it will go off and sometimes stay off for weeks and then come on again I tried to use my scan tool but must not work on abs problems. I have tried spraying brake cleaner on the sensors on front wheels

    • Correct, you need to use a scanner that’s specifically compatible with ABS. If you don’t want to buy a new one and have an Autozone near you, they’ll be able to scan it for you for free.

  5. My ABS light comes on after driving my car for approx 2 kilometer then stays on but my brakes seem okay had the disc pads checked had the calipers checked replaced the pistons in the rear disc brakes, any ideas what is causing this?

  6. Hi my abs light is on had it put on a diagnostic machine it said front wheel drive sensor replaced with a new one still showing same problem can some one help thank u

  7. The ABS light come on and it makes my want to almost stop ad I don’t have my foot on the brake at all. This didn’t start until my car was hit on the front in an accident.

  8. I was driving my car Vauxhall Corsa ABS light come on lost power and car stopped by itself wouldn’t start for about 10 minutes started and no light on can anybody help with this

  9. Hi I had a Toyota Camry hybrid 2011 . There are ABs sign displays coninuely and break stop working . One of the my mechanic scanned and recommended to change booster . I replaced booster system just 2 days ago . Again ABS light is on for short period . Very confused . Please advice .Thank you

  10. Hi i drive a polo 6 sedan…I HV a problem with my car I was driving on a gravel on a rainy road was slippery so I had to forcefully take out my car off that steep road ,now on the dashboard it displays ABS lights …what could be wrong …

  11. I’m driving a ford ecosport. The abs and brake lights come on and the speedometer drops to 0 while I’m driving. It will feel that I’m losing power and the steering wheel feels unsteady. I took my car to my ford dealer but they told me that there is no problem…. I don’t know what it can be and feel very unsafe.

  12. I have a 2006 Mitsubishi eclipse brake pedal is spongy one shop says and 2say not and no light on what is the problem what to do

  13. I drive a KIA PICANTO 2006, my brakes get sticking when the ABS light on. it then stops the car from moving until I putting it off for some time then the brakes get freed before I can move. What could be the cause? can someone help me?


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