The ABS light on your car’s dashboard serves an important role in alerting you to potential mechanical problems. Though it often lights up and turns off when you start your car, it may turn on and remain on if your car is experiencing problems with its anti-lock braking system (ABS). Depending on the circumstances, the ABS light may be a warning sign that your car is unsafe to drive until repairs are made to fix the ABS system.
What Is The ABS Light?
Your car or truck’s dashboard is populated by a variety of lights linked to the vehicle’s various systems. The ABS light is specifically tied to your vehicle’s anti-lock brake system (ABS). The ABS light can typically be identified by its orange or red color. In some vehicles, the light consists solely of the letters “ABS.” In other vehicles, the light consists of “ABS” surrounded by two rings, with the outer most circle open at the top and bottom.
What Are The ABS And Traction Control Light Systems?
The anti-lock brake system itself is responsible for interacting with the break system in specific, often dangerous situations. If the ABS system detects that your wheels are in danger of locking up (causing your vehicle to skid or slide), it is able to rapidly automate the engagement and disengagement of individual brake calipers. All vehicles manufactured after 2013 in the United States include an ABS system, as required by law.
The anti-lock brake system is part of your vehicle’s traction control system, which works together to improve vehicle stability under adverse conditions. The ABS light appears on your dashboard among other traction control system lights, which vary by vehicle model. Under regular circumstances, these system lights remain unlit, indicating your vehicle stability system is functioning as expected. However, several outstanding circumstances may cause your ABS light to turn on and remain on, requiring your attention.
Main Reasons That Cause The ABS Light To Come On
If there is an issue with your ABS that inhibits it from functioning as expected, the ABS light on your dashboard will light up. Sometimes, this illumination will only be temporary. However, the ABS light may also remain on indefinitely until the problem is addressed.
There are a wide variety of reasons your vehicle’s ABS light may illuminate. To diagnose the problem, you must first take into account the circumstances surrounding the light’s appearance. For example, you may notice the ABS light illuminating along with all other dashboard lights when you start your vehicle. This is a regular “bulb check” and is not a major concern. However, if you notice that the ABS light does not illuminate when you start your vehicle, this may indicate that the appropriate light bulb has burnt out and should be replaced immediately.
If the ABS light illuminates and remains illuminated while you drive, this may be an indicator that some aspect of your anti-lock brake system is malfunctioning. Several common ABS malfunctions include low ABS fluid, bad sensors or wiring, faulty control units, or a failing break pump.
Is It Safe To Drive When The ABS Light Comes On? What Should I Do When The ABS Light Is On?
If the ABS light comes on while you are driving, remember that you are not in immediate danger. In most situations, you are safe to continue operating the vehicle even after the ABS light turns on. As long as your brake pedal continues to operate normally, you should be able to continue driving until you have an opportunity to visit a mechanic or check your anti-lock brake system on your own.
However, if the ABS light illuminates in tandem with another brake system light, you may be in more immediate danger. If in doubt, it is best to slow the vehicle and test your brake pedal’s pressure and reaction time before continuing on. Also, if you are driving in adverse road conditions, such as snow, ice, or rain, you should drive with heightened caution in order to minimize the chance of sliding.
The ABS light is not a problem you should ignore. Though the vehicle will continue to operate in general, you should make plans to address the problem as soon as possible. This will likely mean visiting a repair shop in order to diagnose your vehicle’s precise ABS issue.
How Can I Resolve An ABS Light?
Many issues relating to the ABS light system require specialist attention and cannot be resolved without specialized tools. However, there are some common maintenance routines that can help ensure your safety if your ABS light comes on.
If your vehicle has a separate reservoir for anti-lock brake fluid, check the reservoir’s levels and top off the fluid if it has fallen below acceptable levels. Before doing so, be sure to check your owner’s manual to ensure that you are using the correct type of brake fluid for your make and model. Also, be sure to always use an unopened bottle of brake fluid. The hygroscopic nature of brake fluid causes it to absorb moisture from the air, which may cause the brake fluid to perform sub-optimally.
Some vehicle models include code readers and scan tools that allow you to diagnose your vehicle’s problems on your own. These allow you to pinpoint the precise problem based on a pattern of ABS light flashes. Consult your owner’s manual for more information on your vehicle’s specific system.
However, in most circumstances, the only way to turn the ABS light off is by seeking professional assistance from a certified mechanic. Most mechanics have special tools which allow them to check each ABS system component, including wheel speed sensors and the brake fluid pump. When speaking with a mechanic, be sure to indicate when and under what circumstances the ABS light turns on.
Overall, the ABS light is an important reminder on your dashboard regarding the health of a key vehicle stability system. While the light’s appearance is not always a sign of immediate danger, you should make plans to address the problem as soon as possible to ensure optimal safety in all road conditions.