Home Diagnosis and TroubleshootingBraking System ABS Light – What Does This Light Mean?

ABS Light – What Does This Light Mean?

by Jordan Harris
ABS Light

Have you noticed the ABS light illuminated on the cluster? You must be asking yourself what does the ABS light mean and why is my ABS light on? If that is the case, then you are at the right place because we are going to cover a lot about this light.

Having a problem with the ABS light can be a really frustrating thing to deal with. In this case, most people immediately start to look for how to turn off the ABS light. But this is a wrong move by your side. But, how come? Why is this the wrong thing to do?

Well, this is the wrong thing to do because when a warning light is illuminated on your dash indicates that there is a problem with your ABS system. Whenever this system is engaged, you will experience the illumination of this light. In ideal situations, this light should flash when the system is engaged.

But if this light is turned on all the time, it means that there is something wrong with the system in your car. You could also experience ABS and traction control on and also ABS and brake notification on. Depending on the problem. But we are going to cover everything.

First, we will learn the ABS light meaning and how this system works. Then we will discuss why is my ABS light on and the ABS light on a car. Then we will learn how to turn off the ABS light and how to fix the ABS light. Lastly, we will answer some common questions. So, if you want to learn more, follow along.

ABS Light Meaning

Now before we dive into more complex topics like the question why is my ABS light on, let’s take a look first at the basics and that is the ABS light meaning. What is the meaning behind this light? If you feel that you are well prepared and know this stuff, you can move to the next chapters. If not, keep up with us for a bit.

This light is illuminating on your dashboard for a reason. Whenever the ABS system is engaging, the light will turn on and will illuminate. Then it will instantly turn off whenever this system is not active. This is the case when this system is working correctly.

But when the light is illuminated all the time the ABS light meaning is different. This means that the light is basically telling you that there is a problem with the anti-lockup system. And you should definitely not ignore this stuff. Ignoring these things will make it worse and you will drive your car with a faulty anti lockup brake system.

And driving with a faulty brake system is not good. Your tires will basically lock up and your car will not brake in emergency situations as it should. Resulting in potentially dangerous situations for you as well as the pedestrians on the street. You just never know when you are going to need the ABS system.

But why is my ABS light on? We will get to that after we cover how this system works in detail and learn more about its basic operation.

How The ABS System Works

Now as we understood the ABS light meaning, let’s learn something more about the work of this ABS system. How does this system work? Then we will cover why is my ABS light on. So, if you want to learn more, keep up with us.

If you didn’t know, the abbreviation ABS stands for Anti-Lock Braking System. This is a simple system that prevents a lot of crashes on the road each day. And it is really an irreplaceable piece of the puzzle called an automobile.

Every modern car has it and it is a standard nowadays. Unlike in the past when these features were only for the ones that could option them.

This is a simple system that is composed of the hydraulic pump, the control module, and speed sensors. All these components make out this system and help it work properly. This is basically a hydraulic system that engages whenever there is a need to do so. So, what is the method of action?

Well, whenever the speed sensors notice that you slam on the brakes abruptly, there will be a signal sent to the control module. Then this module will activate the hydraulic pump and will send pulses of hydraulic pressure to the brakes.

This pulsing action of the hydraulic pump will prevent the brakes to lock up. Meaning that the brakes will engage and disengage multiple times until the car comes to a stop.

In this situation, the light will flash on the cluster a few times and after this work, the light will turn off. If it doesn’t turn off you will ask yourself the question of why is my ABS light on and what the ABS light means. That’ we will cover next.

Why Is My ABS Light On

Now as we covered the ABS light meaning and we learned how the ABS system works, let’s now focus on some other topics. Namely, why is my ABS light on? What are the reasons behind this light illuminating your dashboard?

Knowing this stuff will help you diagnose the problem really fast and you will basically won’t have any issue sorting this problem. So, why is my ABS light on? Let’s elaborate.

1. Bad Speed Sensor

The first thing that can make you ask yourself why is my ABS light on is a bad speed sensor. These sensors as their name implies are measuring the speed of your car. There are four of them, one on each wheel.

What can happen is that sometimes these sensors fail and develop a ton of issues with your ABS system. Most notably the light that will illuminate and annoy you.

What is worse is that you cannot tell which sensor is the problem if you don’t perform proper diagnostics on your vehicle. Only proper diagnostics can tell a lot about which of them is bad and needs replacing. Now let’s move to the next probable reason.

2. A Broken ABS Tone Ring

The second thing that could make you ask why is my ABS light on is the broken tone ring. But what does this tone ring really is?

Well, this is a component that the speed sensor gets readings from. This tone ring is wrapped around the wheel hub. The ring has holes in it. So, the speed sensor is reading these holes as the wheel spins.

Sometimes these rings can get rusty or damaged. Preventing the speed sensor to get the correct reading from the tone ring. And then the ABS light on a car will illuminate. And you will be looking at how to fix abs light. But more on that later in the article after we cover all of the reasons why this happens.

3. Defective ABS Control Module

Another thing that could make you ask yourself why is my ABS light on is the bad or defective control module of the anti-lock system.

This is basically the brain of your ABS system that determines when to activate the system. These units also tend to fail and develop a ton of headaches for car owners.

This control module can break in some cases or the wiring that goes to this module can fail. So, whenever you get a code that indicates a problem with the control module you should also check the wiring.

Just to make yourself sure that the problem is indeed because of the control module and not with the connections. Since control modules for the anti-lock system are really expensive and can cost a lot of money.

4. Bad ABS Pump

The fourth most common thing that will make you ask yourself why is my ABS light on and what does the ABS light mean is the bad ABS pump.

This pump is basically doing all the heavy lifting when it comes to the operation of this anti-lockup system. Without a properly working ABS pump, you will face problems like this and your car will basically have an inoperable ABS system.

So, it is the best thing you check this hydraulic pump and see if it is working properly. This unit has to be diagnosed and bench tested to make sure that it is really faulty. You just don’t want to replace this unit on your car and then determine that the pump was not the problem. Why I’m saying this?

Well, I’m saying this because these pumps are expensive and can cost a ton of money to replace. And you don’t want to throw $500 or more on a pump that is working well and the problem is in some other thing. But more on the diagnosing, we will cover later. Now let’s learn more about why is my ABS light on.

5. A Blown Fuse

Another quite common reason for the ABS light is a blown fuse. This might sound silly, it actually can happen quite often.

As you probably know, there are a ton of fuses and relays in our cars that are there for safety purposes. Sometimes though, these fuses can fail and cause problems. They are usually failing because there is a short in the system. So, this keeps your car safe and prevents it from burning to the ground.

Fuses are our guardian angels and could save our car and our lives in most situations. So, whenever problems like these occur, it is often advised to check the fusebox. See if the fuses that are for the ABS system are functioning properly. If they aren’t, then you probably found your culprit.

Just get the same amp fuse from the parts store, replace it and you will be good to go. If not, move on to the last symptom of why is my ABS light on. And that we are going to cover next.

6. Running Low On Brake Fluid

And the last probable reason why is my ABS light on is the low brake fluid. Brake fluid is really essential for the proper operation of the ABS system and without it, you basically have a malfunctioning system in your car.

You will get the brake notification on as well as the ABS light. Meaning that you are in deep trouble. In this case, you will need to top off the fluid and see if this helps you out in sorting the problem.

If there is really low fluid. Then you probably have a leaky brake system. This is often happening along with the soft or spongy brake pedal. That’s why you better address the system if you want to avoid possible more expensive problems.

ABS And Traction Control Light On

We learned why is my ABS light on, now let’s learn why ABS and traction control on lights appear at the same time. For more insight, check out our explainer on what is traction control on a car.

The short answer to this question lies in the ABS system and all of the reasons that we discussed above. In addition to this, low tire pressure, bad tires, turned off traction control can be some of the reasons.

Especially if you pressed the traction control button and you turned it off. Check this button. There are the letters TC stamped on it. Or if you have a more modern car, go to the settings in your menu and in drive modes, there you should find the option to return your car to normal mode with traction control on, and the ABS and traction control should disappear. If not, move to diagnose the ABS light, more on that in a bit.

ABS And Brake Light On

Another situation is when the ABS and brake light are on. This is also a very undesirable situation that you don’t want in your life. This means that the problem will require to be diagnosed. But more on that in a bit.

What is important in this case when you have both lights on is that the main causes for this are all the ones that we listed above. More precisely the low brake fluid. This could easily trigger both of these lights to turn on.

Other things that could cause this problem with ABS and brake light on are the bad brake pads, low battery, bad wheel bearings (aka the car wheel bearings). All these things can attribute to this problem and cause you a headache. Now let’s move to diagnosing the ABS light.

How To Diagnose This?

So, how you can diagnose an ABS light? The short answer is with an OBD2 scanner. You got to have one if you want to sort out this problem quickly and effectively. Without it, you are basically trying to repair something blindfolded and that will not go well.

Grab one of these tools on Amazon on the cheap. With this tool, you will be able to diagnose the problem really fast.

ABS Light

Just scan the car for codes and you will get the necessary data that you need in order to diagnose the problem. It will tell you that a relay is bad, a speed sensor is broken, or that you have a bad control module. It will tell you everything you need to know.

Even though, sometimes diagnosing the ABS light can be a really tricky thing. In that case, you better pay a visit to the mechanic’s shop. They will tell you everything you need to know and how to fix the issue. But have you asked yourself how to turn off the ABS light? Well, that’s what we are going to cover next.

How To Turn Off Abs Light

Now let’s cover another interesting topic and that is how to turn off the ABS light? The short answer to this question is by fixing the problem. You can try the method of removing the positive terminal and causing the computer to reset. But this doesn’t always work. In most cases, if you don’t fix the problem, you will not be able to remove the light from the cluster.

Even if you take an OBD2 scanner and remove the codes, the codes will soon appear once again and cause you a number of headaches. That’s why you don’t have to learn how to turn off the ABS light but how to fix the ABS light. And that we are going to discuss next.

How To Fix ABS Light

So, how to fix ABS light? Well, that really depends much on the component that is causing the problem in the first place.

Based on your diagnostics, you should look for the solution to your problem. If it’s a relay or a fuse, then replace the component. If it’s a speed sensor, replace the component as well. Then remove all of the codes and there will be no ABS lights on the dash.

But if the problem is something more serious like an ABS controller or an ABS pump, then you are better off discussing this with more experienced mechanics. These components are expensive and could cost you a ton of money. So, diagnosing the problem correctly is key.

ABS Light Fix Cost

Now let’s see how much it will cost you to fix the ABS light. And frankly, it is not that expensive. Any of these causes like the speed sensor, tone ring, fuses, brake fluid can be sorted out fairly cheaply. When I mean cheap I mean for less than $100.

ABS Light

On the other hand, if the problem is in the brake controller or the hydraulic pump, you can expect to pay a good amount of money. Some of the costs for fixing these problems go up to $1,600. So, beware of this.

ABS Warning Light Facts

  • ABS stands for antilock braking system, and the warning light indicates a malfunction and deactivation of the system.
  • Regular brakes will still work, but antilock feature, stability control, and traction control will be disabled.
  • All cars from 2012 and newer are required to have stability control, ABS, and traction control.
  • The ABS warning light should briefly come on at startup; if it stays on, the system is not functioning correctly.
  • ABS uses sensors at each wheel to monitor wheel speed during braking, preventing skidding and steering loss.
  • Malfunction of the system can be caused by a blown fuse, damaged wheel-speed sensor, broken wire, or malfunctioning ABS controller or pump and valve.
  • The regular brake warning light indicates a loss of brake fluid or severely worn brakes, requiring immediate attention and repair.
  • Driving with the ABS warning light on is not recommended, as it can affect driving control and safety.
  • If the ABS warning light comes on while driving, it is advisable to take the car to a mechanic to diagnose the problem.
  • Regular maintenance, such as checking brake fluid levels and brake pad wear, can prevent ABS malfunctions and ensure safe driving.

Conclusion To ABS Light

In this article, we have covered quite a bit when it comes to the ABS light. First, we learned the ABS light meaning. Then we learned how the ABS system works and what are its integral components.

After this, we covered why is my ABS light on and all of the reasons concerning this problem. Then we learned how to diagnose the problem and how to sort it out.

Sorting the issue is not simple because there will be needed some of the faulty components to be replaced since we cannot only delete the codes and call it a day. There is still a reason why this light turns and we need to sort this thing out if we want to have a properly working anti-lock system no matter how expensive it is.

ABS Light F.A.Q

Now let’s discuss some frequently asked questions when it comes to the ABS light on your cluster.

What Does The ABS Light Mean

Your light is on because you have a problem with your anti-lockup system. This is the system that prevents your wheels from locking up under heavy braking. When the light turns on, it means that there is a problem with a fuse, speed sensor, control module, or hydraulic pump. And the problem needs to be diagnosed.

How To Turn Off ABS Light

You can try disconnecting the positive cable from the terminal and then connect it back in after a few seconds. Then the light should go off. If this doesn’t work, then an OBD2 scanner tool will be required to remove the problem from the cluster. With this tool, you can remove the codes. But even if you do and a component is faulty, you will get the same result. Eventually, you will have to fix the root of the problem.

How To Fix ABS Light

You can fix the ABS light by sorting out the root cause of the problem. Whether it is a speed sensor or possibly a fuse or ABS control module. This problem has to be sorted out if you want to avoid some possible malfunctions of this system on the road and crashing into somebody. That’s why to sort out this problem as soon as possible if you want to drive safe on the road.

How To Reset ABS Light

You can reset this either by removing the positive terminal from the battery. Or by getting an OBD2 scan tool to scan the car for codes and remove delete the codes. Even though, this doesn’t guarantee that you will sort out the problem completely. So, better to address the main cause for this issue and that is replacing some of the faulty components.

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