Today, we will discuss ABS or Anti-lock braking system in cars. You will know exactly what is ABS, common problems with ABS and what to do when ABS light is on.
Let’s dive in!
ABS: Under the hood
All drivers use certain systems in their cars every day without even knowing their technical name.
There are many systems that keep drivers safe and secure. Most importantly, to keep the engine running properly.
To some readers, you may already be an expert on vehicles and can define exactly what ABS is.
However, other drivers may not be as knowledgeable about the services inside their engine.
To have a little fun with certain drivers, our team interviewed some people. We asked them if they knew what it means that their vehicle has ABS.
One vehicle owner believed ABS was the vehicle coolant system. While another responded that it was the system to control gear shifts.
Unfortunately, these are not uncommon answers, unless you have spent a lot of time with cars.
Today, we want to help all drivers discover exactly what ABS means.
So, What is ABS?
Simply put, ABS is the system within your vehicle that stands for the Anti-Lock Braking system.
This system is in place for vehicles, motorcycles and even on an aircraft. ABS exists to ensure the tires do not lock up while braking.
If the tires of your vehicle were to lock up while braking, the traction on the road would not be sufficient to stop your vehicle.
Therefore, ABS could be considered one of the most important safety features of modern vehicles.
The Anti-Lock Braking System gives the driver more control of their vehicle. It helps prevent skidding in dangerous driving conditions.
That means when it is snowing or the roads are icy, you don’t have to worry about sliding off the road after stepping on the brakes.
How does ABS work?
ABS is in place to help decrease the amount of distance your vehicle moves forward after braking on dry surfaces.
However, in unsafe conditions such as slippery roads or loose gravel, the ABS system also offers protection in other ways.
Often times, the ABS system may increase the braking distance but will help improve steering control.
Essentially, the Anti-Lock Braking system is a computerized system found in all cars that helps your car remain in control.
When you step on the brakes, you are preventing your tires from continuing moving forward.
However, the ABS program helps distribute brake fluid so that there is a little movement in the tires and you don’t skid off the road.
Unfortunately, like all systems, this important system can malfunction and create a dangerous situation for the driver.
When the ABS malfunction light turns on, that means there is something wrong and your vehicle may be unsafe to drive.
If your ABS light has turned on, our team of experts is here to help you figure out what the reasoning may be.
Why is the ABS light on?
To narrow it down to one reason would be impossible without knowing more vehicle information. The light can become illuminated because of many different factors.
The ABS light can turn on for a variety of reasons. But today we will outline the most common problems.
One reason may be low brake fluid. Often times, brake fluid can become low without the driver’s knowledge. It is important to regularly check your brake fluid levels.
If this doesn’t seem to be the problem for you, it could be that a fuse has blown in your vehicles ABS program. Unfortunately, this problem requires more than just a fluid refill.
Other reasons for the ABS light could be a faulty system, the hydraulic pump may not be running properly or various other reasons.
In the event that your ABS light is illuminated without a reason, it is smart to ask an expert or use an ABS scan tool.
Sometimes, your ABS light may not stay on, but it may turn on periodically.
Why is my ABS light turning on and off?
When you turn on your vehicle, it is normal for the ABS light to come on and then turn back off. This is the way your vehicle does self-checks to ensure everything is running okay.
Often times this is just what some may call a ‘bulb check’, it is a way your vehicle checks the lights on the dashboard.
However, if the light comes on and stays on, there may be more to the problem.
Additionally, it is possible that the ABS light could come on again later on after driving. A potential reason for this flaw is because of a faulty sensor within the ABS system.
Drivers should know that just because your ABS light comes on while driving, it is still safe to continue moving.
That being said, you should be cautious about the driving conditions. Merely because traction control can be affected due to faulty ABS.
If this is happening to your vehicle, it would be wise to use a car scan tool with ABS reading capabilities. With these types of ABS tools, you will be able to find the root of the problem.
What to do when the ABS light is on?
As stated before, if your ABS light comes on, normally, it is still safe to continue driving your vehicle.
Although, there are other systems in your vehicle that depend on ABS to function properly. Just in case you may notice some differences.
Pay close attention to the handling, control and the stability of your vehicle after the ABS light turns on.
There are a few things you can do yourself to double-check the safety of your vehicle post-ABS light.
The first and easiest step you can do yourself is to check the anti-lock braking fluid reservoir.
Some vehicles have two reservoirs within the engine. If both are low this may be an indicator there is a leak.
If you notice the levels are low, top off the brake fluid. But make sure you use the correct fluid needed for your engine!
Tips for adding Brake Fluid
First and foremost, it is important to learn exactly what type of fluid is needed for your vehicle.
You can most likely find this information on the reservoir, the cap or inside your vehicle owners manual.
It is important to use the correct kind of fluid because not all fluids are compatible with every engine.
Another point to consider is you should always use a newer bottle of brake fluid.
If you use a brake fluid that has been sitting around a while. This old fluid can absorb moisture from the air and change the consistency.
This can be a problem for the ABS system and the driver may make it more difficult to brake their vehicle.
Other ABS potential problems – Visual Testing
If you open up the hood of your vehicle and notice your brake fluid is not the problem. There may be something else is going on.
We advise you to try to find the ABS unit and check again that everything is plugged in correctly.
Sometimes, the electrical connectors can become corroded or loosely plugged in.
If everything looks okay for the ABS power unit. Another visual test could be along with the tire sensors.
Go ahead and get on eye-level with your tires. You should make sure the wheel sensors are plugged in tightly.
ABS scan tools
If all the visual tests do not give you a clear sign of the problem behind the ABS light, an ABS car scan tool may be necessary.
All you have to do is connect the device to your OBD2 carport and run an ABS test.
From there, you will have a clearly identified trouble code about what is wrong with the ABS.
With these types of car scan tools, you will have a clear diagnosis of what is happening within your engine.
Our team is a big component of ABS scan tools. These smart devices can save you a trip to the mechanic.
Additionally, beyond just giving you a clear reason for the ABS problem, an ABS scan tool can turn off the ABS light.
If it is not possible for you to purchase an ABS scan tool, you should bring your vehicle to a mechanic.
It is always a pain when you are driving along and a service engine light comes on the dashboard.
For all drivers, it is safest to learn the meaning behind each warning light to ensure the problem is not too grave.
If the ABS light on your vehicle has turned on, you are not unsafe. But it is important to take caution while driving.
Once you have time to check the engine, first check the brake fluid levels and hope all you need is a top-off.
However, if the problem seems more internal, we recommend an ABS scan tool.
These tools pay for themselves with their quick response rates and easy-to-use design.
Even beginner users will feel like car mechanics and begin to understand the inner workings of their engine.
If want to determine the reason behind the ABS light, and solve the problem yourself, an ABS scan tool is the best option.
Bonus: Transmission Problems: 7 Best Diagnostic Tools to Help You Out 2021