Home Diagnosis and TroubleshootingBraking System ABS Light Meaning – How To Read This Information Right?

ABS Light Meaning – How To Read This Information Right?

by Jordan Harris
ABS Light Meaning

Have you noticed the ABS light illuminating more often? Or is it fully illuminated all the time? Then you wondered what the ABS light meaning is? If this is the case, you have a big problem to deal with. But you shouldn’t worry because, until the end of this article, we are going to learn everything you need to know when it comes to this light and more.

Every light on the dashboard means something. The lights are visual information for you as a driver. Without them, we would basically be blind and we will put our lives in great danger because we weren’t able to read the warning information and make the required repairs to the systems in our vehicle.

More precisely the ABS system. You just don’t want to have this system malfunction at all. If it malfunctions, you will have a bad day. Modern ABS systems prevent thousands of incidents from happening each day. If your system has malfunctioned, then it is time to repair it and make sure that everything is sorted out. But how to notice if the system has gone bad? Well, we are going to cover that.

In this article, we are going to learn what is the ABS system and we will learn how it works. Then we will learn what the ABS light meaning is. And the reasons why it is illuminated. Then we will cover the symptoms of a failing ABS system and how to diagnose the problem and how to fix it. So, let’s jump into the article.

What Is The ABS System? – ABS Light Meaning

The ABS system is one of the crucial systems in our cars that makes sure that we are safe and sound. Along with the ESP or better called electronic stability program, is one of the must-haves in a car when it comes to the safety of the driver and also on the safety of the passengers.

But this doesn’t stop here and these systems are affecting the overall safety of the traffic in general since most of these modern cars have these systems. They make driving safer and there is less and less a chance that you might end up hurt in case of an emergency. But for what does the ABS stand for?

The ABS stands for the anti-lock braking system. This system is used in a variety of applications and many industries. It is used for cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, and even on aircraft.

The early ideas about this system predate the modern system that was firstly introduced in the ’50s. The original idea came in 1920 when the French aircraft designer Gabriel Voisin has started doing experiments with these types of systems on his aircraft. But it was in the early ’50s when this system hit the mainstream in the jet industry.

And 21 years later in ’71, the first system was patented on cars by Mario Palazzotti. The first name of the system was called “Antiskid” but Bosch later renamed it in ABS. The first car that came equipped with this system was the Chrysler Imperial and later in other products. But it became a standard in the early ’90s. So, what is the ABS light meaning? We will cover that a bit later.

How The ABS Works?

The ABS system has a simple method of action that is highly effective and makes the car stop quite sooner than any other standard brake system that doesn’t have ABS.

The system is including an ECU or also known as a controller, speed sensor on each wheel, ABS module, and at least two hydraulic valves. The computer or ECU is monitoring the speed of the vehicle all the time through the wheel sensors. So, when the brakes are applied the caliper squeezes the rotors and then releases the rotor and squeezes the rotor again.

This is made possible by the hydraulic valves and the ABS pump. All these procedures are done multiple times in a fraction of a millisecond. Which guarantees that the car stops quickly and effectively in the smallest distance possible.

All of the four components are crucial when it comes to stopping the car at the right distance. Some of them, unfortunately, can fail and start to develop issues.

But what is the ABS light meaning on the dashboard? Well, we are going to cover that in the next chapter where we will learn more about this light and when it turns on.

What Is The ABS Light Meaning?

The ABS light is a light that is located on the cluster. Most of the time, this light is invisible and you are not able to see it. Which is good. Because if you are seeing it more and more often means that something is wrong with the system.

The ABS light usually turns on when the system is engaged. Imagine that you are driving on the road and suddenly a deer comes in front of you. You press hard on the brakes and the ABS system is triggered. It engages and disengages the brakes, helping you to stop much quicker than you previously anticipated.

When the system does this action, some weird sounds would be heard from the front. Like everything has gone to hell, but you shouldn’t worry because this is the normal action of this system.


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Then the light on the dash will appear and disappear as many times the system engages and disengages. You will not even be able to see it, to be honest. Since everything is happening so quickly. Until you come to a stop the light should be turned off and you can resume driving again. So, that is the ABS light meaning. Visual information of engaging the ABS system.

But in some instances, this ABS light can stay on and this can mean something that is wrong with the system. But what could get wrong with the system? We are going to cover that in the next chapter.

Reasons Why Your ABS Light Is On

Now let’s discuss what it means if the ABS light is on. Remember that the ABS light should only turn on when the system engages and to turn off soon after it disengages. So, if your light is illuminated all the time, it means that there is something wrong. But what could go wrong and cause the ABS light to turn on? Let’s find out.

Blown Fuse

Something simple as a blown fuse can turn on your ABS light. But why is this the case? This is the case because the fuses are specifically created in order to prevent damage to specific components.

Let’s say you have a short in your electrical system and if there is no fuse. It is highly likely that you are going to experience some damage to your electrical components or damage to the electrical system that could also cause fire and your car could burn to the ground.

That’s why fuses were invented to secure your car’s electricals from power surges that could make this type of damage.

In this case, the first thing you need to do is to check the fuse box which is located in the engine bay. Remove the cover of the fuse box and see the scheme, find the fuse that is in charge of the ABS system and give it a look. If the fuse is burnt then you need to replace it with a new one. And that’s it. Your ABS light should turn off. But if it doesn’t, it means that you will need to perform deeper troubleshooting. And that is something that we are going to cover next.

Bad Speed Sensor

The speed sensors are crucial when it comes to the ABS system. Without these sensors, this system would be impossible to work properly.

As we mentioned before when we covered the ABS light meaning, there is a single sensor on each wheel. Which means four sensors in total on every vehicle. These sensors are measuring the speed that the vehicle drives and then they pass the information to the ABS controller.

If one of them is broken. Bad information will be transferred or no information at all and this will trigger the ABS light.

The solution for this would be to get an OBD2 scanner and scan the car for codes. Then, you will get the errors, and if the error is telling you that there is a sensor that has failed you know that you need to replace it. Or if not, you move on to the next possible reason why the ABS light turns on.

Bad ABS Pump

The ABS pump can also fail and make your ABS light turn on. This is the pump that pumps hydraulic fluid when the system is engaged and if the work of this pump is not in perfect working order, then your ABS system will not work.

There are a couple of ways to diagnose the ABS pump, one is with an OBD2 scanner and scanning the car for codes. If you have codes that are closely resembling ABS pump failure then it is obvious that you need to replace your ABS pump with a new one quickly.

ABS Light Meaning

When the ABS pump is bad the ABS system will not engage at all and will not work under any conditions. So, this is a clear sign that the ABS pump needs to be checked and inspected by a mechanic and he will determine if the pump is bad.

What its unfortunate is that these pumps are pretty expensive and will cost you a good penny to replace them with new good working units. That’s why cross your fingers and hope for the best.

Broken ABS Controller

A broken ABS controller can also cause the ABS light to turn on and will make you start searching online for ABS light meaning.

The controller is also an important piece of the puzzle. This controller basically evaluates the information that the speed sensors are sending and then it decides if the ABS pump motor should engage and activate the valves that release the pressure and prevent the vehicle from skidding.

That’s why you need to see if the controller is in good working order and it doesn’t cause the ABS light to turn on. And the only way to do this would be by scanning the car for codes with an OBD2 scanner tool that is going to tell everything when it comes to the components of the ABS system and if there are codes, you need to properly address them.

If some of the errors indicate that there is a problem with the controller it means that you will have to replace the controller with a new one.

Low Brake Fluid Level

Low brake fluid can also cause the ABS light to illuminate. This happens less often but it does and when it does, it also makes your brakes harder to use since there is air into the system.

So, you can expect some problems while braking, and one of the primary signs would be the ABS light along with the check engine light.

When you notice the ABS light it is a good idea to check the brake fluid canister and make sure that you top off the fluid that is inside of the brake fluid canister. Also, make sure that you add the right one for your application since there is DOT 3, DOT 4, and DOT 5. These fluids cannot be mixed and used interchangeably.

Symptoms Of A Bad ABS System

We have covered the reasons why the ABS light can turn on. Now let’s discuss the symptoms of a bad ABS system. Since you know the ABS light meaning, the symptoms are also very crucial to know in order to make the right call and see if your ABS system is working fine.

In this chapter, we will learn the main symptoms that you will notice when the ABS system has failed or is malfunctioning. Then we will cover how to test the ABS system and make sure that it works well. Testing this system will give you great input on the condition of your system. So, follow along.

The Brakes Lock Up

If your ABS system has gone bad then the brakes will lock up quite more often. When you apply the brakes in case of an emergency, the car will simply lock its wheels and will slide forward. Hitting everything that is in front of its way.

And you don’t want that. This will affect your braking distance greatly and you will possibly hurt yourself. Imagine that you have to brake, you know how your car behaves and how much stopping power do you need. If your ABS system is bad, the car will simply don’t stop on time and it will skid.

That’s why, when you notice this symptom. The important thing is to remain calm and take your car to a service center where this problem would be checked and patched.

If you don’t do this, you are at high risk of hurting yourself and also hurting other people around you. That’s why learn ABS light meaning and try to solve this issue.

ABS Or Check Engine Light Is On

When the ABS system is bad, there will be a check engine light, and also the ABS light will be illuminated all of the time.

But since we covered this topic in detail before, we are not going in-depth when it comes to the ABS light since you already know what the ABS light meaning is and how to diagnose the light when it shows up. Just to note that you will need an OBD2 scanner in order to see what the computer will say and which of the components are bad.


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How To Test The ABS?

Now, this is an interesting question that deserves a good answer. Testing the ABS system is key in order to determine if the ABS is working or not. But how you can do it? It’s dead easy and also fun to do.

You only need to find an empty street. Make sure that there is no traffic and people around. And also make sure that is a wide alley.

The next thing to do is to start the car and put it into gear. Speed up to 30 mph and apply heavily on the brakes.

If the ABS is working. You will notice how the ABS light flashes and then turns off. The car will also not skid and will stop quickly. If behind you are black lines from braking, it means that your system isn’t working and needs to be checked immediately. Because that’s the main point of this system and that is to not allow the car from sliding when it starts to brake.

How To Fix It DIY?

We have covered the ABS light meaning. Now let’s see how you can fix this light and make it not show up. Fixing this problem with the ABS can be a bit tricky. And depending on the root of the cause it will depend on a different solution.

The easiest thing that could be is a speed sensor. In this chapter, we are going to cover how to address this issue with the speed sensor and replace the sensor with a new one.

The first thing you will need to do is to get an OBD2 tool and scan the car for codes. The cheapest scanners would not fit the bill and you will probably need something more advanced. Preferably the ones that tell the problem right away and not only give you the codes that you have to google them later.

A good tool is going to tell a lot about your car. And based on this input you will be able to tell what is going on inside of your car.

You could get an error for the ABS pump, controller, speed sensor. And based on this information you will be able to replace the component that is affected by this issue.

Let’s say that only the speed sensor is affected. Then you will need to get a new sensor and then replace the sensor. The sensors are usually located at the rear wheel and you will have easy access to them. So, it’s not a struggle to get it replaced. It is also fairly cheap compared to an ABS pump or a controller.

The important thing is to address this quickly. And here is a video of how this work is done.

Cost To Fix The ABS Light

The cost to fix the ABS light depends much on what went wrong with your ABS system. For example, if the problem is the speed sensor, you will repair the car on the cheap. The average cost for one of these sensors is $20.

The next component that could go wrong probably would be the controller for the ABS pump. This controller costs around $150.

And the most expensive component that could go wrong is the ABS pump itself. A new ABS pump can cost more than $300 on average. Some pumps for specific vehicles can even cost thousands. That’s why pray that it’s not the pump that went bad.

The labor will also cost you somewhere between $50 and $100 per hour, so you can do the math of how much it will cost you to do this specific job. It would probably involve a few hours for the ABS pump replacement. Speed sensors are the cheapest to replace.

Can I Continue Driving With ABS Light On?

We have covered the ABS light meaning and all the important bits. But is it safe to drive with an ABS light illuminated? No, it’s not, and you shouldn’t do it. But why? This is the case because your ABS system is faulty and it needs checking. If you don’t fix this problem, your car will not brake properly when it needs to.

Conclusion – ABS Light Meaning

In this article, we covered a lot when comes to the ABS light. First, we learned what is the ABS system. Then we learned the ABS light meaning and then we covered what it means when the check engine light is illuminated. We learned all of the possibilities when it comes to this light appearing on the dash.

Then we have covered the symptoms of a faulty ABS system and how to test your system if it’s faulty. And lastly, we saw how to fix this problem with the ABS light and the cost of doing so. The cost to fix this problem could be on the higher side since quite often the ABS pump can fail.

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