What Is an Anti-lock Brake System?
ABS is an anti-lock brake system that prevents you from “locking” up your brakes, or applying so much pressure to your brakes that the axle and wheels itself stop turning altogether. When your wheels stop turning but your car continues to move too quickly, you begin to skid, and skidding leads you to lose all control of your vehicle, which is a risk when going at high speeds.
Contrary to popular misconception, an anti-lock braking system does not stop your automobile any faster than a standard brake system; in fact, it adds a little amount of distance. It does, however, provide you control over your vehicle, allowing you to potentially turn out of the path of a collision and avoid major injury. Similarly, it extends the life of your tires, brake pads, brake calipers, wheels, and just about everything else on your automobile that braking might affect.
Four Causes of an Anti-Lock Brake System Warning Light
An ABS indication light on your dashboard indicates that something has gone wrong with your system and that you should have it checked out. A defective ABS module, low levels in the fluid reservoir, broken wheel speed sensors, or the system being turned off are the four most prevalent reasons for this signal to illuminate.
Malfunctioning ABS Module
Your ABS shares some critical components with another system in your vehicle: the traction control system. Traction control is a technology that maintains the smooth operation of all four wheels on the ground. If it senses that one of your wheels is spinning erratically, it will cut power to your engine until it regains consistent traction. This is intended to keep you from skidding out of control if you use too much power. However, because your ABS and traction control share a control module and a self-diagnostic system, one can occasionally interfere with the other. Sometimes a problem with your traction control light causes your ABS light to illuminate, but other times the problem is with your ABS system.
To figure out what’s wrong with your vehicle, you’ll need to get it properly diagnosed.
Low Levels in the Fluid Reservoir
Your brake system is hydraulic, which means it relies on the force of a cylinder pressing against a fluid to close your brake pads and bring your vehicle to a stop. This means that the fluid level in your brake system must be steady and constant. However, if there is a gradual leak or the fluid is allowed to evaporate, the amount of fluid will decrease and your brakes will not function effectively. Your computer can usually detect this using sensors and will illuminate the ABS light if it does.
Broken Wheel Speed Sensors
Wheel speed sensors are devices that tell your computer how fast each wheel turns separately. If the computer detects a deviation in these speeds, your traction control system adjusts or distributes power to various wheels to compensate. However, if a speed sensor becomes dusty or stops operating, it cannot accurately convey this information. Rather than making a slew of changes, it will normally disable your ABS and/or traction control systems until you restart your car or the situation is remedied.
Your System is Turned Off
It may surprise you, but you may be able to toggle your traction control or ABS on and off. When you turn off the system, the warning light on your dashboard normally illuminates to tell you that this critical safety function isn’t working. If only your traction control or ABS light is illuminated, your system may have been accidentally turned off. Check to see if you accidentally pushed the switch, and refer to your owner’s manual if you’re unsure where it is.