Your Vehicle’s Anti-Lock Braking System and ABS Warning Light

Most of the vehicles today are equipped with anti-lock brakes as a standard feature. The anti-lock brakes are an entire system commonly referred to as ABS, and they are responsible for helping you stop safely when there’s an emergency or the road is slippery. In simple terms, the anti-lock brakes prevent your vehicle’s wheels from locking up and causing you to skid or go out of control when you have to apply the brakes fast and hard.

How does the ABS work?

As mentioned, the ABS keeps the wheels from locking up when you have to stop abruptly. You may have noticed it from time to time – it feels like a “pulsing” sensation when you apply the brake pedal harder than usual. This part of the braking system allows you to stop faster while also giving you the ability to steer while you stop. But how does it know when a wheel is going to lock up? Speed sensors, valves, a pump and a controller all work together. The controller is constantly checking the output from the speed sensors to see if there are any decelerations that are out of the ordinary. When it notices a rapid deceleration (like when you have to slam on the brakes), the controller reduces brake pressure until it identifies an acceleration. All this technology works together to slow the tires down at the same rate of your car. 

What is the ABS warning light telling you?

With so many warning lights on the dashboard, it can get confusing. A helpful way to learn what each means is to look them up in your owner’s manual. Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about the ABS warning light:

Q. What is the ABS warning light?
A. Your vehicle’s computer does a power-on self-test every time you turn the key in the ignition and lights up the dashboard lights – the ABS is included. If the computer identifies a problem with the ABS, the light will remain lit up. This means the ABS is not functioning and you will not be able to stop readily when there’s an emergency.


Q. What is the ABS warning light communicating if it comes on when driving?
A. Just like when you turn the key in the ignition, if the light comes on while you are driving, the ABS is currently not functioning. You can still brake normally, but you won’t have the benefit the anti-lock brakes provide in the event of an emergency. In most cases, the light goes off the next time you start your vehicle. If the light stays on, you should bring it to our shop located in Ft. Collins, Colorado. When you do, the automotive technicians at Campus Repair will be able to perform some diagnostics to identify the problem.

Q. Is my vehicle safe to drive when the ABS warning light is on?
A. Yes, you can safely drive your vehicle. Again, you won’t have the benefit that the anti-lock brakes provide during a situation in which you have to stop abruptly. As such, your vehicle isn’t as safe as it would be with the system working so have it checked right away. Also, important to note, if the ABS warning light and brake warning light both come on while you are driving, stop your vehicle safely and as soon as possible and call for a tow.

Some simple tips for driving with anti-lock brakes

Feeling that pulsing sensation when you apply the brakes can feel a little scary. The National Safety Council has some helpful tips for driving with ABS. You can click here to download and read their information sheet “Tips for Driving with ABS (Anti-Lock Brake Systems).”

If you are concerned about your vehicle’s braking system in any way, you should have it checked right away. We will inspect the brakes for rough spots or signs of damage. The brake pads will be checked to see how much is left, and the brake lines will be examined for cracking and corrosion. If we find that there is something wrong with the ABS or braking system, our technicians will let you know so you can have them repaired. Stop by our shop or give us a call today. Contact Page.

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