The Reason Why Your ABS Light is On

What is an ABS System? 


White car drifting with the help of ABS systems

ABS systems automatically perform cadence braking, which is what expert sportscar drivers still do manually


ABS stands for an Anti-lock braking system. It represents a complex series of sensors that prevent brakes from ‘locking up’ and skidding. 

The system can detect a potential skid and correct it before it happens, by automatically ‘pumping the brake.’ 

How Does ABS Work?

The ABS system uses sensors to detect, and correct, changes in the overall brake mechanism. It works together with other parts of the car to prevent skidding. 

Each wheel has a sensor that records their individual speeds. If one wheel is stopped, but the other wheels maintain the same speed, it is evident a skid will occur. The system then corrects the defective wheel by automatically ‘pumping the brakes’ to maintain the steering’s control. 

Before ABS systems became standard in modern cars, drivers had to practice and become experts in ‘cadence braking.’ Cadence braking, or pumping the brakes, involved repeatedly stepping on the brake in response to specific pressures while a car was on a slippery surface. If done correctly, the driver would have more time to avoid obstacles and regain traction. Cadence braking was used in response to slick surfaces like wet or icy roads. 

Sheet of black ice in an winter environment. three cars are parked in the distance

Black ice can cause brakes to lock up from lack of traction, which leads to skidding and loss of control.

Since it was a skill that had to be mastered, it was possible to do it incorrectly and suffer the consequences. This is especially true of the fact that cadence braking requires a nuanced understanding of brake pressure, which may be difficult to feel during an emergency. 

What Does it Mean if my ABS Light is On?

Your ABS light will automatically turn on when you start your car as part of a regular system check. The light will turn off shortly if there is nothing wrong with your system. 

If your ABS light remains on always, then it means there is a problem with your ABS system. Specifically, an active ABS light indicates the ABS system has been deactivated. 

Your brakes will still operate normally without an ABS system active, as there is no problem with the actual brakes. However, the automatic cadence braking will not activate in the event of a skid. 

What Causes an ABS System to Fail? 

The central computer component of an ABS system does not usually fail by itself. It is more common for problems to arise with either the wheels’ sensors or the wiring connecting them. This is especially true since these components are somewhat fragile and located near road debris. 

  • Blown Fuse
  • Low Brake Fluid
  • Broken or Damaged Wires 
  • Faulty or broken ABS Controller
  • Dirty or Broken Wheel-speed Sensors. 

Is it Safe To Drive With An ABS Light Active?

A deactivated ABS system will default to a manual braking system naturally. In this way, your braking system will work normally, but it will not have advanced ABS safety.

While driving without ABS, you run the risk of having your brakes lock. The ABS system was designed to prevent crashes from happening, so not having it function will become dangerous. Even heavy braking can become hazardous, as this system modulates it. When it comes to safety, there is no excuse to avoid repairing an ABS problem. 

If your ABS light remains on, it is essential to have it checked and diagnosed by a mechanic right away. A mechanic can use a computerized tool to find out precisely what is wrong with the system and repair it accordingly. 

What if both Brake lights and ABS Lights are On?

If both brake and ABS lights are on, then there is a severe problem with your system. Not only is the automatic cadence braking not active, but it also means your brakes themselves may fail at any given moment. Stop driving, and get a repair done immediately.