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What you should know about ABS Lights

abs light

The Anti Lock Brake system in your car is designed primarily to avoid skidding. The system prevents a vehicle’s brakes from locking up and ensures that wheels maintain contact with the road.  It is capable of engaging or disengaging individual brake calipers or wheel cylinders very rapidly. When a car skids, it is very difficult for the driver to maintain control of the car. An ABS system will decrease stopping distance and help a driver to regain directional control of the automobile. All cars manufactured since 2013 have ABS systems. If an ABS system fails, it can cost around $800 to replace.

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You will find the ABS light on your instrument panel. The light panel is normally red or orange and they will have ABS written on them and the letters may have two circles around them.

ABS lights are a fundamental part of your car’s safety system and it is helpful to know how they work and what their illumination can mean.


The ABS light can warn you of several problems that your car may be experiencing. It normally lights for a moment when you turn your key in the ignition, so you know that it is operational; this is known as a bulb check. If it comes on when you are driving, it means there is something wrong.


There are some ABS systems that are so advanced, that they may blink out a code that will help you pinpoint the problem that your brake system is experiencing. Some higher end ABS control panels will display the problem that your car is having on the screen in writing.


What to Do When the ABS Light Comes on.

It can be kind of alarming when your dashboard suddenly lights up in an ominous fashion. Except for the few seconds that it lights up when the car starts, the ABS display will only turn on if there is a problem with the car’s brake system or if the control panel is not working. You should never ignore your ABS light.


You should always keep calm when your ABS light panel comes on. It is normally fine to stay on the road. You do not necessarily have to pull over when the lights illuminate, but it is a good idea to get your car checked out as soon as possible.


You should also be mindful of how the vehicle is handling. If it seems to be off-balance or if it is not braking properly, you may want to have it towed to a garage. If several warning lights come on at the same time as the ABS lights do, you may have a major problem and you should call a towing company.


If the ABS lights do not turn on for a moment when you start your car, the bulb is probably burnt out and you need to replace it right away. A light bulb is a critical component of the ABS system because It is the only way you will know if something is wrong with your brake system.


There are several reasons the ABS light may illuminate while you are driving. Here is a list of typical reasons.


ABS Malfunction

There are some situations in which the ABS lights may come on even though there is nothing wrong with the brakes. This may be indicative of a problem with the entire system or simply with the ABS lights. It can easily cost $1000 to replace or rebuild an entire anti lock brake system. These systems have many components and there are a lot of parts that can wear down or be improperly installed in the first place.

Low Fluid

When your ABS light comes on, you should check for the simplest easiest thing to fix first. You may just be running low on brake fluid.


Be sure to have towels, a funnel and a bottle of fluid. Not all fluids are the same. You must check your owner’s manual to find out what kind of brake fluid you should use.


Pop open the hood and go to the driver’s side of the vehicle. You will find the brake fluid reservoir just behind the brake pedal. When you take off the reservoir cap, make sure that it is sealed tightly. A loose cap can be the catalyst for many problems.


Look at the brake fluid level, there should be two lines marking the maximum and minimum level of  fluid you should use. First, make sure the color is a light golden brown. If it is discolored, you will need to have the fluid changed soon. If the level is low, top it off and put the cap back on. You should never save the remaining brake fluid; always throw it away.


Brake fluid is hygroscopic which means that it will absorb moisture from the air over time. If you use a previously opened bottle of brake fluid, it will not work effectively. Moisture in your brake fluid can lead to a soft pedal and make it harder to stop.


Faulty Control Unit

The center of the ABS system is its control panel. A faulty control unit can give you false readings and generally wreak havoc with the operation of your ABS. There are a few problems that are indicative of issues with the control unit.


If your anti-lock brakes are simply not working or if they are kicking in when you have not hit a skid, there is a good chance that the control unit is failing. Anti lock brake systems include Traction control. Traction control is a safety feature that was created to let vehicles make use of all of the traction available on the road when speeding up on low-friction roads. If the traction control activates when it is not supposed to, you may have a problem with your control unit.


If your driver’s assistance features are malfunctioning, there is a good chance the control unit needs to be replaced. This would include such features as cruise control and automatic braking.

Bad Speed Sensor

A speed sensor is a tachometer that measures the speed at which a wheel is spinning and passes it to the car's engine control module. Each wheel has its own sensor. They resemble a bicycle lock and you can find them attached to a ring gear that is attached to the brake or the brake drum. The average cost of replacing a speed sensor is between $200 and $298.


Wiring Problems

If your vehicle’s wiring system is failing, you will probably know about it. You may have trouble starting your car and you may experience repeated battery problems. If you smell burning or fuses keep burning out, you are likely to have a wiring problem.


Your ABS can warn you about wiring problems. Bad wiring can cause the entire anti lock brake system to fail or work incorrectly.

Solenoid Malfunction

A solenoid is a coil of wire used as an electromagnet in a car. It produces a magnetic field from electrical current. That magnetic field will create linear motion. It is a magnet and it has positive and negative poles that will attract and repel current.


A car may have several solenoids, but there is always one in the starter. When the ignition key is turned, it initiates an electrical current. The magnetic field of the solenoid is triggered and that pulls on the contacts and closes the circuits.


If you have a malfunctioning solenoid, your ABS panel will light up and your brakes are likely to lock. You will not hear a click when the engine starts. A single solenoid varies greatly in price. It can range from $15 to $100. The cost of labor will depend on the location of the part.


Failed or Failing Pump

When your car skids, the ABS sensors should send a message to the brake pump to engage. A warning should display when this happens. You may also notice that your brakes do not have as much resistance as they did before.


Where to Take Your Car for Repairs

When you have to have your car repaired, you will have several options for getting it done. You can go to the dealership, an auto body shop or you can attempt to fix it yourself.


Having your Vehicle Serviced at the Dealership

Although the dealership is almost always more expensive than an auto body shop, there are some advantages to letting them work on your car. They are sure to have the parts your car needs, so you don’t have to worry about riding the bus or driving a rental car while you wait for a part to come in. The mechanic who works on your car will also have experience with its make and model. They will have certification in that particular brand of automobile.


Having Your Vehicle Serviced at an Auto Body Shop

The Vast majority of people will choose to take their car to a shop rather than the dealership. You will have the opportunity to meet and speak with the mechanic who will work on your car. An auto body shop can be half the cost of a dealership and you can always hunt around for a mechanic who is well versed in working on your type of car.


When selecting a mechanic, be sure to visit AAA’s website. They have a list of approved shops. You can also check out any business for complaints on the Better Business Bureau website. Angie’s list can be helpful in weeding out service people and so can recommendations from friends and family.

Do it Yourself

An ABS system is filled with many different moving parts. Changing any part of the system is fairly detailed work for a novice. Unlike so many auto repair services, the parts are more expensive than the labor in this case. You can find instructions on the web, but you should have a good knowledge of cars and a large tool kit if you are going to attempt fixing it alone.

Consider the Value of the Car

If your car’s entire ABS system is shot and it is more than a few years old, or if your car does not have an ABS, you may want to consider replacing it. Unless you are very attached to that particular car, the cost of repairs may exceed its value. You have several options for getting rid of the old vehicle.


If your anti lock brake System was destroyed as the result of an accident that was not your fault, you may be able to get the at-fault driver’s insurance company to pay for it. If this is not the case, your insurance company may still pay for it depending on what your policy covers. Remember that insurance companies often try to offer you less than your car is worth, so check out your other options first.


You could trade your car in to the dealership when you buy a new one. You should know that dealerships will often give you a good trade-in price for your car. They will then tag on the cost of the trade-in on to your final price.

Sell the Car to Us

Cash Cars Buyers will give you a great price for your old car. We accept most any car that was manufactured between 2002 and 2018.


All you have to do is fill out our online form and we will call you right back. You simply need to provide your name, email address and phone number and some basic facts about your car. We will make you an offer and schedule a time for pick up. Our employee will perform a fast inspection, pay you in cash and tow the old wreck away. Click below to get started.



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