What to Do if the ABS Light Comes on in Your Car

Anti-lock braking was originally developed in 1929 for use on airplanes that were very difficult to stop on wet runways. This technology could eliminate the skidding most tires experienced when the older braking systems locked up due to excessive braking pressure. The new ABS system would gently vary the pressure on the brakes and allow the pilot to better control the plane while stopping. A similar design was eventually added to cars and became a common option during the last few decades. These systems were initially built around a mechanical solution that has matured into a more elegantly controlled electronic solution in cars today. The ABS light on a dashboard indicates that there are problems with this ABS system in a car that requires attention.

How Does an ABS System Help a Car Brake?

Older braking systems used hydraulic lines to apply pressure directly to the brakes when the foot pedal was pressed in the car. The amount of pressure was proportional to the force applied to this pedal. While this gave the driver total control over stopping the car, if the pedal was held down and locked the brakes, the car could skid out of control. The anti-lock braking system was developed to help eliminate this skidding by quickly varying the pressure applied to the brakes no matter how hard the pedal was pushed in the car. This will allow the vehicle to maintain its grip on the road and reduce skidding.

What Type of Problem Does an ABS Light Indicate?

Most modern cars use a computer to help control the ABS functions in the vehicle and an ABS light indicates that there is a problem somewhere in the system. Since there are a number of sensors, a control computer and several hydraulic pumps all working together in an ABS, any one of these failing can cause the light to illuminate. The only way to know the extent of the problem is by attaching a diagnostic device that can understand these OBD codes to the vehicle and highlight which components in the system are having problems. The mechanic working on your car will read these codes and know immediately which part needs to be replaced to repair your system. Once these parts have been swapped out, the technician can reset the warning light on the car.

Can a Car Still Be Driven with an ABS Light Lit?

Yes, even though the ABS indicator is lit the car will still operate normally in most cases. While this condition should not be ignored, it will not stop the car from operating unless there are more serious related errors being reported. Because the ABS warning does indicate a critical problem with the vehicle, it should be taken in for service as soon as possible after noticing the light is lit. In the meantime, the ABS system will not be working but the normal braking systems in the car will still stop the vehicle when driving. The added protection against skidding will not be applied with the ABS disabled so be sure to take extra care when driving a vehicle with the ABS indicator lit.

Are a Brake and ABS Indicator Lights the Same?

No, the braking system in most cars is monitored separately from the ABS system and will typically have its own indicator light in the event of a failure. Where an ABS light will indicate a malfunction with the automatic controls involved with that system, a brake failure indicator light is more serious. While this break failure light might be as simple as an emergency brake being partially depressed, it could also indicate a serious failure of the hydraulic system used to stop your car. In the case of an ABS failure, the car will still brake normally but will be less effective in combating a skid on wet roads. When this light is on be sure to allow a greater distance when braking with the car.

Can A Driver Reset a Lit ABS Light?

An ABS indicator is a critical part of a vehicles diagnostic system that alerts the driver to existing problems. Resetting the light would not repair these problems but instead just mask the fact that they exist. Even though a driver can reset the indicator, it will more than likely come back on after a short period of driving since the fault that caused it in the first place still exists. These indicators are designed to alert the driver to a condition that needs attention and prevent further damage to the vehicle by repairing these problems quickly. By having the car evaluated by a professional mechanic you will not only save money by preventing the problem from getting any worse you will also be driving a safer car with the ABS helping you avoid skidding on a wet or icy road.

While a modern anti-lock, braking system can make your car safer and help you avoid dangerous skidding on wet roads, seeing an ABS light on your dashboard can be troubling for most drivers. Knowing that this light indicates a problem with the ABS system but not a total failure of your brakes will give you the time you need to get the vehicle into a qualified mechanic to have the problem fixed. While this is not as serious of a problem as other failures, it does warrant your attention and should be addressed as soon as you can have the vehicle serviced. Pay attention to this indicator and have the repairs done as soon as possible.