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Why the ABS Light Is On and What It Means

By John Gower, April 25, 2018

The ABS light turns on to alert a driver to a potential problem with the anti-lock braking system (ABS). This system keeps your vehicle's wheels from locking up in a sudden stop to avoid skidding out of control, especially on wet or icy roads.

The ABS warning light will be on your dashboard. It usually looks something like this:

abs+light+letters abs+light+symbol

What to do when the ABS light turns on

If the ABS light comes on while driving, don't panic. Find a safe place to pull over, turn off, and then restart the car. If a fluke in the ABS system triggered the warning light, it should turn stay off when you restart the engine. If it comes back on, it's likely time to get an ABS system diagnosis.

Get it diagnosed by a professional

Why is the ABS light on?

Your car's anti-lock braking system uses sensors to monitor the rotation of the wheels, as well as other aspects of your brake system. If these sensors notice anything out of the ordinary, or stop sending signals altogether, the ABS light will turn on to alert the driver.

The ABS light can come on for a number of reasons, but some of the more common are:

Once on, the ABS light may either stay solid or blink / flash a few times first. The exact behavior may vary depending on the type of vehicle, so check your car owners' manual for additional information on what the cause could be.

Driving with the ABS warning light on

If there are no other brake system warning lights are on, it means the ABS brake system may not be working, but there should be normal operation from the standard service brake system. It should be safe to drive to a shop as long as you keep in mind that in the case of a sudden stop, the car is more likely to skid or slide.

If there are other brake system lights on in addition to the ABS light, then there could be something wrong with the basic service brake system. It could be something serious, such as a hydraulic problem or a serious brake fluid and/or pressure loss. In this case, it is very likely NOT safe to drive.

When in doubt, the best thing to do is to have the car towed to a shop. If there is a basic service brake system problem, then there is the real possibility that the vehicle could experience a brake failure that could endanger lives.

1 User Comment

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By , March 01, 2018
I was hopin to find somethin on Toyota 4runner VSC Trac light on. I have a ‘03 4runner with VSC Trac and ABS lights on. I did the zero point calibration properly and as instructed, the lights flashed but came back on. If anyone has any idea what to do, i will appreciate it.