What to Do If Your ABS Is AWOL

Your car may seem to have a lot of confusing codes, such as ABS, and you've suddenly become aware of this due to a flashing light on your dashboard. What is this all about and what should you do?

What's the ABS?

Clever engineers invented the anti-lock braking system (ABS) as a way of helping the car to take over in the event a driver should panic. In other words, this system is designed to monitor the pressure that the driver places on to the brake when they are urgently trying to slow the car down. If maximum pressure was placed on this pedal and sustained for a period of time, it's likely that the wheels and tyres would lock up and this would cause a skid and loss of control.

How Does It Work?

The system works through a series of clever sensors that are monitored by your car's central computer. These sensors will tell the computer the moment one of the wheels stops turning (skids) while the car is still moving. The computer will in turn release the pressure provided by the brake fluid to that wheel by turning on a hydraulic valve. The wheel will, in a split-second, begin to rotate again and you will be able to regain control.

Is This Terminal?

Some people think that if the ABS warning light is on, the braking system will not work and that they cannot drive the car. This is not the case, as it is certainly possible for you to continue driving with no such protection. However, it doesn't make sense to ignore safety systems and you should take action anyway.

Simple Checks

You may be able to reset the computer and get rid of the dashboard sign by simply turning the ignition off and then back on. If this doesn't make a difference, have a look to see if the fuse is blown and needs to be changed.

Sensors and Wires

For the next check, you will have to look underneath the car and behind each wheel. You'll notice the sensor, which will be adjacent to the brake assembly and attached to your car's electrical system by a wire. Maybe one of the wires has been broken by a stone or other debris, or the sensor may be out of place. You might be able to make a slight adjustment or repair to reconnect everything.

Fluid Pressure

If everything looks okay there, the issue may be caused by inadequate brake fluid pressure, perhaps due to a leak in the system. This will require a more detailed investigation by a specialist.

What to Do Next

If you're still not sure about the problem, or the light remains on while you're driving, schedule car servicing with a mechanic for further advice.