Your Vehicle’s Anti-Lock Brakes and the ABS Warning Light

It’s always a good idea to be familiar with the different components of your car or truck. In this article, we’ll go over the anti-lock braking system (ABS) so you will know how it operates, what it’s designed to do and how you should respond if the ABS warning light comes on.

What does the anti-lock braking system do?

The anti-lock brakes allow you to safely stop your motor vehicle when conditions are less than ideal, like when you’re driving on slick roads or you must stop quickly to protect yourself from an accident. As its name appropriately implies, the ABS prevents the wheels on your car or truck from locking up so you don’t skid uncontrollably.

How do the anti-lock brakes work?

The anti-lock brakes keep the tires from skidding whenever you decelerate quickly or abruptly. Once the ABS becomes engaged, you not only stop faster, you’re able to steer while you stop. So how does the ABS know when a wheel is about to lock up? Your vehicle’s ABS has 4 main components – the speed sensors, valves, pump and controller. The controller is constantly measuring the speed sensors to identify unordinary or rapid decelerations, like when you have to slam on your brakes. When this happens, the controller reduces the hydraulic pressure to the brakes. This adjustment in hydraulic pressure gives the tires the ability to decelerate at the same rate as your car or truck, keeping you front losing control while stopping. If you’ve ever felt a “pulsing” sensation when applying your brakes hard, you were experiencing the ABS at work.

What causes the ABS Warning Light to come on?

With all those lights on the car dashboard, it can get a little confusing when one comes on. Here are answers to several common questions about the ABS warning light.

  1. What is the ABS warning light? When you turn the key in the ignition, the computer goes through a self-check. You’ll see the ABS warning light illuminate briefly. If the system is operating properly, it will go out. If the computer finds a problem, the warning light will remain on. If this happens, bring your vehicle in to have the anti-lock braking system evaluated and fixed.
  2. Why does the ABS Warning light turn on while I’m driving? If your ABS Warning light illuminates while you’re driving, it signifies an issue with the anti-lock braking system – while the light is on, it’s not functioning. When this occurs, your brakes will continue to work, but without the additional advantage of the anti-lock feature. In many instances, the light will turn off the next time you start your automobile. If, after the computer cycles through its self check, the light remains on, it is best to schedule an appointment with Shade Tree Garage in Morristown, New Jersey. We’ll check out the computer and conduct a diagnostic to determine why the light is on.
  3. Is it safe to use my vehicle when the ABS warning light is illuminated? Yes, you can drive; however, it’s a good idea to have us take a look to see why the light is staying on. Your anti-lock brakes are an important feature for safe driving. One item to remember – If both the ABS and Brake System warning lights come on at the same time while you’re driving, safely stop your car or truck and call for a tow.

Techniques for Driving with Anti-Lock Brakes

If you’re worried about your vehicle’s braking system, we’ll be happy to check it for you (see our page on Brake Repair to learn the signs you may need a brake job). The technicians at Shade Tree Garage, Morristown, NJ, will inspect your brakes for signs of rough spots or damage. We’ll also inform you of how much remains on the brake pads and will check out the brake lines for cracking and corrosion.

Click here to schedule an appointment for a FREE brake inspection with Shade Tree Garage in Morristown, NJ.