abs light

ABS Light on Dashboard – What Does it mean?

In Brakes by Magnus Sellén10 Comments

Are you seeing this symbol on your dashboard?

Then you are experiencing a problem with your ABS system and you should take action right away.

In this article, we will discuss the function of the ABS light and how to locate the problem and repair it. Let’s go!

What does the ABS light mean?

ABS stands for anti-lock brake system. When your ABS light is displaying on your dashboard, it indicates that there is a problem with your anti-lock brake system. It could be a faulty wheel sensor, faulty ABS-ring, a wiring issue or just a blown fuse. When your ABS light is on, you have a stored trouble code in your ABS system or the car does not have communication with your ABS control module.

What is the purpose of the ABS system?

abs light

The ABS system is made for your security. If you are emergency/panic braking because of a sudden obstacle, your wheels will probably be fully locked and you will not be able to steer the vehicle. The anti-lock system does not allow the wheels to fully lock up and it will help you to steer at the same time as you are pushing the brake pedal as hard as you can.

It can be the difference between life and death. You have probably felt the brake pedal “pulsating” at some time when braking on a slippery road. The pulsating/vibration that you are feeling in the brake pedal is the ABS working to avoid locking the wheels.

How does the ABS system work?

The ABS system can work in vsrious different ways, but the main principle is the same. You have one ABS control unit, hydraulic modulator and a pump that is the main part of your system. You also have one sensor on each wheel that checks the speed of each wheel and a sensor on your brake pedal or inside the ABS unit to measure how hard you are pressing the brake pedal. It also works together with the Traction Control System.

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The ABS system often also has an anti-spin and anti-skid system inbuilt with your ABS and because you have one sensor on each wheel, it can see if one of the wheel’s speed is different from the others. If it notices that one wheel has a different speed than the others, it will brake down the other wheels so you will not get a skid or spin.

The ABS modulator is restricting the brake fluid pressure to your wheels so you will not lock them up at all of the time and it applies pressure to pulsate instead. The ABS control module controls how much it will restrict the brake fluid pressure based on the speed of the wheels and how hard you are pressing the brake pedal.

But if it is releasing the pressure, will the braking distance be longer?

Yes, an ABS-system will make your braking distance slightly longer. But it is much better to be able to steer your vehicle while you are panic-braking to avoid any objects in your way. If you have driven on a slippery/icy road before without an ABS system, you have probably noticed how scary it is to brake when you can’t steer at the same time. Your car will only continue in a forward direction.

Is it safe to drive with the ABS light on?

It is not safe to drive with the ABS light if you are not experienced in driving cars without ABS. The ABS helps you to steer at the same time as you are pushing the brake hard. Without experience, you will lose the steering ability in a panic situation.

When your ABS light is on, it does indicate that there is a problem in your ABS system and it will shut your ABS system off. If your ABS light appears when you are out and driving, you should drive your car to a mechanic workshop as fast as possible. You should not keep driving your car with the light on if you do not feel comfortable.

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How to diagnose the fault in my ABS system?

Your ABS light is on because there is a fault stored in your system. You should always begin to read the DTC memory to see what the code is saying. Do not just guess which parts could be damaged, you will only waste your money. You could either let a mechanic workshop read the DTC memory for you or you can do it yourself at home if you have a scanner. If you want to get an OBD2 scanner to read the codes from your vehicle yourself, check our OBD2 scanner review. Notice that the cheaper OBD2 scanners can only read the engine memory. If you want to read the ABS system, you have to read the description carefully to make sure that it works with your car model.

When you have found a trouble code, you have to find information about possible causes and solutions. Most OBD2 scanners have an inbuilt DTC library where it will give you some possible causes and solutions, but you should always diagnose it properly before replacing any parts.

A good way to find a faulty ABS sensor or ring is to check the live data in your OBD2 scanner. Check all 4 wheel speeds to see if one wheel is going slower or faster than any of the others. If there is a difference, you probably have a faulty ABS ring, sensor or wirings to it. You can often monitor your electric parking brake with there are also OBD2 scanners.


  1. When the ABS light is ON, your ABS function will not work at all.
  2. It could be dangerous to drive with your ABS light on if you are not comfortable with it.
  3. Always read the trouble code memory before you are trying to do any repairs to the ABS system.

If you still have any questions about the ABS system or want to tell your story about the ABS, comment below. If you have any other car questions you are welcome to ask us for free at our homepage.

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If you want to find more dashboard signs, you can check out the article Dashboard Warning Lights.

10 thoughts on “ ABS Light on Dashboard – What Does it mean? ”

  1. Parasitic battery drain, code pulled up and speed sensor. Which fuse do I pull to shut off abs system? Abs motor or abs f/s…or both?

  2. Dear Administrator,
    I like to ask a question to solve the problem of my car. I drive a 2005 Lincoln Aviator SUV.
    The ABS lights illuminate along side the Advance Track light. (Traction Control). These lights comes up simultaneously, with a beep when driving, and sometimes disappears.
    Only to return after a while, then disappears again.
    Although, one of my fromt Tires LF is badly leaning inward as a result of bad ball joint and upper arm bushings, which I wish yo replace any moment from now.
    Could this be the culprit being a slant wheel?

    1. I was washing my car when I start the ABS light is what could be the fault

  3. Hi. I´m from albania. My car is a vw Passat 2003. Sometimes ABS light flashes and disappears sudenly. What´s Wrong with it?

  4. I would love to be your student, I’m a automotive electrical student and seeking for higher education like scholarship.

  5. My bike GSX150 Suzuki error show ABS motor malfunction.I have checked by scanner tool.
    I want to know that what is the reason of this error.

  6. What does it mean when the anti-lock light is on in the dashboard ?

  7. Yes I am seeing the symbol but without the ABS in the middle what does that mean

  8. My polo vivo 1.4 trendline GP 2015 Model is showing the abs light on and off after a while along with a hand brake light on and the engine wants to switch off in the meantime i feel my front wheels locking or kinder stopping the car. Please help mechanic

  9. Due to very high demand and a high amount of comments, you might have trouble getting your comment answered by me. If you want to get fast answers from a certified automotive technician you should ask your questions here: Ask A Mechanic

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