What Is an Anti-lock Brake System?

An anti-lock brake system, ABS, is a system which is designed to prevent you from “locking” up your brakes, or applying so much pressure to your brakes that the axle and your wheels themselves stop turning completely. When your wheels stop turning but your car is still moving too fast, you start to skid, and skidding causes you to lose total control over your vehicle, which is a dangerous prospect when traveling at high speeds.

Contrary to popular belief, an anti-lock brake system doesn’t actually stop your car faster than a traditional brake system—in fact, it adds a small amount of distance. However, it does enable you to have control over your car, providing you the ability to possibly steer out of the way of an accident and avoid serious injury. Likewise, it increases the lifespan of your tires, your brake pads, your brake calipers, your wheels, and just about everything else on your car which braking can influence.

Four Reasons Your Anti-lock Brake System Light Can Come On

An ABS indicator light on your dash is a sign that something may have gone wrong with your system and you need to get it checked out. The four common reasons that typically cause this light to turn on include a malfunctioning ABS module, low levels in the fluid reservoir, broken wheel speed sensors, or the system is turned off.

Malfunctioning ABS Module

Your ABS actually shares some important components with another system in your vehicle: your traction control system. Traction control is a system designed to keep all four wheels on the ground rolling smoothly. If it detects that one wheel starts to spin irregularly, it will cut off power from your engine until it establishes stable traction again. This is designed to prevent you from skidding out of control by accidentally applying too much power. However, because both your ABS and traction control share a control module and self-diagnostic system, one can sometimes interfere with another.

Low Levels in the Fluid Reservoir

Your brake system is hydraulic, which means it uses the power of a cylinder pressing against a fluid to close your brake pads and bring your car to a stop. This means you need a consistent, constant level of fluid in your brake system. However, if there’s a slow leak or the fluid can evaporate off, then the amount of fluid will drop, and your brakes won’t be able to operate properly. Your computer can usually detect this with sensors and will turn the ABS light on if it finds it.

Broken Wheel Speed Sensors

Wheel speed sensors are a piece of equipment that tells your computer how fast each wheel is turning independently. If the computer detects an anomaly in these speeds, then your traction control system adjusts or shifts power to different wheels to compensate. However, if a speed sensor is dirty or stops working, then it can’t relay this information accurately.

Your System is Turned Off

It may come as a surprise, but you may have the option to turn your traction control or ABS on and off. When you turn the system off, it will usually turn on the indicator light on your dash to warn you that this important safety feature isn’t working. If just your traction control or ABS light is on, then there’s a strong chance your system may have accidentally turned off. Check to see if you may have accidentally bumped the switch and consult your owner’s manual if you’re not sure where it is.

If you have more questions about your ABS system, give us a call at Advanced Auto Care -Vista today! Our trained technicians can help answer any questions that you may have about your ABS system.