Article By Eden Motor Group

Car Warning Lights Explained: ABS

It can be worrying when any warning light flashes up on your dashboard, but especially so when it relates to brakes.

What should you do when your ABS light comes on? Our experts talk you through what the light means, what you should do and what might have caused it.

What is ABS?

Unless you are in the gym, it's nothing to do with abdominal muscles. In your car, ABS stands for Anti-lock Braking System (or to be exact, the German translation of this - Antiblockiersystem).

It is a clever gadget which senses when your wheels are about to lock under heavy braking and releases the pressure slightly so they keep turning and prevents a skid. It can do this multiple times in a second and it means that you have a much better chance of keeping the car under control in an emergency.

You may have noticed it working when you have braked hard when it is icy or there is snow – it feels like a vibration through the pedal, and you might also hear a drumming noise as the pump works.

It has been fitted to most cars since the 1990s and is now a legal requirement on new models, with a few exceptions for very specialised vehicles.

Why is my ABS light on?

The ABS warning light will show for a few seconds on most cars when you first turn them on as the car runs through its checks. This is normal and not anything to worry about. However, if it stays on or illuminates while you are driving it indicates there is a problem and you will need to take action.

What could cause my ABS light to come on?

There could be several reasons for the car’s system registering a fault which illuminates the light. According to Eden’s experts, the most likely is a faulty sensor or damaged wire, which will mean the ABS computer isn’t able to get accurate readings from the wheel. There could also be a fault in the pump or even just a blown fuse. Our technicians will be able to interrogate the car’s electronic memory as track down the fault.

If the ABS light comes on along with another brake warning light it indicates a more serious problem, such as a loss of brake pressure or low fluid level.

Is having an ABS warning light on an MoT failure?

Yes, the MoT tester won’t pass a car or van which has the ABS light illuminated as it is an important part of the safety equipment. Without it you are more likely to lose control in slippery conditions. The tester will check to see that the light is illuminated when the car is first started and then goes out.

Is it safe to drive with my ABS light on?

When the ABS light illuminates on its own, it will usually indicate that the anti-lock will not function, but the brakes will still be able to slow down and stop the car. It’s worth checking the exact meaning in your car’s owner’s manual or asking the experts at Eden for advice, however.

If only the ABS light is illuminated, then it is usually safe to carry on driving carefully if road conditions are good and you are confident. However, if the ABS light and another brake warning symbol are shown it is a more serious problem and you should carefully come to a halt when it is safe to do so and call for help. Eden’s expert technicians will be able to diagnose the issue and get you back on the road as soon as possible.

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