What Does an Anti-Lock Brake (ABS) System Do?

Your car relies on various features to keep you safe, including the anti-lock braking system (ABS). Let’s go over what this system is and how to spot issues with it.

What Is ABS?

The anti-lock braking system (ABS) uses a sensor to monitor the wheel speed and sends these updates to the ABS computer. The computer uses this information to prevent the brakes from locking during an emergency stop. If wheel speeds are not equal, the computer modulates the anti-lock feature until the speeds are equalized. ABS does not shorten your stopping distance; it only allows you to steer out of trouble as you brake.

ABS is a standard safety system in all cars made after 2012. You can confirm your vehicle has ABS by looking for the ABS light on the gauge cluster when you turn your car on or by referring to your owner’s manual.

Will a Malfunctioning ABS Affect Vehicle Operation?

Yes, a failing ABS will downgrade the safety of your vehicle. Although your brakes will still function, your wheels may lock up if you stop suddenly without ABS, increasing your risk of skidding or hydroplaning.

Driving, especially in poor weather, is strongly discouraged if your ABS isn’t working properly.

What Are the Common Causes of ABS Failure?

The ABS module itself will rarely malfunction. Instead, the culprit of ABS failure is usually one of the sensors or the wiring to the sensors.

The most common reason for ABS sensor failure is clogging from metallic debris, brake dust, or dirt, which is caused by exposure to harsh elements. The sensor wiring can also become damaged from excessive vibration or internal short circuits.

Every time you turn on your car, the ABS does a self-test. If the ABS light doesn’t disappear after a few moments, the system may be failing. If both the ABS light and brake system light are on, your vehicle is not safe to drive.

How Can I Determine If the ABS Is Malfunctioning?

Sometimes, an issue with the ABS can be quickly resolved from your own driveway. Try restarting your vehicle to see if the ABS light disappears. You should also check your brake fluid, as a low fluid level can trigger the ABS light. Your last DIY check can be to refer to your owner’s manual to find the location of your ABS fuse. If the fuse is blown out, replace it.

If this doesn’t solve the problem, take your vehicle to a NAPA AUTOPRO service centre. There, a professional mechanic will visually inspect the ABS sensors and test the wire winding and sensor harness for opens, shorts, and proper factory-specified resistance with an ohmmeter. Our experts have a wide range of diagnostic and repair tools to thoroughly assess your vehicle.

If you notice any changes in how your car brakes (e.g., brake pedal requiring more pressure to stop), the ABS may be at fault and should be assessed by a professional immediately.

Maintaining the ABS

If your ABS isn’t working properly and/or the ABS light stays illuminated, take your vehicle to a NAPA AUTOPRO service centre to have it diagnosed by a professional. Your technician will be able to repair the ABS and get you back on the road safely.

You can further care for your ABS by getting your brakes serviced every season and your brake pads replaced when necessary. Both these services are available at your local NAPA AUTOPRO.

For any questions about the ABS or any other part of your vehicle, visit a NAPA AUTOPRO service centre to speak with an expert.

Picture courtesy: Shutterstock2241248589