Why Is the ABS Light Illuminated on My Car's Dashboard?

Why Is the ABS Light Illuminated on My Car's Dashboard?

19th Nov 2018

car dashboard illuminated

Anti-Lock Brake System

Modern-day cars are designed with a variety of lights on the dashboard that illuminate to notify the driver of a problem or potential problem with the vehicle. The gas light, for example, illuminates gas levels are low. There's also the oil light that illuminates when the vehicle has inadequate oil pressure. However, a lesser-known light on the dashboard is the "ABS" light. So, what is the ABS light, and is it safe to drive when it's illuminated?

Overview of the ABS Light

ABS is an acronym for "anti-lock brakes." You'll see the ABS light illuminated on your car's dashboard when its anti-lock braking system has malfunction. Like most dashboard light, the ABS light is controlled by your car's Engine Control Unit (ECU). The primary computer on your car, the ECU is constantly performing diagnostic tests to identify faults with various system. Among these diagnostic tests is checking the anti-lock braking system. If the ECU determines that your car's anti-lock braking system is no longer functional, it will illuminate the ABS light on the dashboard.

How Anti-Lock Braking Works

To determine if it's safe to drive your car with the ABS light illuminated, you must first understand how anti-lock braking works. Anti-lock braking is a safety system found in most modern-day cars and vehicles that's designed to prevent skidding and improve control when braking, specifically hard braking. Chrysler was one of the first automakers to use an anti-lock braking system, introducing this safety feature in its Imperial in 1971. Since then, it's become an essential safety feature found in most vehicles.

Anti-lock braking works by forcefully pushing the press pedal to prevent the wheels from locking up. If someone pulls out in front of you, you may quickly hit the brakes to prevent rear-ending them. During heavy braking such as this, your car's ABS will engage by automatically pressing the brake pedal in many short intervals so that the wheels don't lock up, thereby keeping your car in its lane.

Why You Shouldn't Drive With the ABS Light Illuminated

If the ABS light is illuminated on your car's dashboard, you should consider having it towed to a nearby mechanic for repairs. Assuming the right of your car's braking system is functional, you can still perform normal stops by pressing the brake pedal. The problem with a malfunctioning anti-lock braking system, however, is that it can cause you to lose control of your car during heavy braking. With a malfunctioning anti-lock braking system, your wheels may lock up during heavy braking, causing your car to veer or spin.