ABS Light ON: Why? How To Turn It Off?

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Almost all latest car models have an ABS light on the dashboard. However, most car owners don’t have much knowledge about ABS light, and its purpose. This is why most people have no idea about what to do or if it is safe to drive with ABS light on.

So why is there an ABS light on your dashboard? If it is on, what does this mean?

What Is An ABS Light?

Check Engine Light Comes On And Off...
Check Engine Light Comes On And Off – What’s Causing It?
ABS light on

There can be many reasons for the ABS light to turn on.
Credit: en.wikipedia.org

In the latest car models, the ABS light is usually available on your dashboard, located adjacent to the speedometer and gauges. The ABS was first introduced in the 70s, but it became more common in the 90s models. After 2012, all vehicles are legally required to have this feature.

The light is displayed by an ABS symbol on the dashboard, so it is not difficult to find. If it is on, it means there is a problem with your Anti-lock Braking System.

However, to understand the problem without visiting a mechanic, it is essential to understand how an ABS works.

An ABS is an automated system made of many parts including wheel sensors that notice when your tires are locking up. If they are, the ABS controller immediately adjusts the pressure of the brake and release it to prevent the car from skidding.

Keep in mind – ABS light is different from your brake light. The brake light will only tell you if something is wrong with your braking system.

Why Is My ABS Light On?

There can be multiple reasons why your ABS light comes on. It can be something as simple as debris disrupting the wheel sensors, which can be fixed in your routine maintenance check. Or it can be something major and might need a costly repair.

Here are some common reasons that can turn the ABS light on.

  • Your vehicle is losing braking fluid that results in the low fluid reservoir.
  • Speed sensors are not working properly.
  • A glitch in “bulb check” system in modern vehicles, which is a method to check if all the bulbs on the dashboard are working.
  • The hydraulic pumps are getting old and not working properly.
  • The ABS module is not working properly.

What If The ABS Light Comes ON And OFF?

If your ABS light is coming on and off, it might mean you have a recurring problem with your ABS. 

However, it is unlikely that the entire system would require repair in most cases. If several parts of your ABS are failing, it does not mean you need a new system. The ABS has an automated computer unit that, through the wheel sensors, detects issues within the entire system.

If there is a malfunction, the unit will store the defect as a code in its internal memory. The code will cause the light to come on.

Therefore, you can find out what is wrong by simply reading the code in the internal memory known as the DTC memory. However, you need a scanner to do this on your own. Otherwise, you can just take it to a mechanic and have them scan it.

What Does It Mean If Both The ABS And Brake Lights Are ON?

Abs brakes help ensure more safety when driving.

In the past, the brakes would lock up if a lot of pressure was applied. 
Credit: blog.autointhebox.com

If both your ABS and Brake lights are on, it can point to serious malfunctions within the car. The usual triggers for the ABS light include:

  • Low battery
  • Faulty wheel sensors
  • An unclean tone ring

For the brake light, triggers include:

  • Low braking fluid
  • Brake pads
  • A fault within ABS

However, if both lights are on together, that means the problems are linked. Therefore, driving the car with both lights on is very dangerous as your brakes can fail at any time. If that is the case, get your car checked at the earliest opportunity.

Is It Safe To Drive A Car With The ABS Light ON?

If your ABS light is on, it means your entire ABS system has been shut down. The ABS in your car helps you steer and brake without difficulty. Unless you have experience driving without an ABS, you are at risk of losing control of the car. The system will not help you if the car skids.

Anti- lock braking system light.

Anti- lock braking system light. 
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

However, you can still drive the car if the ABS system is not working, but with a slight risk. You just have to take extra precaution while you drive, unless the ABS light is accompanied by other warning signs such as the brake lights, that makes it very risky.

What To Do When The ABS Light Is ON?

Most mechanics use scanners to check the problem when the ABS light is on. However, you can also find the problem by checking the car manually. If the light is on, it will most likely mean there is a malfunction with one of the car’s systems.

ABS-Anti-lock braking system.

ABS-Anti-lock braking system. 
Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org 0
  • The Emergency Brake

First, check if the handle of your emergency brake is shut properly. The emergency brake does not work on the same system as the main braking system. However, it can still be used in situations where the main brake is not as effective (for example, rough terrains).

If not pulled down properly, it can turn the ABS light on. Try to pull down your emergency brake a few times and see if the light turns off.

  • The Hydraulic Pressure

In addition, you can check if your brakes are losing hydraulic pressure. Just look at your brake fluid reservoir. If the levels are above normal, it could mean your car is losing pressure on one side. Thus, this is highly dangerous as it can fail brakes.

If they are below normal, that means your car is losing braking fluid. If that is the case, you need to get the leak fixed.

  • The Hydraulic Circuits

Furthermore, your car has a dual set of hydraulic circuits that act on both front and rear wheels. These circuits are backup in case the main braking system crashes. If there is an issue with the hydraulic circuits, you just need to change them.

In case, none of these systems is the issue, you might have a problem with your actual braking system. For this, you need professional assistance immediately as hitches in braking systems are not to be taken lightly.

How To Turn Off The ABS light?

The best way to turn off the ABS light is to use a scanner to clear the malfunctioned code from the internal memory. However, there are ways to turn off the light manually in certain cars such as Astro Vans, good old-fashioned Fords, and 2000 Ford Explorers. 

This table explains how to turn off the ABS light for an Astro Van and a Ford.

Type of CarAstro VanFord
What You NeedIgnition Key 10 mm open-end wrench and ignition key
How1. Turn tthe engine and withdraw key. he key into the ‘Run’ position.
2. After that, find the DIC control panel on the dashboard.
3. Push and release the ‘set’ button.
4. After that, hold to reset ABS light.
5. At last, turn off
1. Insert key and pull into the second position.
2. Open the hood and loosen the nut on -ve battery cable clamp with 10 mm wrench.
3. After that, remove the clamp and wait a few minutes.
4. Put clamp back in and re-tighten the nut.
5. After that, make sure ABS light is off.
  • Using an ABS Scan Tool

Moreover, the scanner used to read the DTC memory is the OBD2 Scanner with its own DTC libraries. If you scan a code, the library will display a list of possible causes and solutions. This will help tell you what to do next, whether to visit a mechanic or fix the problem yourself.

So, find more about ABS/SRS Code Reader.

  • Without a Scanner

Additionally, you can retrieve the codes through manual methods as well. For one, you can use the ignition key. Turn the ignition on and off without turning on the engine between 3 to 5 times (depending on the model).

See the lights on the Check Engine or Service sign. The pulsation of these lights will represent numbers. A pause indicates the separation of digits in a two-digit number. Write the numbers down as they are the code.

Each code represents a different problem. If you are unsure about the code and what it means, consult your car’s repair manual. Furthermore, you can even consult a mechanic to find out. 


In sum, you must keep an eye on ABS light as they are part of your car safety. This is exactly why we tried our best to make this guide as helpful as possible, allowing you to identify basic problems with your ABS on your own. However, if you still don’t understand the problem, we recommend you visit a professional mechanic.

Read more: SRS Light: Why is it On? What to Do?

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