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ABS Warning Light Illuminated

What does the ABS light do?

The car’s onboard computer will turn on the Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) Warning Light if the system is not operating properly. It may also turn on the warning light if there’s a problem with the driver operated braking system, especially if fluid is low. Traditionally, the ABS braking system prevents the brakes from “locking up” and causing the car to skid without control. In many newer vehicles, in addition to skid prevention, the ABS is used for traction and stability control systems where selective braking of one or more wheels assists the driver during difficult conditions and prevents loss of control. When a fault is detected by the onboard computer, the ABS system along with stability and traction control systems will be disabled.

Why is the ABS light important?

Driver operated, normal brakes will continue to work unless the fluid loss is the reason the ABS light turns on. Remember with no ABS, we must pump the brakes in case of a panic or emergency stop to prevent the wheels from locking up and the car skidding without control. Undoubtedly, there are still a few generations of driver who learned to pump the brakes during a hard stop, but for many more drivers depressing the pedal rapidly to the floor and letting the car’s computer do the rest is more natural.

What is the severity of an illuminated ABS light?

Significant. However, the ABS light turning on should not leave you on the side of the road, unless brake fluid loss is the reason. Any signs of a spongy pedal or brake fluid pooling on the pavement under the car and a tow should be the only decision.

What repair(s) are required to resolve an illuminated ABS light?

Diagnosis of the system will be required, so look for a good mechanic that specializes in these problems, and set an appointment to drop off the car. Often, the problem is a usual suspect, such as a wheel speed sensor, or wiring underneath the car. Many of these repairs may be done same day.

Get estimates for an ABS light diagnosis from nearby shops.

What is the cost to resolve an illuminated ABS light?

  • Estimated diagnostic cost: $100
  • Estimated part(s) cost: $80–$350
  • Estimated labor cost: $100–$150
  • Estimated total cost: $280–$600

A good mechanic will charge about $100 for the initial diagnosis. Many ABS components are very accessible, so labor for most repairs will not run high typically in the $100 to $150 range. A typical ABS sensor will cost about $80 to $125 however, on some makes and models the sensor is part of a hub/bearing assembly (GM, Ford, some others) and the price will rise to around $350. For more serious issues, such as the ABS pump or computer, parts prices climb into the $500 to $800 range.

Keep in mind, pricing will vary by location and your vehicle make and model. Save time and money by using Openbay to compare pricing and book an appointment with a service center in your area.

Service article written by an ASE Master Technician

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