ABS Brake Repair: What to Do if the ABS Light Stays On

abs warning light
  • 1-3 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 0-400

An ABS light (anti-lock braking system) that is stuck on doesn’t necessarily mean you need an ABS brake repair.

The light is generally located on the dashboard on your control console next to the speedometer and gauges, and it could be triggered by issues other than problems with the anti-lock brakes.

The light staying on can be caused by something as simple as the emergency brake, or more complicated things like a loss of brake fluid and pressure or bad hydraulic valves.

Step 1 - Check the Emergency Brake

emergency brake

Sometimes the emergency brake will not go down far enough and keep the light on, even though the brakes are actually not applied.

The emergency brake does not run on the same system as the main brake line, but if the E-brake is in working condition, it can still be applied in a situation where the main lines fail.

It can also be applied as a preventative measure in areas with steep driving terrain. However, this light can get stuck on if the handle is not shut off properly.

Check your E-brake to be sure it is in the proper down position. Adjust a few times and see if the light goes off.

Step 2 - Check Brake Fluid

brake fluid being added to a car

During your ABS brake light inspection, you will want to check the levels in your brake reservoir to see if it has lost a substantial amount of brake fluid. The warning light can come on from low levels of the fluid in the brake system.

Alternatively, if the levels are topped off, it could be that you are losing pressure on one side of the vehicle, which can be dangerous.

Losing this pressure can cause the brakes to fail while on the road, and the danger increases as the vehicle increases in speed, as the system will not be as effective in stopping the car.

Step 3 - Check Your Hydraulic Circuits

Your vehicle has two hydraulic circuits, and you will want to check those as well.

The dual hydraulic system acts as a fail safe in case the main line fails, so there is still the chance the second set of brakes will kick in and allow the vehicle to stop.

These are built into a check valve system that allows one to turn on as the other shuts off.

If you notice broken parts in the hydraulic circuits, you can change them out, but if the ABS light stays on, you may have a more serious problem in the actual brake lines themselves.

Step 4 - Check Electrical Wiring to Wheel Sensors

Do a visual check of the wheel sensor wiring. Sensors are usually located near the hub of each wheel, though sometimes there is only one sensor for the rear of rear wheel drive vehicles.

Step 5 - ABS Light is Still Stuck on

The main thing to know in this situation is if the light remains on after you have checked through all the systems, you will want to get it checked professionally to prevent serious injury or death when operating the vehicle.

ABS brake repair will be needed, and mechanic shops will be able to more thoroughly investigate the entire system for leaks or cracks in the brake fluid reservoir and the brake lines, which could be the source of your pressure loss.