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My ABS Light Just Came On – What Should I Do?



ABS Light

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If your Automatic Brake System (ABS) light illuminates when you start your car, rest easy knowing that that’s normal. However, if it doesn’t turn off after you start your car, there might actually be something to worry about.

In this article, we cover what you should know about your ABS light and the system behind it.

What Is An ABS Light?

The ABS light in your vehicle is a dash warning light connected to the anti-lock brake system. You can’t miss the light — its usually an amber color with “ABS” embossed on it.

As we mentioned above, it will illuminate when you first start your car and then go out, unless there is a potential problem.

What Is The ABS System

Your car’s anti-lock brake system is designed to help your car regain traction when driving in slippery conditions. The way it works is simple: if the system detects that a wheel is about to lose traction, it rapidly activates and deactivates the individual brake caliper so that the wheel stops skidding.

You definitely don’t want a tire skidding because an uncontrolled skid both increases the stopping distance and may make the car difficult to steer. Fortunately, a functioning ABS light will illuminate If there are any problems that might prevent your ABS system from working as intended.

What Specifically Causes An ABS Light To Illuminate?

A fault has usually occurred if your ABS light comes on while driving, and some of the more common faults are:

  • Low brake fluid
  • Faulty ABS control unit
  • Bad wheel speed sensor or wiring
  • Failed or failing ABS pump
  • Solenoid malfunction

What to Do When The ABS Light Comes On

First, if you notice that the ABS light (or any other warning light in your vehicle) doesn’t come on when you first start the car, make sure to check that the bulb isn’t burned out. Burned out dash warning lights should be replaced as soon as possible so that you have a way of knowing when a problem occurs.

Atlantic Lexus of Farmingdale, a local Lexus dealer in Farmingdale, NY, echoed the earlier points about a fault being detected when your ABS light comes on, such as the ABS system possibly not working properly. Obviously, this is an undesirable situation, but don’t panic — it’s usually safe to continue driving, though you should have a mechanic look at it as soon as possible, especially during winter, when the roads slippery.

Safely Adding Brake Fluid To An ABS System

Low brake fluid is one of the reasons an ABS system will illuminate the ABS light, and this not an uncommon occurrence in older cars. The solution is simple: Just check the level of your brake fluid and add fluid if its low, bearing in mind the importance of using the right type of fluid for your vehicle. Such information will typically be stamped or printed right on the reservoir, or the reservoir cap. If it isn’t, then check your owner’s manual or the vehicle specifications sticker in the engine compartment.

Not all brake fluids are compatible with each other and shouldn’t be mixed, making it very important to use the right type. For instance, you risk damaging internal seals or ABS components if your brake fluid reservoir is topped off with silicone-based DOT 5 brake fluid but your vehicle uses polyethylene glycol-based DOT 3 brake fluid.


ABS systems rarely cause trouble but keep your eye on your ABS warning light. It’s the one indicator that you have that tells you if your ABS system is healthy and functioning properly.

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