Modern automobile models are equipped with extra safety features to decrease the chances of accidents, and ABS is one such feature.
A skidding wheel always has less traction than a non-skidding wheel.
In addition, ABS(1) also increases the lifespan of the tires, brake calipers, brake pads, wheels, and other braking components. The ABS light blinks on your car’s cluster meter when you start your car. But if it keeps blinking for a longer time, it can be a sign of malfunction in the ABS. This article will highlight some key causes of ABS light blinking on your vehicle’s cluster meter.
How does ABS work?
Four components of ABS(1) work in coordination to increase the vehicle’s traction, preventing skidding. ABS sensors are mounted on each wheel, detecting each wheel’s speed and rate. These sensors then relay this information to the computer controller, and the ABS module analyzes whether a wheel is locking up to stop skidding.
This increases the traction of the tires, preventing them from skidding.
Causes of ABS Light and Its Solutions
Less Amount of Brake Fluid
The brake system operates on the hydraulic mechanism and works on the power generated by the cylinder pushing the brake fluid. Thus, maintaining a constant brake fluid level is necessary for better and smoother brake system performance. Brake fluid plays a vital role in balancing the brake pressure in an Anti-Brake System. There is a reservoir known as a “brake fluid reservoir,” which stores the brake fluid. Sometimes there might be different issues with the brake fluid reservoir.
There needs to be more than power generation to operate the brake system effectively. The reservoir sensors detect the amount of brake fluid in the reservoir and turn the ABS light on if the brake fluid is less than the required amount.
Defective Speed Sensor and Low Pressure on Tires
As discussed above, wheel speed sensors are present in each wheel and help in independently computing each wheel’s speed and wheel rate. The speed information of each vehicle wheel is then sent to the ABS module. In addition, the module checks whether each wheel is working accurately or if there is a possibility of locking the wheels.
There can be many reasons for inaccurate sensor results. The most common sense for defective sensor results is the dirt accumulated around it. In addition to this, the sensors can also malfunction due to long term.
The vehicle operates on different sensors that observe the functionality of other parts. For example, the car sensors monitor the vehicle’s speeds and send the information to the ABS and traction system.
The ABS sensor is usually located behind the brake caliper(3), so unbolt the brake caliper and clean the sensor with a mild soapy solution.
In addition, maintain optimum tire pressure according to the size and temperature conditions for the proper functioning of ABS.
Defective ABS Module/Traction Control
The ABS module is usually connected to important vehicle parts, such as the steering wheels and TCS cars. The Traction control system of the vehicles helps protect the wheels from spinning. If the TCS detects the wheel’s poor function or spinning issues, it immediately breaks the connection with the engine system. The anti-brake and traction systems(3) work on a “control and self-diagnostic module” and sometimes interfere with each other.
The corrosion on the ABS module breaks its connection with the wheel sensors, and the speed of the wheels is not measured accurately; thus, the ABS light is turned on.
Taking the car to a professional mechanic in any of the scenarios mentioned above is recommended.
A professional mechanic will analyze the traction control sensors and their readings and give a better overview and solution to the problem in this case.
Defective Steering Sensors and Steering Rack
A steering angle sensor is present in the steering column, which helps in effectively calculating the steering wheel’s angle, position, and turn rate. Sometimes, the ABS light turns on due to the malfunction of the steering sensors.
The steering rack is an integral part of the car that operates on the pressure generated by the hydraulic fluid(4) or the car battery. This results in an accurate movement of the steering wheel. But if the fault occurs in the power steering, it would be difficult for the drivers to drive the car on rough surfaces causing the ABS light to turn on. Thus, an error in the steering rack also causes the ABS light to go on.
Defect in Hydraulic Compressor
As discussed above, the vehicle’s wheels might move at a different speed than the required speed. The speed sensor analyses the wheel rate, and the information is then transmitted to the ABS. The ABS forces the hydraulic pump(2) to increase the pressure on the brake fluid system to resolve the speed issue. This helps in normalizing the turning speed of the wheels. But the hydraulic pump has a specific lifetime and gets defective, impacting performance. Due to the poor performance of the hydraulic pump, the ABS light starts blinking.
There is a chance that the ABS light(2) becomes on automatically after a certain period. Moreover, sometimes a glitch might occur in the bulb, and the ABS light starts blinking. Finally, if the ABS light turns on repeatedly, the bulb’s fuse is broken, or there is a weak connection between the ABS and the sensors.
At this point, the PCM of the car immediately sends the signal, and the ABS light starts blinking.
This issue can be resolved by changing the defective fuse or ABS bulb on the cluster meter.
In my experience, ABS light in new car models mostly appears due to a sensor failure. It can be the wheel rate sensor or the steering angle sensor. Both these sensors can fail due to excessive vehicle usage or some other technical fault. In some other cases, the sensors can also get dirty with mud that, causes the ABS light to blink on the vehicle’s dashboard. Thus, new vehicle owners should always go for a sensor check before replacing the components of the ABS module.
After a long countryside trip, I experienced the same issue in my 2019 Ford Focus. However, the light disappeared when I cleaned the wheel sensors of all tires by removing the brake calipers. Thus, clean your sensors before taking the car to a professional mechanic.