The anti-lock braking system (ABS) helps the tires on your vehicle to maintain contact with the road while you are braking. It functions by preventing the wheels from locking up, which can result in uncontrollable skids. The main purpose of ABS is to improve vehicle control under heavy braking, especially on loose or slick surfaces. It does not necessarily to decrease stopping distance, although it can help.

Here are some things to know about ABS safety:

  • The ABS system does a self-test every time you turn on the ignition. Once you start your vehicle, the light will briefly come on, and if the computer finds a problem, the light will stay on. If you notice the light flash immediately after starting the vehicle, then it's just your vehicle doing a self-check.

  • If the warning light comes on while you are driving, it means the ABS is not working properly. Your brakes will still work, but the ABS might not engage if you need to make an emergency stop. If the light remains on, you need to have a mechanic diagnose the ABS light issue as soon as possible. Since the ABS helps with vehicle control and stopping distances, it is an important safety feature to maintain – you never know when you'll need it.

  • If both the ABS and brake system light come on at the same time, your vehicle is no longer safe to drive. This means there is a serious problem with the braking system, and continuing to drive puts yourself and others at risk of a car crash.

  • As you are braking heavily and your ABS engages, you will notice the brake pedal pulsating. This is completely normal and it means the ABS system is working normally. The ABS works with your braking system to creating this pulsating so the wheels do not lock up. Once you feel this pulsating, keep your foot on the brake pedal and let the ABS system do the work for you. All you need to do is concentrate on steering safely.

Driving with the ABS Light on is not a good idea because it means your ABS is not working properly. This means your vehicle may not handle like it is designed to under heavy braking. If both your ABS Light and brake system light come on, this is an emergency and you need to stop driving right away. Have your entire brake system inspected by a certified mechanic, such as one from YourMechanic.

This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as Is it Safe to Drive With the ABS Light On? and was authored by Valerie Johnston.


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