Reader Question: ABS Light?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Mika asks: My “ABS” light is on and I’m wondering what that means? Is the car safe to drive?

My reply: It depends on whether you can drive!

ABS is a system developed to deal with the problem of people who can’t – by preventing skids and loss of control caused by following too closely or driving faster than one’s skills permit. ABS uses a hydraulic pump to relieve (and re-apply) brake pressure in such a way as to keep the wheels turning even when the driver has pushed the brake pedal to the floor – which (absent ABS) would result in the wheels locking and the tires skidding and the car continuing to travel in the same direction, probably into something.

Because when the wheels lock you lose steering control.

ABS is designed to aid the poor driver by allowing him to just stand on the brakes without loss of steering control. A good driver is skilled in the art of doing this without assistance, via threshold braking – and is also skilled in the art of not tailgating and driving faster than his skill set.

ABS has, arguably, reduced the skill set of drivers generally – who feel more confident than their skills warrant.

But to get back to your question . . .

Usually, when the ABS light comes on, it does not mean a problem with the brakes. It means there is a problem with the ABS system. Which can mean you have brakes without ABS. Which means the brakes may lock if you stand on them – and that will result in a skid and loss of steering control, if you don’t ease off them.

Bu assuming you’re a careful, conscientious  driver who doesn’t tailgate, who pays attention and doesn’t drive faster than your skills can handle, you should be fine. The brakes will operate without the ABS and you may even like the additional control over your  car this gives you.

. . . 

Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

If you like what you’ve found here please consider supporting EPautos. 

We depend on you to keep the wheels turning! 

Our donate button is here.

 If you prefer not to use PayPal, our mailing address is:

721 Hummingbird Lane SE
Copper Hill, VA 24079

PS: Get an EPautos magnet or sticker or coaster in return for a $20 or more one-time donation or a $10 or more monthly recurring donation. (Please be sure to tell us you want a magnet or sticker or coaster – and also, provide an address, so we know where to mail the thing!)

My eBook about car buying (new and used) is also available for your favorite price – free! Click here.  If that fails, email me at [email protected] and I will send you a copy directly!



Share Button


  1. On a VW or Audi, 99% of the time it’s the ABS control unit, the most expensive part of the system. I find this happening in cars that have never in their life had an “ABS Event”! So in other words, the module has never “done it’s job”! But it still goes bad! There’s some circuit in the module with bad solder joints that takes a crap. I send my clients modules to a company that repairs it, 1/4th the cost of a new one.

    • William,
      Yes, this is definitely true on the Mk4 Jetta. There are also 2 (ea) green 30 amp fuses for the ABS that are located above the battery. On some occasions, I have gotten lucky by removing, cleaning and reinserting them…no more ABS light.

  2. I have used hard braking several times. And not once do I recall using the steering wheel at the same time. I suspect 99.5% of people do the same. ABS does lengthen the stopping distance by not locking up the wheels.

  3. I have an 02 Nissan Xterra and my ABS light was coming on because my wheel bearings were going bad. Replacement of the bearings fixed the problem.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here