Check Engine Light

Why Is My ABS And Traction Control Light On? What Should You Do?

Mike Cross
Updated Jan 17, 2021

Today's modern cars have been equipped with an anti-lock braking system, or ABS for short. This feature has proven to be a crucial piece of safety equipment in cars by helping reduce the braking distance and provide added traction in low-grip situations.

Because the ABS and traction control systems are one module and use the same sensors, if one fails, the other will likely cease as well.

This article will help you understand what the ABS system does, how it operates, what may cause it to fail, as well as answer a host of other ABS related questions.

What is an ABS system and how does it operate?

If your wheels lock-up under hard braking conditions, your stopping distance is greatly increased. The ABS system takes notice of that and releases the brakes in a sort of “pulsing” fashion to decrease the overall braking distance.

Comparing ABS and non-ABS car

How does the traction control system work? 

Alternatively, if accelerating in slippery conditions, chances are the vehicle will break traction with the road. In the event of that happening, the traction control system kicks in by reducing the engine's power to help the driver regain grip.

Common ABS/Traction Control Light Faults

abs and traction control light on
Why Is My ABS And Traction Control Light On

If your ABS/Traction Control light turns on, it most likely means that these safety systems are no longer active. Have no fear, the car will still run and function perfectly fine, but greater caution should be taken while driving. Let’s have a look at some of the most common faults associated with the ABS/Traction Control light being on.

Defective Wheel Spin Sensor

Wheelspin sensors measure the rate at which the wheel spins which is then relayed to the ABS/Traction Control module. If one wheel is spinning faster than any of the rest, the car will then cut power to the engine until traction is regained.

A defective sensor will likely disable the system and the driver will be left up to their own to try and regain traction. Common indications of a defective wheel speed sensor are excessive wheel spin when taking off from a standstill.

Defective Steering Angle Sensor

As you might have guessed, the steering angle sensor is responsible for measuring the angle of the steering wheel. Another job the sensor has is to track the speed at which the wheel is turned.

For the traction control system to work correctly, the vehicle must know where the driver is intending to go. If this sensor fails, the car effectively is left without traction control, but be careful as this issue might also be disguised as a bad clock spring.

Faulty ABS/Traction Control Module

In rare cases, the module controlling the ABS/Traction control may fail, leaving you, the driver, without any traction control or anti-lock brake aids. While this might sound extreme, it is not so bad if the road conditions are dry.

As you might have guessed, the ABS/Traction Control module takes the incoming signals from the sensors and decides when to intervene. Think of it as a second pair of eyes that is ready to help out at any moment.

System Malfunction

Sometimes, one or several of the sensors get overran with so much information they will essentially freeze up. This will trigger the warning light on your dash and the ABS/Traction Control features will no longer work.

Poor Connection

This issue is encountered quite often, many times after having work done around the wheels. It’s good to keep in mind that this is not always the case.

If no recent wheel work has been performed, it may be possible that the connections have simply worked themselves loose over the years. In worst-case scenarios, the wires leading to the sensors can get severed due to excessive rubbing.

Repairing Common Faults

Wheel Speed Sensor

A wheelspin sensor can become easily damaged due to them being exposed to the elements over the years. Usually, they are located on the brake assembly of the vehicle and can be easily replaced.

To replace the sensor, you must first locate it and the easiest way to do that is by removing the wheel. After it is located, simply disconnect the wiring going to it and replace it with a new one.

Steering Angle Sensor

The location of a steering angle sensor varies on each vehicle. It can be located behind the steering wheel, close to the steering box, or near the wheels, just like the wheel speed sensor.

Depending on where it is located will determine the difficulty of replacing the sensor. A simple Google search will tell you exactly where it on your car. Replacing it can be as simple as unplugging the old one and plugging a new one in. It is important to know that sometimes the sensor may just need recalibration.

Faulty ABS/Traction Control module

car-disc-brake
Car Disc Brake

On most vehicles, the ABS/Traction Control module is located under the hood next to the brake fluid reservoir. It is easy to spot thanks to its large, square size and several hard brake lines that lead to it.

Replacing the module itself should be a last resort, as it can be quite difficult and expensive to replace. Be sure you have the proper tools and knowledge before attempting this job. If the new module matches up to the old one, simply take off all connections from the old one and install the new unit in place. Once done, a brake bleed operation must be performed to ensure there are no air bubbles in the system.

Improper Connection

Often, the wires leading into a sensor may have come loose, thus not making proper contact with the sensor. This issue can be resolved by making sure the connector is set securely in place.

To save you some time, scanning the car for faults with an OBD2 code reader such as this one is recommended as this will point you in the right direction.

While most automotive manufacturers use specific fault codes for their vehicles, they are sometimes interchangeable between most models. For example, codes ranging between C0031-C003E mean that one of the speed sensors is malfunctioning on a Ford/Lincoln.

Similarly, a wheel speed sensor on most Toyota models will be P0500.

Conclusion

Having your Traction Control/ABS light turn on can be the cause of several problems, some requiring little just a simple restart, while others can take up a lot of time and money.

The best way to figure out why the warning light has been turned on in the first place is to scan the vehicle for fault codes. After all, no one wants to replace a part that isn’t broken.

We hope that this article helped shed some light on why the ABS/Traction Control light is on in your car and be sure to check out our other articles to help you with our other car-related issues!

Mike Cross
Life is too short to drive with stock audio

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59 comments on “Why Is My ABS And Traction Control Light On? What Should You Do?”

      1. I have a 2012 Hyundai Sonata GLS I had snow chains on my tires and the right one came off ABS light came on traction control light came on and I also see that I have brake fluid leaking ended up driving about a hundred miles to get home and I noticed this morning when I came to work that my steering seemed a little stiff do you have any idea of where I should start looking and what I should do

  1. so should I check the brake fluid and cap to make sure it is in good condition and on properly?

      1. Ford Ranger Wildtrak ABS traction control light is on taken to a MOT garage they say possible front left sensor not working, they are replacing it £201. However if this does not cure it, it could get a whole more expensive apparently.

  2. If the traction control sensor is defective will the light go on. Noticed a clunking noise like the abs engaging but traction control light did not come on. Mechanic claims new sensor needed. 600.00 bill

  3. Hey great article. Question tho. I have a 2008 Equinox, 1 year old to me, with the traction control and stabilitrak msgs up. Dealership says to try the EGR valve ($$$) but articles I've read say it doesn't help this problem. Check engine on for the EGR valve too. I don't really want to/can't spend unnecessary money. Do you have suggestions? Would they have automatically checked the sensors you talk about? Could it possibly be as simple as a blown fuse? What happens if the fuses blow for abs system or abs motor?

    1. Hello!
      If you have a 'check engine' light in addition to traction control and stabilitrak errors, than it is most probably fault with EGR.
      Thing is, your EGR triggers the 'check engine' light. And the car is designed that when this is on, traction control and stabilitrak are dissabled.

      To be on the safe side, you should read the stored codes.

    2. I have a 2005 equinox and need to replace the EGR Valve. Check with O'Reilly or even partsgeek.com. it's not the expensive and you can replace it yourself.

  4. I just purchased a used car and both lights came on at some point between leaving the car lot and driving an hour to home. This was valued information.. Thanks

  5. My 2015 gmc terrain has that problem traction control n Abs but my scanner dont read it n other codes come on

  6. Hello. Our ABS light came on last night in our 2004 f150 and husband said it was making a clunking noise. Once again it did it tonight on his way to work. Curious as to what we could be facing

    1. Hi Amanda!

      First of all, does the clunking noise appear only when braking? Or when going over bumps?
      This might be not realted to ABS system, like worn out or broken suspension part.

      As for the ABS, this models sometimes have a loose connector on ABS modul, just bellow air cleaner box (in the engine bay), so check that first.
      Also, vehicle speed sensor or its wiring can brake, too.
      Last, but not the least - check brake level fluid. Low level will trigger 'ABS' light.

      Hope it helps. Let me know what you have found out!

  7. Info was helpful. My ABS and a message "Trac off" lights up once in a while when I start my 2005 Monte Carlo and it stays on til I get to my destination. When I shut car off and restart it, the messages are not on. I don't drive it that much. It has 30,000 miles on it. What could be the problem?

    1. Hello Wendi!

      ABS in most cases fail because of a broken vehicle speed sensor. There is one for each wheel, mounted in the wheel hub near the brake disc. Cable can be damaged, too. Check the connectors as well. They can be loose or full of water. This woul cause sporadical problems as you have.

      If all sensors are OK, other possibility is an ABS module internal fault.

  8. I would like to ask can a problem with your half shaft the axle half shaft if it is going out or dysfunctional will that make your abs traction light stay on also?

  9. Hi Mike, took my 2014 Cadillac (90,000 miles) to a certified mechanic for front brake work. Two weeks later the ABS & Traction control image lights came on. It’s been 5 days on and now it’s making a noise when I turn the wheel. The roads have been icy and I have started from a stop on a long icy patch. Have had to do a hard acceleration to merge during this time period . I don’t have another car and my appt is Tuesday. I drive 38 miles one way to work. And 45 miles to the dealership mechanic. Should I check the brake fluid first? Is it safe to drive and how much will this problem cost me? What do you recommend?

  10. Excellent diagnosis. It was easy to understand. It eased my fears and let me know what was going on. Thanks.
    Keep up the great work.

  11. I replaced the hub assembly and cv axle on a 08 g5. Abs and traction control lights came on. How do I reset them

  12. I got a 2013 Jeep Patriot and the abs light has come on the traction control light and the engine light what could cause that

  13. Mike. Coming down the interstate at about 75 mph. Both lights came on and engine started losing power and running rough. This rough engine lasted about 2 miles and cleared up. Both lights stayed on. It did this about 2 weeks ago also. I have just recently replaced the front struts, could that have anything to do with it

  14. Good Morning,
    I have done a rear brake pad / rotor replacement, then I started getting the ABS/Traction control/stabilitrak system lights come on. After a mechanic saying now I need to do front breaks I decided to do my investigating leading to the conclusion (and code check) it's left rear WSS cleaning or replacement needed.
    I have been trying to get it out of the HUB knuckle and a easy job is turning into just the opposite... It is stuck! I have gotten the bolt 1/2 off then it snapped leaving the long piece with wire attached still.

    I didn't think it was necessary to remove the caliper again since I could reach it... Am I missing something I need to do? Is the caliper holding it locked or something?

  15. I'm decent shadetree mechanic but I'm a newbie to all these electronics like ABS & trac control.I definitely learned something by reading this.Also,I love your quote about finding teachers.I always tell young gearheads "your pride has no place under the hood.sometimes the best mechanic in the world just needs a fresh set of eyes to realize what the problem is".
    Thank you!

  16. Mike,

    Thanks for the artical. Both ABS, ADVTRAC light comes on in a 2005 Lincoln Aviator. They do not come on at startup and there has been a day or two when they didn't come on. The seem to both appear on newly paved roads at 50 plus mph. They go off once i turn the car off. So far everything is pointing to ABS speed sensor as the brakes are working fine. The only thing is, I do not know which one sensor. Any advice?

  17. Hello Mike,

    My BMW 1 Series has just started juddering on start up I am having to re-start the engine so it re-sets itself. Also the Icon with the circle with an A in the middle is flashing and the car has started to almost judder to a holt as if I am braking inconsistently, any ideas?? - I rang a garage who said it could be the injectors or the Traction Control? Any help would be appreciated.

    Kind Regards
    Karen

  18. I've just had my car MOTED and they put me 2 back tyres on . And now I have the ABS & Traction control lights on and they stay on and I don't know why . Help please

  19. I have a 2001 Cadillac El Dorado ESC that had been garaged and not driven for about 5 years. This was a one original owner car from an elderly person. I replaced Tires, best oil change, water pump, new battery but I have the ABS and Traction Control lights that come on and off. Then on the dashboard message it is saying "Service Stability Systems." What can it be?

  20. I was driving when my ABS light came on for the 1st time. Then I wasn't able to accelerate. When I try it feels like I am holding my foot when my brake pedal and trying to accelerate in the tires just will not go anywhere now my traction stability light is 1 what could cause this my car is stuck in my driveway and I have no way to get to repair shop

  21. My 2006 325i, abs, traction control, brake no radio, no cigarettes lighter electricity.about 2 months ago a guy changed my starter, but starter was not the problem, than he did some wiring work with fuel pump. After that work all these light coming in dash board. What could be the possible problems?
    Please help me with this.
    Thank you

    Charles
    MD

  22. Hello, I have a 2005 Honda Accord and my TCS light came on after a collision center repaired my bumper. I'm not sure if the repair center did something wrong or not. Can you offer any suggestions?

  23. dear Mr.
    good day
    I have problem with my ford escape 2008 ABS and battery light's are on.
    I need to talk the batter wire off the safe power. and it will stop working after 2 to 3 mins

    please cave me any bits of advice to try to solve the problems

  24. Have had this problem with mine and after replacing sensor and wheel bearing found it to be a bad GROUND off of the battery

  25. Could the ABS, Brake System light and Traction control lights come on to alert you to replace the brake pads by any chance?

  26. 2012 polo check engine light traction control and abs light on but car seems to be driving fine not sure what to do? Any help would be appreciated!

      1. Hi there 2010 Lincoln MKZ has abs and advance trac control light coming on. It does go off though. 43k miles only. Took to ford dealer they say need a head module and and ecu module. Estimate is over 2k. Brakes seem to work fine. Car in Florida no Ice or patches they claim the computer punted to needing new master wire system... could this be easier issue than that? They r known for ripping off with high bills. But the only local ford/Lincoln dealership. Please advise if you can. I would appreciate any advice or tips you have. Thank you

  27. Hello... My master warning light came on on my 2012 Toyota Prius then a minute later the slip indicator light came on which caused my car to cut off. When the master warning light came on I was told on my display to Check Hybrid System Stop The Vehicle In A Safe Place. But when that slip indicator light came on it immediately cut off. What could be the problem? Please help

  28. Hello so I have a 08 Chevrolet Equinox ls and on my dash is says Service my brake system service my stability track and traction control I was told that it could be a sensor by the wheel or my brakes not sure what it is but I don’t want to spend money replacing something that didn’t need to be fixed so can you please guide me in the right direction

  29. I have a 2005 Pontiac Grand Prix GTP. Tyring to figure out why whenever I put my vehicle in gear my traction control and my anti locking breaking system lights come on and traction control cuts off without me even turning it off. Can someone help me please on what could be causing it to do that.

  30. Awesome information, so easy to understand for the inexperienced layperson. Thank you so much!

  31. I changed the from brakes on my 2011 1500 Silverado and now the service traction control light is coming on and I have to press harder on the break pedal to go into gear

  32. Hi Mike
    Recently I changed all 4 wheel bearing on my 2011 Honda accord. Two of them were bad. Both on the driver side front and rear. Because my work is on the outer island. I travel back and forth every other week. Therefore doing all 4 or just 2 was not practical not to mention all good equipment to make the job easier isn't here. Anywho long story short. I should have been patient and wait till I can fix in pairs but nooo. Now abs/traction control light don't wanna reset. I tried 2 different obd scanner and both say nothing is wrong. I even bought a multimeter to help me. Am I not seeing the big picture here? Probably will take it to the shop but I'd like to learn something here.

  33. So my abs and traction light are on and just today my check engine light came on I got a right rear speed sensor put on but the abs and traction light never turned off I was told if I put on a certain amount of miles that if that was the problem then the abs and traction light would go away they haven’t and now the check engine light is on I’m not sure what it could be also. It says service traction control service brake assist and service stabiltrak come across the dash board I was told that when the first Mechanic that when he put it on one of the little machine that they hook up to something inside the car that the parking aid sensor malfunction all 4 not sure what any of this is that is going on with my car but I hope you can tell me what it can be

  34. I got the right rear wheel speed sensor put on November 26,2019 and I have 82556 miles on my car and they told me that I had to get it to 82606 for the abs and traction control light to go off if that was the problem I was told that it could be the hub assembly haven’t done anything yet except got the rear wheel speed sensor put on all those lights on my dash board are driving me nuts

  35. I have a 2002 Hyundai Santa fe... it showed abs,Tcs and break lights on and locked the wheels... now I dnt knw what to do... please help

  36. Hi there I have a saab 93 tid diesel 54 plate the traction control failure is coming up on the dash and it will not start I turn the fob key lights come on the dash but nothing else is happening any ideas cause I am pulling my hair out here

  37. my ABS and traction light keeps coming on whilst driving. i am not on a slippery road or even in winter conditions. it was happening before i got the MOT done on my car in November and i think a sensor was changed however that was only november and it is happening again. Any info how to fix this?

  38. Hi, I have a 98 Corvette, the “service vehicle soon“ comes on the odometer, and the abs and then traction control diagram comes on.... it’s hit and miss when it does.... also when these do come on, the AC and fan do not work at all.... any ideas??

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