Check Engine Light

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

Mike Cross
Updated Mar 26, 2023
abs and traction control light on

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If your ABS/Traction Control light turns on, it most likely means that these safety systems are no longer active.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, or calling by wheel speed 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 Sensors

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.

This video describes how to replace the wheel speed sensors

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. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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.

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

  6. 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

  7. 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.

  8. 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

  9. 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

  10. 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

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