ABS Warning Light – What It Means and Is It Safe?

ABS stands for anti-lock brake system. The ABS warning light indicates there’s a problem with your anti-lock brake system.

What should you do if your ABS warning light stays on?

You might get this question about the ABS warning light in your driving theory test with the following answers:

  1. Check the brake-fluid level.
  2. Check the footbrake free play.
  3. Ensure the handbrake’s released.
  4. Get your brakes checked immediately.

The answer is D. If your ABS warning light stays on, you need to get your brakes checked immediately. But don’t just drive immediately to a garage, as your car may not be safe to drive. Instead, consult your car’s handbook, as it might tell you more about operating your car with this warning light in mind. You could also call your garage in advance – they’ll be able to advise you. And if your car’s not safe to drive, they can send a mechanic to you immediately.

What Is the ABS (Anti-Lock Brake System)?

If there’s a sudden hazard ahead of you when you’re driving, you’ll instinctively slam down the brakes. ABS prevents your wheels from locking when you apply the brakes suddenly and with force. This means you’re more likely to come to a quick stop, and less likely to lose control as your tyres lose traction with the road.

How does ABS work?

There’s a sensor that can detect if one or more of your wheels locks while you’re braking. If the system detects locking, it will reduce brake power to the locked wheel. This will unlock it, allowing you to retain control while your car comes to a halt.

With ABS, you can still steer your car, even when performing an emergency stop. That way, you’ll be better able to avoid collisions and unexpected obstacles in the road.

Why You Should Never Ignore the ABS Warning Light

The ABS warning light may appear for a second or two after you first turn your engine on, along with the rest of your dashboard lights. But if everything’s working like it should, it will fade almost immediately. It’s only if the ABS warning light stays on that you need to worry.

If your ABS warning light stays on, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t be able to use your brakes at all. Your brakes may still be in fully-working order. It’ll likely just be the anti-lock system that needs attention.

But if your ABS isn’t working, your wheels might lock when you’re braking. This could make accidents unavoidable.

Can I Drive If My ABS Warning Light Is On?

It’s not generally a good idea to drive with your ABS warning light on. This is because you have no way of knowing just what hazards you might encounter on the roads. Driving with a faulty ABS is like driving without a seatbelt. Ideally you won’t need your seatbelt. But if you’re involved in an accident, your seatbelt could save your life. The same is true of your car’s ABS.

That’s why you need to get your car checked immediately if your ABS warning light stays on. And that’s why it’s best to call your garage in advance. If they can come to you, there’ll be no chance of your ABS failing and your wheels locking while you drive to the garage.

Other ABS Driving Theory Test Questions

Let’s look at the other questions that might come up in your theory test concerning anti-lock brakes.

Anti-lock brakes are at their most effective when you:

  1. Use the handbrake to reduce the stopping distance.
  2. Apply constant and firm pressure to the brake pedal until you’ve stopped.
  3. Brake normally, but grip the steering wheel tightly.
  4. Continuously pump the brake pedal to prevent skidding.

ANSWER: B. The ABS is disabled when you release the foot brake. That’s why emergency braking requires firm and constant pressure on the foot brake until the car’s stopped.

Anti-lock brakes are most useful when:

  1. Braking normally.
  2. Braking excessively.
  3. Driving on worn tyres.
  4. Braking gently.

ANSWER: B. Anti-lock brakes only kick in under heavy braking. They’re not necessary under normal braking.

Anti-lock brakes help drivers to:

  1. Stop sooner.
  2. Control the car better under accelerating.
  3. Brake later.
  4. Steer under heavy braking.

ANSWER: D. As we discussed above!

Anti-lock brakes may not work as effectively on…

Choose two answers:

  1. Dry road surfaces.
  2. Wet road surfaces.
  3. Loose snow road surfaces.
  4. Loose gravel surfaces.

ANSWER: C and D. Under most circumstance anti-lock brakes will stop your car quickly while allowing you to retain control. But ABS may take longer to stop your car on loose road surfaces, such as snow or gravel.

Anti-lock brakes prevent wheels from locking. The benefit of this is:

  1. Reduced chance of skidding.
  2. Less tyre wear.
  3. Better road grip.
  4. Less chance of a puncture.

ANSWER: A. As we explained above, locked wheels cause skidding, so ABS prevents skidding.

Anti-lock brakes can reduce the chance of skidding when:

  1. Driving at high speeds.
  2. Driving down steep hills.
  3. Braking heavily in an emergency.
  4. Braking normally.

ANSWER: C. As should be clear by now!

When do anti-lock brakes begin to work?

  1. Every time you press the brake pedal.
  2. When you drive on slippery road surfaces.
  3. Just as one or more of your wheels begin to lock.
  4. When you drive at higher speeds.

ANSWER: C. This one’s sort of a trick question. As the system only works when you keep the brake pedal pressed down, you might be tempted to choose A. But the answer’s C: ABS only starts working when you need it to work, when one or more wheel locks.

It’s impossible to skid if your car has anti-lock brakes.

  1. True
  2. False

ANSWER: It’s false. You can still skid, even if you have anti-lock brakes. For example, if you’re driving too fast for the road conditions, or if the road’s too slippery or loose.

ABS Keeps You Safe

The anti-lock brake system is one of many features in your car that’s there to keep you safe and secure on the road. But accidents can still happen. That’s why you need comprehensive car insurance, to keep you covered in the event of the worst-case scenario.

At Go Girl, we specialise in providing young drivers with affordable car insurance. Head here for more information.


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