ABS light. Car dashboard in closeup

What To Do If Your ABS Fails

If you jump into any modern car and are required to carry out an emergency stop – a standard piece of any driving test – then you know that you’re likely to come to a firm stop in a safe way. However, if it wasn’t for ABS, that stop could be a very different experience entirely. Let Scrap Car Comparison explain exactly what ABS is, why it’s so important and what to do if yours goes wrong.

But first, if your old car seems to be plagued with ABS issues that just won’t go away, perhaps the easiest and most cost-effective way of sorting it is to just scrap it. By using Scrap Car Comparison you’re guaranteed to get the very best price for your car, no matter its condition. Whatever model, make, age and even regardless of if it can move or not, we’ll get you the best price thanks to our nationwide network spanning all four corners of the country. Simply get in touch today and we’ll find you the very best price in as little as 60 seconds.

What is ABS?

ABS – or anti-lock braking system – pretty much does what it says on the tin, using electronics to detect and prevent your wheels locking under heavy braking. It has been lauded as one of the most important developments in car safety, first appearing on cars in the 1970s before becoming a legal requirement on all cars produced in the EU from 2004.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of ABS in cars, as it means that drivers still have the ability to steer when braking heavily and trying to avoid or escape from a potential incident. Cars without ABS will see their wheels lock up and their drivers become passengers waiting for the oncoming impact.

ABS works through four key components – speed sensors, valves, pump and controller – and when you hit the brake pedal hard, it will work out when the wheel is about to lock. To avoid this it rapidly reduces and increases the braking pressure multiple times per second to apply the optimum pressure. As a result you’ll feel a pulsing sensation as the car slows down.

How can I tell if my ABS has failed?

If there is an issue with your ABS then, in theory, you should be given a warning on your dashboard to alert you of the fact. This will usually be in the form of a dashboard warning light which literally says ‘ABS’, signalling there is an issue with either the sensors, control unit or even the brakes themselves.

In the event of your ABS failing but no warning light illuminating (which in itself should be something you get checked out as soon as possible if so), then there are a number of symptoms that could signify the problem. These include the brake pedal either locking up or becoming incredibly heavy. If your brakes have locked up, then there will be nothing for your pedal to push, hence the change in feel.

You should also be aware of your speedometer, as if this is reading incorrectly it could have a dramatic effect on your ABS. ABS uses speed to determine when to activate, and if the car is not reading the speed correctly, it simply will not work when required.

Finally, and the most dangerous of all potential symptoms, your brakes could just not work at all. If you get no response from your brake pedal then you should slow down and come to a stop – as safely as possible – immediately. Do not drive the car and call for a recovery service to take you to the nearest garage.

What causes ABS to fail?

Any issues with your ABS is usually a sensor problem and very rarely a problem with the actual physical system itself. These can occur when debris or metal shavings contaminate the sensors – which is in fact the most common cause of ABS failures. Alternatively, the wiring could be damaged, which can result in intermittent functionality, or none at all.

ABS can also falter if you’ve neglected your brake system and failed to carry out routine maintenance such as brake fluid checks and changes. If your brake fluid becomes contaminated then this can cause the hydraulic control unit to fail. 

Can you still drive your car if your ABS has failed?

Your brakes should still work even if your ABS has failed, so you will be able to drive the car, but you’ll need to be extra careful, especially in an emergency. You’ll need to keep in the front of your mind that there is nothing assisting you in heavy braking situations, so you’ll need to drive accordingly. It’s also worth noting that the illumination of your ABS warning light will fail your MOT due to ABS being a legal requirement on cars since 2004, so your careful drive should be to the nearest garage to get it fixed.

If your ABS light is on at the same time as your brake warning light, then do not drive the car as it will not be safe. Arrange to have it taken to your nearest garage as soon as possible.

How much does it cost to fix ABS failure?

The cost of an ABS repair depends entirely on what element of the system has failed. If it’s a sensor issue then you can expect to pay somewhere in the region of £100-£200 to get it fixed, while the control models could range from anywhere between £200 up to £600. The prices will also depend on the make, model and age of your specific vehicle.

Get the best price with Scrap Car Comparison

If you’re having endless issues with your ABS, why not sell the car as scrap or salvage and find yourself something newer and safer? By using Scrap Car Comparison you’re guaranteeing the very best price no matter the condition of your car. Our collection agents cover 99% of the country, meaning you’re never too far away from a free collection, and we only deal with certified buyers, so you know your car will be recycled in line with all legal requirements. Get started today and see just how much your car could be worth in just 60 seconds.

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