The car won’t start after the ABS light comes on

Modern cars have become increasingly technologically advanced, with sensors and computers controlling most aspects of the vehicle.

The main purpose of most of these components is increased safety and reliability. However, such technology poses a challenge since anything that upsets the balance of the sensors can ruin the driving experience.

One essential system in your car is the anti-lock braking system (ABS). The ABS is designed to stop the vehicle’s wheels from locking up during braking.

Lockups usually result in dangerous and uncontrollable skids, especially at high speed. The ABS helps improve the driver’s control on slippery or loose surfaces during heavy braking.

Why is the ABS light on?

  • Every time you turn on the ignition, the ABS dashboard light illuminates, indicating it performs a self-check. When the car is running, the light should briefly come on. However, if the system diagnostics discovers an issue with the ABS, the light stays on. 
  • When driving and the ABS light illuminates, it indicates a problem with the ABS. Although the brakes will still function, the safety aspects of the ABS won’t, and it can be dangerous making emergency stops.
  • The ABS light comes on when the system engages during emergency braking.

What are the reasons the ABS may malfunction?

An ABS warning light indicates a problem, and here are some of the issues the system may be malfunctioning:

  • Nonfunctional ABS module. The ABS has a control module that monitors and controls the system’s operation. In most cars, this module also controls the traction control system. The traction control system ensures that wheels don’t spin irregularly, so when a wheel loses traction, the system cuts power to that wheel until traction is established. An issue with the computer module can sometimes cause both the ABS and traction control dashboard lights to illuminate.
  • Low levels of brake fluid. The ABS warning light can indicate the brake levels have dropped below safe limits. A leak or fluid evaporation can cause the oil levels to drop. Since the brake system is hydraulic, oil levels are of critical importance.
  • Faulty wheel speed sensors. The ABS uses the wheel speed sensors to get information when brakes have “locked.” For it to operate effectively, these speed sensors also need to function properly. When one or more wheel speed sensors stop working, it fails to relay information critical to the ABS, and thus the ABS warning light illuminates.
  • Blown fuse. The ABS is an electrical system that can malfunction. When the fuse blows up from an electrical surge, the ABS light indicates the system is not engaged.
  • The ABS is turned off. When your turn off the ABS, the warning light will illuminate to indicate that your car is not safe during emergency braking. 

Why is my car not starting and the ABS light on?

The ABS won’t stop your car from starting. The system is unique to the brake system and doesn’t stop the engine from running.

When the ABS warning light illuminates, it shows an issue with the system. However, it won’t stop your car from starting since the braking system is still functional. 

A dying or dead battery usually causes a car to fail to start. If the battery is too old, discharged from leaving lights on, loose connection or the battery components have poor conductivity, it may fail to provide adequate power for the car to ignite. Jumpstarting the car should work for this issue.

Another culprit for failed engine startups is a faulty ignition switch. A bad ignition switch is usually to blame if the battery is functioning properly.

How to fix the issue?

The nature of the fix depends on the type of ABS problem. The first thing is to ensure the ABS isn’t turned off. If the ABS is activated and the light stays on when the engine is running, diagnose the nature of the issue.

If it’s a blown fuse, replace it, and the system will resume normal operation. For low brake fluid levels, check for leaks and replace the ABS pump module after ascertaining it is faulty. 

Malfunctioning speed sensors usually give error codes such as C0050, C0046, C0045, C0041, and others. Replace the defective sensors to clear the ABS issue. Also, if the ABS computer module is damaged, you’ll need it replaced.

Usually, the best approach is to take your car to an experienced auto dealer who will diagnose the problem and suggest a fix. 

Take away

The ABS is an essential safety feature in your vehicle. The system helps prevent wheel lockup during heavy braking. However, as with most electrical systems, the ABS may fail, resulting in the ABS warning light coming on.

In most cases, the braking system will function normally even when the ABS is not working. The ABS won’t stop your car from starting up.

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