The anti-lock braking system (ABS) goes off on your instrument cluster panel or dashboard only when your vehicle does a system check whenever you start your car or truck. On the other hand, your traction lights illuminate to inform you that your vehicle’s traction system is working as expected when you are driving on a snowy or slippery road.

There are instances when the ABS and traction lights turn on without warning, even if you are not in a situation that requires both lights to come on. If you encounter this problem, chances are your vehicle has a technical problem that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

Generally, you won’t be getting into trouble with the law or anyone else if the ABS and traction indicators in your dash light up even while you are on the road. So there’s no need to worry. However, in the case of a dysfunctional ABS, your brakes might not work properly as they used to. Therefore, it’s not safe to drive with these lights turned on. For that matter, you will have to see what’s wrong and have it resolved instantly.

What Is an Anti-Lock Braking System?

The ABS is a safety feature that reduces the amount of skidding when you step on the brakes. Apart from that, the ABS also prevents wheel lockups while driving on wet or slippery roads, so your vehicle does not slip. Furthermore, you have control over your truck even while under braking.

What Is a Traction Control System?

Like the ABS, traction control is also a safety feature that helps decrease chances of wheel slippage while driving along a wet or sleet-covered road. When activated, this system operates automatically. The traction control provides the vehicle with a better grip and prevents instances of slipping or turning.

Why Are the ABS and Traction Lights On?

The ABS lights go off only when you start your vehicle. Your truck does this as part of its systems check procedure. During this process, the ABS  light will come on for only a second before turning off. If the light does not turn off, that means there is something wrong with the braking sensors in the vehicle’s wheels.

Meanwhile, the traction control system (TCS) light activates when the wheel’s sensors detect slippage due to a slippery road. Usually, a defective brake sensor may cause the TCS light to go off as well. As a result, when your vehicle has an issue with its ABS, expect the traction control indicator to light up as well.

Resolving the Issue

When the ABS and traction control lights come on, this does not instantly mean you have serious problems with your wheel sensors or the control modules. Sometimes, the problem is caused by other factors such as the following:

  • Insufficient brake fluid
  • Warped wheel hub rotor
  • Minimal tire air pressure
  • Too much dirt and debris on the sensor.
  • Traction control button is deactivated
  • Limp home mode is activated

Additional Tips to Know When Assessing the Issue

When solving an issue, you should figure out what’s causing it first. So, in the case of ABS and traction control lights, you should know where to look to see what’s causing these dash indicators to glow.

Since the ABS and TCS are electronic systems, you will be wise to perform safety measures by disconnecting the negative cable (black colour) connected to the battery terminal. Once you are done you can proceed to resolve your ABS and traction control display light problem as follows:

1.     Check the Wheel Spin Sensors

Wheel spin sensors are typically found in vehicles equipped with the ABS safety feature. Most sensors are located behind the wheel hub assembly. Take note that the placement of the sensors may differ depending on the type and make of the vehicle. Locating and inspecting these components will not be difficult even without removing the tires. These sensors detect any discrepancies in the movement of the wheels.

Once you have located the sensors, check the wiring and the magnetic ring connected to it. Make sure that the rings are in one piece, and the wires are free from any signs of wear and corrosion. A broken magnetic ring or a shorted wire may be the reason behind your ABS lights not turning off, which also causes your traction control light to go off at the same time.

              Important Notes:

  • While inspecting for any defects in the wiring, make sure that it is properly secured. Also, check the electronic connection point which could be located in the wheel well. There are instances when these electronic connectors gather moisture after driving through a snowy road or several mud puddles on a rainy day.

If it gets saturated with moisture, the electronic connection could trigger the ABS, causing the indicator to light up in the process. Gently pry the connection points and disconnect them. Afterwards, let the cables dry up for one or two hours. Once dry, reconnect the cable points.

  • In case of a broken magnetic ring, you will have to replace this component when possible. Otherwise, the ABS light (possibly the traction control lights, too) will stay on until a replacement is installed.

2.     Examine the Fuse Box

Check if the fuses for the ABS and TCS are in good condition. Use the diagram printed on the fuse box cover to locate the ABS and traction control fuses. Pry out the fuses carefully; check if the leads are in good condition and are free from any signs of corrosion.

Often, a blown fuse can trigger the indicator lights of the ABS or the TCS to go off. In case the fuses are in bad shape, get a replacement immediately. You can get stock in dealerships or shops that sell automotive parts.

Important Notes:

  • When inspecting the fuses, use the right type of equipment, which in this case, is a pair of fuse puller pliers. With this instrument, you are assured that you are not damaging the fuse itself.
  • Before returning the fuses to their respective sockets, make sure they are clean and free of any corrosion. Otherwise, any debris may interfere with the electronic connection of the ABS and TCS fuses.

3.     Inspect the Control Module

A faulty ABS/TCS control module may also cause the indicator lights to turn on. Locate the ABS and TCS control modules to see if they are still in good condition. In most vehicle models, the ABS and TCS control modules are integrated and located under the hood. In some vehicles, the TCS control module is separate from the ABS and can be found inside the car or the trunk.  

Important Notes:

  • Just because your ABS or traction control lights came on does not mean that the control modules are at fault. One way to ascertain that your ABS/TCS control modules are becoming problematic (apart from the indicator lights on your dash) are as follows:

o   The wheels of your vehicle lock up when you step on the brakes.

o   You are applying more effort to your brakes.

o   The brake pedal becomes unresponsive.

  • The cost of replacing your ABS control module may range from $300 to $1,000. The rate depends on the model of the vehicle, the parts needed, and the cost of labour.

Though performing a DIY on your ABS and TCS issues can save you money, you will be wise to consult the expertise of a mechanic. With a professional, you are assured of a job well done. Also, an experienced mechanic can save you time and effort in troubleshooting any problems with your ABS and TCS.