The time has come for my vehicle's annual inspection. As luck would have it, the ABS light has come on again, but will the car pass the examination?

One day the ABS light is on, and on other days, it comes on and goes off. My favorite is when it starts flashing like a disco ball while driving down the freeway. The vehicle drives and stops perfectly, so what does the ABS light mean?

An ABS light that is on will result in the car not passing the inspection. The illuminated ABS light is an indication that the ABS has been disabled and it will not function correctly; this could be due to a faulty wheel speed sensor, a broken wire, or a blown fuse.

The ABS is a compulsory safety feature in all cars driving on US roads. The components used for the ABS often serve multiple functions on the vehicle, such as traction and stability control. Due to it being a safety feature, it won't pass the vehicle inspection if it is not working. But there is hope as the problem may be an easy fix. Let's find out!

I have had a problem with the ABS light coming on and off in my Volvo for a while. I researched many sites such as DEKRA.US and Cars.com to find an answer to this problem. The information was quite daunting. This is what I discovered.

ABS Light On: Will Your Car Pass Inspection?

TABLE OF CONTENTS

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Will a Car Pass Inspection When the ABS Light is On?

A vehicle will not pass the inspection if the ABS light is on. The ABS forms part of the car's safety features linked to other safety systems, such as traction and stability control.

When the ABS light is on, it tells you that the system is switched off; thus, the safety feature will not work as intended.

The vehicle inspection ensures that the emissions are in check, the car is roadworthy, and that the car's safety is not compromised. It may sound tedious but being safe on the roads saves lives.

Some States may not be as strict, and a vehicle may pass the inspection with a fault. Safety starts and stops with the driver, and they are responsible for their passengers.

Reasons Why the ABS Light Is On

The ABS light should switch on when the ignition is switched on in regular operation. The car goes through all its safety, electric, and mechanical systems checks during this time.

The light should go out after two or three seconds. If it stays on, there could be a fault. There are five common reasons why the ABS light is on. These are:

  • A Blown Fuse in the ABS Wiring
  • Faulty ABS Wheel Sensor
  • Damaged ABS Wheel Sensor Wiring
  • Damaged ABS Reluctor Ring
  • Faulty ABS Control Unit

A Blown Fuse in the ABS Wiring

A blown fuse could cause the ABS light to switch on. A fuse is easy and inexpensive to replace. Still, if the fuse continues to pop, there is an underlying problem that should be inspected by a professional.

Faulty ABS Wheel Sensor

There is an ABS sensor mounted at each wheel. This sensor determines if the wheel is turning at the correct speed or if it has locked up under braking. The sensor may just have a little dirt, mud, or road debris.

Inspect and clean the sensor located at the wheels. If the light stays on, the sensor may be faulty and needs to be replaced.

Damaged ABS Wheel Sensor Wiring

It is common to find damaged wiring between the wheel sensors and the ABS control unit. This issue can be caused by the car's vibration that chafed through a wire.

The vibration and chafing is a double-headed problem as the wire will need to be replaced and rerouted to prevent it from abrading again.

Damaged ABS Reluctor Ring

The ABS reluctor ring works with the wheel sensor. Suppose the reluctor ring is damaged or corroded. In that case, the first sign will be a pulsating brake pedal during normal light braking conditions.

The ABS light will not switch on immediately as the system is still functioning, but the control unit receives inaccurate information. The ABS light will switch on when the system detects the fault and switches off.

The reluctor ring is a mechanical part; thus, it should be inspected every time the vehicle is in for maintenance and replaced if necessary.

Faulty ABS Control Unit

The ABS control unit receives information from the wheel sensors. If the unit is not functioning correctly, it will illuminate the ABS indicator in the car. If the ABS controller is faulty, it should be inspected by a professional and replaced if needed.

Can the ABS Fuse Be Removed to Make the Light Go Off?

If the ABS Fuse is removed, the system will not function, and the light will stay on. The car's brakes will work, but the anti-lock braking will not, leaving the vehicle vulnerable to skidding and increased braking distance.

A diagnostics test is conducted to ensure the electrical system works correctly when the vehicle is being inspected. The car will fail if the ABS fuse has been removed or any other fault code appears.

Is a Car Safe to Drive With the ABS Light On?

The vehicle will function normally when the ABS light is on, but the ABS functionality will not. The system works in combination with the traction and stability control of the car. If the ABS is deactivated, none of the other safety systems will work.

Even though the car is driving normally, there is still a risk that the driver may need to perform an emergency maneuver. In this event, the vehicle's safety systems will not be there to assist the driver by stopping quicker and stabilizing the car.

What Happens if a Car Fails Inspection?

If a vehicle has failed the inspection, a form will be handed over to indicate why it has failed. Depending on the seriousness of the fault, most States will allow the owner 15 days to correct the fault without any penalty fees.

The regulations and allowances are different in all States, so contact a local vehicle inspection company such as DEKRA.US for the correct information.

Below is a list of the reasons Vehicles fail Inspections:

Reason for Failure

Average Percentage Fail Rate

Dirty or Low Engine Oil

32%

Damaged Washer Fluid Reservoir

23%

Leaking or Low Coolant

21%

Dirty or Low Transmission Fluid

17%

Low or Leaking Power Steering Fluid

15%

License Plate Lights Not Working

10%

Brake Lights Not Working or Too Dim

9%

Backup Lights Not Working or Too Dim

3%

Side Marker Lights Not Working or Too Dim

3%

Dirty Air Filter

18%

Loose Engine Belts

18%

Illuminated Check Lights

9%

Dirty PVC Filter

7%

Many cars do not pass the inspection due to the reasons mentioned in the above table. When a vehicle goes for an assessment, scrutinize these areas on the vehicle as this could determine a pass or fail.

About THE AUTHOR

Charles Redding

Charles Redding

I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.

Read More About Charles Redding