You’re driving on the freeway in your Ford, then suddenly, mysterious ABS warning light and maybe even TRAC and ESC lights appear on the dashboard. You are suddenly worried about what’s going on with your car. Questions fill your mind: “What do these lights mean?” or “Is my Ford safe to drive?”. Worry no more because, in this article, you’ll learn the common causes of an ABS light in your Ford turning on and how to fix it.
What does the ABS light mean on a Ford?
The ABS light appears on a Ford vehicle when there is a malfunction or a fault within the anti-lock braking system (ABS). This safety feature alerts the driver that something is wrong and needs attention to ensure the safety of the driver and its passengers. ABS works by regulating the brake pressure to prevent the wheels from locking up in the event of sudden braking. This will shorten the stopping distance and prevent accidents, especially in slippery road conditions. If any parts within the system fail or malfunction, the ABS control module illuminates the ABS light to warn the driver.
Here are the most common symptoms of anti-lock braking system (ABS) malfunction in your Ford:
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- ABS Light – Always ON
- ABS, ESC, TRAC, and Brake Lights – simultaneously turn ON
- ABS and TRAC Lights – Both warning light turns ON
- 4WD Not Available – 4-wheel drive is disabled
- Hill Start Assist Not Available – Hill start assist is disabled
- ABS Pump Motor Continuously Running – The pump motor will continue running even the engine is off
The most common cause of the ABS light turning on, especially if you drive a Ford F150, Transit, Bronco, Explorer, or Fiesta, is the failure of the ABS wheel speed sensor. It is very cheap and easy to replace, and it can only take you 30 mins to fix it yourself in your driveway. Other causes include the faulty ABS module, low brake fluid level, faulty steering angle sensor, defective brake light switch, blown fuses, damaged wire harness, etc.
Faulty ABS Wheel Speed Sensor
The ABS wheel speed sensor is one of the most important parts of the anti-lock braking system. It detects the rotational speed of each wheel and relays the information to the ABS module. All of the wheel speed is measured, and if one wheel speed is slower than the others, the ABS engages and regulates the braking pressure to prevent locking out of the brakes.
The speed sensor is located on the hub of each wheel, making it prone to water, road dirt, and debris. This makes the sensor wear out faster and eventually break down. If one sensor fails, the ABS module detects the irregularities and turns on the ABS light. A faulty or dirty speed sensor can also send wrong signals that might cause an abnormal engagement of ABS while driving. This is very dangerous, especially when driving at high speeds. It is important to clean your ABS speed sensors, especially when used in muddy or flooded road conditions.
ABS Control Module
The ABS control module controls the anti-lock braking system. It collects information from the speed and other sensors to know when to prevent wheels from locking up. It also regulates the braking pressure using pumps and valves.
When the ABS control module is faulty or malfunctioning, it can engage the ABS randomly during driving or even not engage during sudden braking turning the ABS light on. It can also continuously run the pumps even the engine is turned off. The common fault code is C1073 – Pump Motor Control Circuit which is common in Ford F150 2007-2014.
Faulty Steering Angle Sensor
When your ABS light is accompanied by TRAC or Traction control warning light, it’s a good chance that your steering angle sensor is faulty. The ABS uses the steering angle sensor to properly detect how the vehicle turns to regulate the braking pressure. The Traction control system also uses the steering angle sensor to prevent skids during slippery road conditions. If the steering angle sensor fails, it might send faulty signals to the control module, making the ABS malfunction and turning the ABS light on.
Low brake fluid level
A common reason the ABS light turns on, together with the red Brake warning light, is the low brake fluid level. Brake fluid is important in the anti-lock braking system. It is regulated by the ABS pump to prevent the lockup of wheels during braking. When the brake fluid is low, there is not enough fluid to be pressurized, which may result in ABS not engaging. Also, air might enter the brake lines making the brake pedal spongy, soft, and unresponsive.
Topping off the brake fluid level to full can turn off the ABS light, but it is important to know why it decreases. The brake fluid level decreases because of brake pad wear or leaks within the system. It is important to find the leak’s location and address it immediately to avoid brake failures while driving.
The ABS relies on the battery for power to work. It requires a necessary voltage to function properly. When a battery dies or weakens, it provides a lower voltage than the control module needs. This can cause a system malfunction and make the ABS light turn on.
Damaged Wires and Connectors
Many ABS wires and connectors are under the vehicle, exposed in extreme weather and road conditions. This makes them prone to damage and even getting cut due to the debris on the road. If there are damages in the wires and connectors, the sensors will send inaccurate signals to the ABS control module turning the ABS light on.
The wheel speed sensor wires are the most common wires in the anti-lock braking system to be damaged because it sits closer to the wheels. The wheels might carry debris that can sever the connection making it impossible for the wheel speed sensor to send data to the ABS module.
The connectors are also prone to damage and corrosion; when used on muddy or flooded roads, dirt can accumulate inside the connector and interrupt the connection of the sensors to the ABS module.
Blown Fuse or Bad Relay
The ABS fuse protects the anti-lock braking system from sudden surges of power or short circuit within the system. It saves the ABS module from frying up its internal circuits. When the ABS fuse blows, it disrupts the connection from the battery to the entire ABS, turning the ABS light on.
Knowing the cause of the blown fuse before changing it is important. A damaged wire that allows two wires to touch is a common reason for a short circuit within the ABS. A faulty ABS module with a short circuit inside its components can also trip the ABS fuse.
Damaged or Dirty Reluctor/Tone Ring
The wheel speed sensors rely on the tone or reclutor ring to determine the speed of each wheel. It is located on the hub of each wheel. It is a toothed gear read by the sensor as it rotates with the wheel.
Over time, the tone gear wears out and can get clogged with mud and other debris. This prohibits the speed sensor from reading the speed of each wheel. It can also be damaged by stones lodged between its gears. Even small damage can send inaccurate signals to the ABS module turning the ABS light on. It is important to clean the underneath of your vehicle, especially after driving on muddy and dirty roads.
Softwares Issues and Recalls
Ford issued several recalls for their anti-lock braking system. Here are the affected models and the recalls issued by Ford:
- Ford Bronco Sport (2023) – manufactured with an ABS module that can cause a leak.
- Ford Escape (2013 – 2019) – came with a faulty ABS module seal that can cause the ABS light to turn on.
- Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan, and Lincon MKZ ( 2006-2010) – Faulty ABS valve that can cause brakes to fail.
It is encouraged to contact the Ford service center if your vehicle is affected by the recall. To check if your vehicle is affected, click here.
To find out what is causing the ABS light on your Ford to stay on, use the YOUCANIC full system scanner to read the codes from the ABS module. Those codes will reveal what is causing the light to come on; for example, you will get a code that notes the front left wheel speed sensor has an open circuit or is implausible. Follow these steps to read and clear ABS fault codes from any Ford vehicle:
- Locate the OBD II port under the dash of your vehicle. It is usually located near the driver’s side and is a 16-pin connector.
- Plug in the scanner and turn on the ignition, but do not start the engine.
- Select the make of your vehicle from the list of available makes. You can select “Auto Detect VIN” to automatically detect your vehicle’s make and model.
- Select “Control Units,” then “ABS/Traction Control Module.” Remember that the name of this module may vary depending on the make and model of your vehicle.
- Once the scanner is on, select “Diagnostics” from the main menu.
- Once you have selected the ABS/Traction Control Module, you can select “Read Codes” to see any stored trouble codes related to the ABS. The scanner will display the current codes, which will help you determine what may be causing the ABS and traction control warnings to turn on.
- Based on the codes, the scanner may suggest performing further tests or inspecting certain components of the ABS, such as the wheel speed sensors, brake lines, and hydraulic control unit.
- Once the underlying issue has been fixed, then select Clear Codes to clear fault codes stored in the ABS control unit and reset ABS and traction control warning lights.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you drive with an ABS light on?
You can drive a vehicle with the ABS light on, but it’s not recommended. The ABS light indicates that there is a problem with the anti-lock braking system, and it’s an essential safety feature of the vehicle. If the ABS light is on, the system is not working correctly, and the vehicle’s braking performance may be compromised.
When the ABS malfunctions, it may be more difficult to control the vehicle during sudden braking or on slippery roads, increasing the risk of a collision. Additionally, if the ABS is not working correctly, it may cause the brakes to lock up, which can make it difficult to stop the vehicle quickly.
Ford ABS light on no codes?
A malfunctioning ABS control module is one potential cause of an ABS light being on without codes. The control module receives signals from the wheel speed sensors and activates the ABS as needed. If the module is not functioning properly, it may not be able to communicate with the diagnostic equipment or may not be sending the correct signals to activate the ABS.
What happens if the ABS light is on?
If the ABS light is on, it indicates a problem with the vehicle’s Anti-lock Braking System (ABS). The ABS system is designed to help prevent the wheels from locking up during hard braking, allowing the driver to maintain steering control and avoid skidding or sliding. When the ABS light comes on, the system is not functioning properly, and the vehicle may not be able to brake as effectively in certain situations.
- C1073 – Pump Motor Control Circuit
- C1145 – Right Front Wheel Speed Sensor Input Circuit Failure
- C1155 – Left Front Wheel Speed Sensor Input Circuit Failure
- C1165 – Right Rear Wheel Speed Sensor Input Circuit Failure
- C1175 – Left Rear Wheel Speed Sensor Input Circuit Failure
- C1233 – ABS Hydraulic Control Unit Failure
- C1234 – ABS Hydraulic Control Unit Valve #1 Failure
- C1235 – ABS Hydraulic Control Unit Valve #2 Failure
- C1288 – Brake Pedal Position Sensor Circuit Failure
- C1296 – Wheel Speed Sensor Signal Fault
- C1300 – ABS Hydraulic Pump Motor Circuit Short to Ground
- C1301 – ABS Hydraulic Pump Motor Circuit Short to Battery
- C1311 – ABS Hydraulic Pump Motor Pump Motor Circuit Failure.
- P0503 – Vehicle Speed Sensor ‘A’ Intermittent