The anti-lock braking system (ABS) in your vehicle prevents the tyres from locking up when you brake, allowing you to remain safe on the road while driving. This indicates that something is interfering with the ABS sensor, as indicated by the ABS light illuminated on your dashboard. While it is possible that it will need to be replaced, it is also possible that it will only require cleaning, which is something you can easily do yourself at home. To access and clean the sensors, you’ll need some basic tools, such as a car jack and a wrench, as well as 30-60 minutes of your time. If the ABS light continues to illuminate even after the sensors have been cleaned, there may be a more technical issue that only a mechanic can resolve.
Part 1 Accessing the ABS Sensor
1. Lifting your vehicle with a car jack will allow you to safely remove the wheels from the vehicle. Install a solid flat surface under your vehicle and turn off the engine. Position the car jack at the jack point and carefully engage the jack. (See illustration) Raise the car off the ground until there is approximately 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5.1 cm) of clearance under the wheel rim and tyre.
If you are unsure of where your vehicle’s jack points are located, consult your owner’s manual. Generally speaking, there is a flat metal area behind each front wheel and in front of each rear wheel on the vehicle.
Which Wheel to Use: Depending on the type of vehicle you have, you may or may not have an ABS sensor in each wheel; consult your owner’s manual to be sure. If you have access to an ABS scanner, you can use it to determine which sensor is malfunctioning. If you don’t have access to a scanner, you’ll have to go through each sensor one by one until the ABS light turns off.
2. Remove the wheel from the vehicle by loosening the lug nuts that hold it to the tyre. Remove the lug nuts with a wrench and place them in a small bowl to the side so they don’t get misplaced during the process. Remove the wheel from the tyre hub and place it somewhere out of the way so you have more space to work.
If the wheel appears to be stuck to the hub, tap it with a rubber mallet to loosen it.
3. The ABS sensor should be located along the body of the wheel hub. The reference ring, which is the bolt or covering that holds the sensor in place, should be located. It’s usually located near the wheel hub; you can start by tracing the electrical wire that runs from the wheel and connects the sensor to the vehicle, which will make it a little easier to locate.
The sensor can be difficult to access at times, simply because the way the wheel is turned has an effect on how well it works. It’s usually found near the back of the hub area, if not directly behind it.
If you are unable to locate the sensor, it is possible that your vehicle has “disguised” sensors rather than “open sensors.” Due to their location within the wheel hub, masked sensors are rarely cleaned because they are protected from dirt and other contaminants. Taking your vehicle to a mechanic will be necessary if you are experiencing issues with a disguised ABS sensor.
4. Allen wrenches can be used to remove the bolt that covers the ABS sensor. Allowing the bolt to loosen and the wrench to be turned until the bolt is completely removed Place the bolt in the bowl with the lug nuts and set it aside.
If the bolt is extremely rusted or difficult to turn, WD-40 should be applied to it. Wait a few minutes before attempting to remove it a second time.
5. Using a pair of pliers, gently wiggle the ABS sensor loose. It is not recommended to pry the sensor up from the bottom because this could cause irreversible damage. Instead, using the pliers, gently move the sensor back and forth until it pops out of the hole.
If the sensor is still stuck to the tyre hub, try repositioning your pliers on alternate sides or wiggling the sensor in a circular motion to dislodge any rust or dirt that may be preventing it from moving freely.
An electrical wire connects the sensor to the vehicle; there is no reason to remove the wire; therefore, it should be left in its current location.
Part 2 Removing Dirt from the Sensor
1. Blowing canned air into the area where the sensor was lodged will help to remove it. This gets rid of any dirt or metal fragments that may have gotten into the water. Either turn your face away or put on a pair of safety goggles to ensure that nothing gets into your eyes accidentally.
Do not attempt to clean the area with water because this will only exacerbate the problem.
2. Clean and dry a microfiber towel and use it to wipe dirt and debris off the sensor. The likelihood is that there was some sort of interference between the sensor and the wheel, resulting in your ABS light being illuminated. It is common for sensors to accumulate grime and small pieces of metal over time; gently wipe the entire surface of the sensor, rubbing away any visible dirt, to remove this buildup.
In most cases, this is a quick procedure that shouldn’t take more than a minute. No matter how many sensors need to be updated, the task should take no more than an hour or so in total.
Cleaning Solutions are used in the following ways: It is recommended that you avoid using any type of chemical cleaning solution on your ABS sensor. It has the potential to damage the sensor, necessitating the purchase of an entirely new one. If necessary, scrub the sensor with warm, soapy water to remove any remaining dirt; however, make sure that the sensor is completely dry before replacing it.
3. To gently grind away stubborn rust or dirt, use a wire brush or a file to gently grind away the material. If you choose to clean the sensor, exercise caution because excessive cleaning could cause damage to the sensor. Instead of applying a lot of pressure, go over the specific section several times with a light touch until it is clean.
Older vehicles and sensors that have a lot of rust on them are the most likely candidates for this procedure.
Part 3 Reinstalling the Sensor
1. Replace the sensor in its original location so that the wiring is exactly as it was before. Once the sensor has been cleaned, it should be gently repositioned and pushed down to ensure that it is properly secured in place. A blockage of some sort may be preventing you from getting it back in; try blowing canned air into the hole once more to see if that helps.
Avoid twisting or screwing the sensor, as this could cause it to malfunction.
2. Replace the bolt and twist it to ensure that the sensor is securely fastened in place. Removing the bolt from the small bowl where you had placed your lug nuts is important. Placing the bolt over the ABS sensor and tightening it with a wrench are the next steps.
Give the bolt one final twist when you reach the end and you begin to feel resistance from the bolt itself. When you instal it, you want it to be secure enough that it won’t come loose, but it also shouldn’t be too difficult to remove the next time you need to clean the ABS sensors.
3. Reposition the wheel and tighten the lug nuts to their original positions. Reattach the wheel to the tyre hub by turning it counterclockwise. Replacing all of the lug nuts should be done with care, making sure that they are all tightly screwed on. Once the wheel has been reinstalled, you can remove the car jack from the vehicle.
You should be able to begin screwing on the lug nuts with your hands, but you will need a wrench to complete the job.
4. It is necessary to repeat the procedure on each wheel until the ABS light is no longer illuminated. After you have finished changing the first tyre, you can start your vehicle and check to see if the ABS light has been turned off. If this is the case, you solved the problem on the first try! If this is the case, move on to the next wheel and use a sensor.
In the event that you were able to use an ABS scanner prior to starting this project, you may already be aware of which wheel was causing the problem.
If the ABS light continues to illuminate even after all of the sensors have been thoroughly cleaned, there may be an internal or wiring issue. Inspect the vehicle at an auto body shop to have the fault code read and determine what else needs to be done.
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