How to Test ABS Equipment

Written by natasha parks
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How to Test ABS Equipment
A professional scanning tool will help you find exactly what's wrong with your ABS. (Close up detail of a classic car at a car show image by Rob Hill from

Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS) prevent motor-vehicle wheels from locking up and the car from going into a skid when the brakes are applied. ABS is particularly important when braking suddenly in icy, wet conditions or during accidents because it increases the driver's control of the steering and of the vehicle overall. In large vehicles, the ABS will often have self-checking and self-diagnostic capabilities, according to Square Wheel Industries. There are also diagnostic testers you can buy to check the functionality of your ABS.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • On-board ABS diagnostic checker
  • High-performance bidirectional scanning tool

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  1. 1

    Use the on-board self-test or diagnostic system to find out if your vehicle has a fault. During start-up, the ABS check will be automatically performed as the auxiliary circuit is powered up. The ABS dashboard status warning light should come on if there is a problem with your ABS, and you may also hear the air valves making a blowing or "chuffing" noise.

  2. 2

    Purchase and use a scanning tool from a reputable company, such as AA1 Cars, which supplies ABS diagnostic testing equipment containing specially developed ABS-compatible software. According to AA1 Cars, most scanning tools do not allow you to check the efficiency or functionality of the ABS, although they will work with various other, less specialised components inside the car. When operated correctly and according to the manufacturer's instructions, the ABS testing tool will allow you to find out why your ABS warning light has come on.

  3. 3

    Further test the vehicle to find out what the ABS codes mean and, if necessary, which component needs replacing To do this you will need a high-performance professional scanning tool that can narrow down the point of failure in the ABS and even cycle the solenoids to help you "bleed" the brakes. The Equus Innova Tool from AA1 Cars tells you the fault codes linked to your vehicle, allowing you to troubleshoot the problem; it also helps identify failures in, for example, the solenoids, pump motors, brake switches, control modules and speed sensors. It is priced at under £227.

  4. 4

    If you wish to perform your own point-by-point resistance and voltage tests without the use of a scanning tool, be prepared to spend more time figuring out what is wrong with the vehicle. These tools are designed and manufactured to make the process quicker and easier, as explained by AA1 Cars.

  5. 5

    Check the ABS pressure settings using a diagnostics tester, which is supplied by companies such as Mac Tools. If completing this step yourself, you may find it an expensive option; some reach costs of around £1,300. A more cost-effective solution is to seek professional assistance from a garage that may already have the equipment at its disposal.

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