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Can ABS Cause Brakes to Drag

Does your car drag when braking? You may be surprised to know that the culprit could be your ABS. I had the same issue, and I researched deeply to find solutions. Finally, I was able to solve the problem successfully.

Yes, ABS causes the brakes to drag if the ABS modulator applies unnecessary hydraulic pressure to the calipers. The reason for this might be one of the following:

  1. Problematic ABS sensor
  2. Issue of the ABS control module 
  3. Malfunctioning ABS pump 

Let’s talk about how ABS brakes can make the vehicle drag, and I’ll explain how to figure out and fix the problem.

ABS Causes, Symptoms, and Solutions for Vehicle to Drag in Braking

You can get a slight idea from this table.

    Causes                 Specific Symptoms           Solutions
Problem with ABS sensors  Strange braking behaviour
Unusual noises during braking  
Clean the sensor
Replace the sensor
Issues with the ABS module  Complete loss of ABS function
Unusual sounds from the module
Reprogram the module
Replace the module
Malfunctioning ABS pump  Hard brake pedal
ABS pump runs even after the vehicle is off (A rare situation)
Clean valves of the pump
Replace the valve
Replace the pump

Let’s dive in deep.

Problem with ABS Sensors

These sensors play a critical role in modern anti-lock brake systems, and any issues can compromise the safety and reliability of your vehicle.


Strange braking behavior: You might experience unusual braking behaviors such as the pedal pulsating or vibrating, the brakes grabbing or locking up, or the vehicle pulling to one side during braking when there is a problem with ABS sensors.

Unusual noise: If you hear strange noises, such as grinding or scraping, coming from the wheels during braking, it could indicate a problem with the ABS sensors.


These are the two things you can do to fix the problem.

Clean the sensors

First, try cleaning the ABS sensor. To clean the sensor, remove the wheel and brake assembly to access the sensor. Use a soft-bristled brush or compressed air to remove any debris or dirt build-up around the sensor. Clean the sensor’s tip gently with a lint-free cloth or brake cleaner spray.

Replace the ABS sensor

If cleaning doesn’t solve the problem, you have to replace the sensorTo replace an ABS sensor, locate the sensor, which is usually mounted on the wheel hub or the differential. Unplug the sensor and remove it from its mounting bracket. Install the new sensor, ensuring it’s correctly aligned, and torque it to the manufacturer’s specifications.

How do malfunctioning ABS sensors cause the vehicle to drag?

If the ABS sensor is faulty and not working correctly, it may send incorrect signals to the ABS control module. This can cause the control module to activate the ABS unnecessarily or not activate it at all when it should. As a result, the vehicle may experience inconsistent braking or drag on one or more wheels.

Issues with the ABS Controller Module

ABS electronic control module

The ABS module works by monitoring the speed of each wheel and adjusting the brake pressure to prevent wheel lockup during hard braking. However, like any other automotive component, the ABS module can develop issues that compromise its functionality and lead to safety concerns.


Unusual sounds from the module: You may hear strange noises, such as grinding or scraping from the module.

Complete loss of ABS function: When there is a serious problem with the modulator, you will lose ABS function completely from time to time.


Remember that ABS module errors are very rare. They usually last for a vehicle’s lifetime. If you discover the issue is with the module, there are two things you can do:

Reprogram the module

Reprogramming an ABS module requires specialized equipment and knowledge, so it’s best left to a qualified mechanic or dealership. The mechanic will use a diagnostic scanner to identify the specific issue with the module and reprogram it with the latest software update.

The process may take a few hours and may involve additional repairs, such as replacing faulty components or wiring.

Replace the module

If a module is difficult to reprogram, it should be replaced. The module is typically located in the engine compartment, and replacement involves disconnecting the wiring harness and removing mounting bolts. Once the old module is removed, the new module is installed and secured with mounting bolts, and the wiring harness is reconnected.

The new module may also need to be reprogrammed with the vehicle’s specific parameters. It is recommended to have a qualified mechanic perform this procedure.

How does a malfunctioning ABS module cause the vehicle to drag?

If the ABS module is malfunctioning, it sends the wrong orders to the pump. Then the pump may not release the brake pressure, causing the affected wheel or wheels to drag. This can result in reduced braking performance, increased stopping distance, and premature wear of brake components.

It is essential to have a malfunctioning ABS module diagnosed and repaired promptly to ensure safe and reliable braking performance.

Malfunctioning ABS Pump

ABS pump

A malfunctioning ABS pump can cause various issues with the vehicle’s braking system, leading to reduced braking performance and causing the vehicle to drag when applying the brakes.


Hard brake pedal: You have to press the brake pedal with your strength, as hydraulic pressure is not enough. You may need to apply more pressure to the brake pedal to stop the vehicle.

ABS pump runs even after the vehicle is off: Sometimes the pump will run even after the vehicle is off. This also causes the battery to die. This is not a common situation.


Clean valves of the pump: Cleaning the valves of an ABS pump involves using specialized equipment and knowledge and should be performed by a qualified mechanic. They will use a brake fluid flush machine or a specialized ABS pump flush machine to replace old brake fluid and debris with fresh fluid.

Replace the valves: The mechanic may also inspect the valves and replace any worn or faulty components to ensure optimal performance and prevent potential issues with the braking system. Regular cleaning is essential to maintaining the ABS pump’s functionality and safety.

Replace the pump: The process involves removing the old pump, installing the new one, and reconnecting electrical and hydraulic lines. So, it’s recommended to have it done by a qualified mechanic.

How does a malfunctioning ABS pump cause the vehicle to drag?

Due to its inability to release brake pressure, an ABS pump that isn’t working properly can make the afflicted wheels slide during braking. This may result in decreased braking effectiveness, a longer stopping distance, early brake component wear, and dragging the vehicle during hard braking.


Where are the ABS sensors?

ABS sensors are located at each wheel of a vehicle, near the brake rotor or brake drum. In some vehicles, they may be incorporated into the wheel hub assembly.

How many ABS sensors are there?

The number of sensors can vary depending on the make and model of the vehicle, but most modern cars have four sensors – one at each wheel.

How do ABS sensors function?

The ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) sensor is responsible for detecting the speed of each wheel of a vehicle. It sends signals to the ABS control module, which determines if the wheel is locking up during braking. If the control module detects that a wheel is locking up, it will release brake pressure on that wheel, allowing it to regain traction.

Is ABS on a motorcycle worth it?

Yes, to prevent the wheel from locking up and to help preserve the motorcycle’s stability, ABS modifies the braking force as necessary. ABS has been demonstrated to shorten stopping distance in a variety of situations. Road crashes involving motorcycles equipped with ABS technology have been demonstrated to be reduced.


I hope these details are sufficient for you to solve your problem with dragging brakes. Don’t drive your car if it has minor problems because they could get worse over time and end up costing you a lot of money.

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