Last Updated on March 19, 2024 by Kristin

You’re driving in your rental car when, all of a sudden, a strange light illuminates the dashboard. The letters “ABS” are lit up, and you’re not sure what to do. You may be wondering if this light is normal, or if it means there is a problem with the vehicle. Here’s what to do if your rental car’s ABS light comes on.

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ABS is an abbreviation for anti-lock braking system. Seeing these three letters light up while driving likely indicates an issue with the rental car, but don’t worry.

Why Is My Rental Car’s ABS Light On?

While you may already be familiar with the engine or oil light, the ABS light may be more of a mystery. When this light comes on, it indicates there may be a problem with the car’s anti-lock braking system.

A car’s anti-lock braking system uses sensors to keep the car’s brakes from locking, helping you stop in emergency situations or on slippery surfaces like ice without skidding. However, an illuminated ABS light can indicate that this system is not working as needed. The car may require a visit to the mechanic.

Here are some common reasons why the ABS light may be on:

Fluid levels may be low: Low fluid levels can keep the car’s hydraulic braking system from working properly and cause the ABS light to turn on, J.D. Power says.

Parts may be malfunctioning: The ABS light could indicate a problem with several types of components. Damage to a wheel speed sensor, a blown fuse, axle damage, worn-out parts or wiring issues are all possible causes, AutoZone says.

What to Do When Your Rental Car’s ABS Light Comes On

The last thing anyone wants to do while renting a car is deal with a mechanical issue, but ignoring the ABS light or trying to turn it off yourself is a bad idea. You should call the rental car company immediately.

You can try restarting the car to see if the ABS light turns off on its own, but there may be a bigger issue that requires sending in the car to the maintenance shop.

Pull over and stop in a safe space, and call the rental company’s roadside assistance number. Explain that the ABS light is on, and ask how to proceed. Note any other issues with the car that you may have noticed, such as strange sounds or problems braking. The agent may instruct you to drive the car to the nearest office or tell you to wait for help if it looks like the car’s condition poses a safety risk.

Remember: It’s never wise to try to fix a rental car on your own without the rental car company’s approval. Unauthorized repairs can void your rental agreement.

Am I Responsible for Repairing the Rental Car?

Drivers often fear telling the rental car company about repairs because they want to avoid getting charged massive fees for damages they did not cause. While that fear is understandable, it’s important to alert the rental car company to the first sign of any malfunction.

The rental car company should be responsible for any unexpected mechanical issues with the car, as it is their responsibility to provide a vehicle in a safe condition to drive. However, the driver may be on the hook for costs if they are somehow responsible for a warning light coming on.

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If you need to tow the car or use roadside assistance, always ask the rental car company for permission before arranging these services on your own through the American Automobile Association (AAA) or a credit card. Keep any receipts for extra expenses you might incur while dealing with the issue, and ask for a refund if the car ended up not being in a safe condition to drive.