Bad Wheel Speed Sensor Symptoms (6 Things To Be Aware Of)

When you buy a car, it comes with wheel speed sensors that are attached to the hub to monitor the vehicle’s speed, the anti-lock braking system, and traction control.

Therefore, if the wheel sensors go bad, it will affect how the vehicle functions and display some warning signs. But, what exactly are the bad wheel symptoms? Keep reading for a list of common things to look out for!

Bad Wheel Speed Sensor Symptoms

Bad wheel sensors’ most common symptoms include active traction light, ABS warning light being on, braking problems, pulsating brake pedal, and loss of stability control. When the speed sensor fails, these symptoms will be noticeable because the vehicle displays different warning signs when the car isn’t functioning properly.

If you’d like to learn more about bad wheel sensor symptoms, such as illuminated ABS light, ABS failure and more, keep reading for more information!

1. Illuminated ABS Light

Your car’s dashboard displays different kinds of lights that warn you of any issues that need to be addressed.

Therefore, when the wheel speed sensor fails, the ABS light is probably one of the first signs you’ll notice because these sensors are connected to the vehicle’s anti-lock braking system.

ABS light illuminates when the sensors are worn out, disconnected, or have debris; therefore, you might need to replace the wheel speed sensor for the light to go off.

Your vehicle ABS light works like the check engine light to warn you that there’s an issue. When you turn the key and the ABS light stays on throughout, you need to have your vehicle checked.

Since these sensors are connected to the brake component, a failure or damage to your brakes should be diagnosed as soon as possible to prevent any accidents.

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However, keep in mind that the ABS light can illuminate due to worn-out brakes, a faulty ABS pump, low brake fluids, trapped air in the brake lines, or brake pressure issues. Therefore, to identify the actual cause, you’ll need to consult an experienced mechanic as soon as possible.

2. ABS Failure

Your vehicle’s wheel speed sensors keep you on the road safely. As they monitor the speed, they keep the ABS from locking up when you slam your brakes, in turn preventing your vehicle from spinning out.

Anti-lock braking systems are installed in the car to assist with the smooth application of brake fluid on the brake pads to slow down your vehicle without locking the tires.

Wheel speed sensors transmit the wheel speed information to the ECU to guide the ABS on how much pressure to apply. Therefore, when the wheel speed sensor is damaged and not working, the ABS will fail and not function as it should.

When driving, if you press your brakes and the tires lock up, you’ll need to immediately take your car to the mechanic for wheel speed sensor repairs.

3. Pulsating Brake Pedal

If one ABS sensor goes bad, the speed reading on the wheels will be incorrect, which will trick the ABS control module that the car is sliding on a slippery road.

When this happens, the traction and ABS control kicks in, which you’ll feel as a pulsating brake pedal when braking.

4. Loss Of Wheel Traction

4. Loss Of Wheel Traction

Apart from the ABS, your car also has other safety functions such as traction control, stability control, and roll stability that are installed in trucks, SUVs, and most vehicles.

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When the wheel speed sensors stop transmitting data, the computer will also shut down these systems.

Traction control is engineered to ensure that the tires won’t break loose when the throttle is applied. Therefore, if you notice that the traction control light is switched on, your sensors have a problem.

In modern cars, when there’s a problem with the wheel speed sensors, the traction control light illuminates once you turn off the system, and stays on because of a worn-out or broken wheel speed sensor; therefore, you should have it checked out immediately.

As well, note that these systems will remain disabled until new sensors are installed.

5. Braking Problems

If it takes longer than usual to bring your car to a stop, your vehicle might be having wheel speed sensor problems.

These problems occur because the ABS works together with the braking system to bring your car to a stop.

Therefore, when the wheel speed sensors are faulty, the ABS won’t work as it should, leading to longer braking distances.

6. Stability Issues

When driving on icy or wet roads, you need to have stability on your tires for safety purposes.

In normal circumstances, the ABS will activate when you brake suddenly to slow down your vehicle without locking your brakes or causing your car to skid.

However, when the wheel speed sensors are damaged, the ABS can’t collect data to help regulate brake pressure or lock up. When this happens, it becomes much harder to prevent skidding or prevent a brake lock up on wet roads.

Therefore, to avoid getting into accidents, have the speed sensors checked as soon as possible.

What Is A Wheel Speed Sensor?

Wheel speed sensors, also known as ABS sensors, are attached inside the vehicle’s transmission. Their role is to record the actual wheel speed and report this critical information to the car’s electronic control unit (ECU).

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This ECU controls all the electronic functions on the vehicle, therefore, when something fails, warning signs show up to indicate that there’s a component that’s worn out and needs replacing.

Wheel speed sensors also monitor the vehicle’s front and rear wheels and their speeds, and all the wheels have a sensor placed on the hub next to the brakes.

Each sensor will send data to the anti-lock brake system (ABS) control module (which monitors the four-wheel speeds) to ensure that they are all working at the same pace and to correct any wheel that’s not up to speed.

Bad Wheel Sensors Symptoms

A lot of drivers have experienced bad wheel sensors on their vehicles. But how do you identify this problem? Here are the symptoms to look out for:

To learn more, you can also see our posts on unbalanced tires symptoms, what is a tire sensor, and what are wheel spacers.


Wheel speed sensors are a critical part of your car and keep you safe on the road by sending critical information to the vehicle’s ABS.

However, if you have bad wheel sensors, your car will exhibit warning signs to help you get them replaced as soon as possible.

Some of the most common symptoms include illuminated ABS light, active traction light, braking issues, and loss of stability control.

Therefore, it would be best to have your car checked once you notice any of these symptoms or the warning lights on your dashboard.

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