Can A Bad ABS Sensor Cause Sudden Transmission Problems?

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If most owners of modern vehicles only knew just how complicated modern cars are and how many components need to work just right in order for them to function properly, we bet most would be scared to even own modern cars, to be honest. The ABS or anti-lock braking system is one of such components. The ABS system made driving much safer as it does not allow the wheels to lock up during hard braking and it keeps the car in a straight line when doing so. At the same time, it brought along a number of sensors and a control unit that must all be in perfect working order so that many other crucial components of a car can work correctly as well. And we bet you guessed by the title of this article, yes, the transmission as well. 

Here is everything you need to know about ABS wheel speed sensor problems and what problems they can cause.

What Can A Faulty ABS Sensor (Wheel Speed Sensor) Cause? ABS sensor fault symptoms!

Symptoms of a malfunctioning ABS sensor include:

  • ABS warning lights on the dashboard ignite
  • ESP warning light on the dashboard ignites
  • In rare cases, the check engine warning light can also ignite
  • Sudden ABS system intervention even when it is not needed, the brake pedal vibrates and jerks unusually
  • Error codes show up when the car is being diagnosed with a diagnostics tool
  • In some cases, faulty ABS sensors also lead to transmission problems
  • ABS or wheel speed sensors also play a big part in a vehicles cruise control system, causing it to malfunction if one or more ABS sensors fail
  • ABS or wheel speed sensors also send information to the engine control unit which uses that data to adjust the cars speedometer readings
  • In rare cases, ABS or wheel speed sensors also affect the idle of a car and fuel consumption

Can an ABS sensor or a Wheel Speed Sensor Cause Transmission Problems?

Yes, faulty ABS or wheel speed sensors as they are commonly called can cause transmission problems. The transmission control unit in certain vehicles does receive information from ABS or wheel speed sensors and when they malfunction, the transmission control unit is missing or receiving wrongful information which can lead to poor and jerky gear shifts, delayed shifting, and hard gear shifts and even limp mode.

Without the information from the ABS or wheel speed sensors, the transmission does not know when to apply the clutch which inhibits the connection between the engine and the transmission completely. This can lead to the transmission slipping and even overheating if it is constantly engaging the clutch.

Can A Wheel Speed Sensor Cause Limp Mode?

While it does depend on the make and model of the car, yes a car can go into “limp” or “home” mode if one or more ABS/wheel speed sensors are malfunctioning. Seeing how the ABS system is a crucial part of the vehicle’s braking and stability systems, it is considered unsafe to drive with a crucial component (the ABS sensors) being faulty. 

In certain vehicles, a faulty ABS or wheel speed sensor can lead to the improper operation of the transmission which is reason enough why some cars do go into limp mode, to prevent potential damage to the transmission. ABS sensors are considered a critical component of any modern car.

Can A Bad ABS Sensor Cause Brake Problems?

Yes, without a doubt. ABS sensors are the crucial component of the anti-lock braking system and the entire system cannot function properly without them. While your car will still be drivable with a malfunctioning ABS sensor, you should visit a mechanic as soon as possible to ensure the proper functioning of the ABS system.

Can it caue Vibration?

In 99,99% of the cases, we would have to say no, a common sign of a failed ABS or wheel speed sensor is not any sort of vibration that you will be able to feel. Many other online sources claim that a faulty ABS sensor can cause vibrations but to be honest, none of them provide any real supporting evidence how a faulty ABS sensor could cause “vibration”.

Can they Cause the Brakes to Lock Up?

Yes, the entire purpose of the ABS system (anti-lock braking system) is to prevent the brakes from locking up. If one or more ABS sensors fails, it may lead to a complete malfunctioning of the ABS system which means that your brake will normally lock up when pressed hard.

What does it mean if the ABS Warning Light is On and the Transmission is Not Shifting?

It means that a critical component of the ABS system which also plays a part in your transmission’s ability to shift is not functioning. It could be a malfunctioning ABS control unit or one or more of the ABS/Wheel Speed Sensors. The transmission control unit (TCU) relies on the data from the ABS/Wheel Speed Sensors to initiate gear shifts and control the clutch. If that data does not arrive from the ABS system, the transmission will, in some cases, not shift at all to prevent further damage.

Here are our other articles that explain why you might be experiencing transmission problems.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Safe To Drive With A Bad Abs Sensor?

No, driving with a bad ABS sensor means that your ABS system will not be functioning as it should be in an event of hard braking. This poses a big danger to your safety and those in the car with you. Visit a mechanic as soon as possible.

How To Know If You Have A Bad Abs Sensor?

In most cases, an ABS warning light on the dashboard will alert you of problems with the ABS system. After a diagnostics at your mechanic, it should be clear which component of the ABS system is at fault. Never ignore warning lights on the dashboard.

How To Tell Which Abs Sensor Is Faulty?

There are two ways; you can use a multimeter and check each of the ABS sensors to determine which is faulty or you can visit a mechanic with professional diagnostic tools that will determine the exact location and part that is at fault. It is much easier and quicker to use professional diagnostic tools.

Watch this video to see how to test an ABS sensor with a Multimeter.

Will A Bad Abs Sensor Cause The Brake Light To Come On?

Yes, depending on the vehicle’s make and model, a faulty ABS sensor can cause the brake warning light to come on.

Will A Bad Abs Sensor Cause The Speedometer Not To Work?

Again, it is absolutely possible. Another name for ABS sensors is wheel speed sensors. Wheel speed sensors play a big role in your vehicle’s ability to adjust and display the correct value on the speedometer.

How Much Does It Cost To Replace a wheel speed sensor?

The total cost of replacing a faulty ABS sensor varies by vehicle model. A single ABS sensor costs between 20$ and 70$, depending on the vehicle and spare parts manufacturer.

If the sensor is integrated in the wheel bearing, you can expect material costs of around 90$ to 180$. Replacing the faulty ABS sensors usually takes between half an hour and an hour and a half. Based on an hourly rate of 100$, this results in labor costs of 50$ to 160$.

According to this calculation, the total costs for a wheel speed (ABS) sensor replacement are between 70$ and 320$.

Here is a great article on how you can replace faulty ABS sensors on your own.


It is downright amazing to see how much automotive technology has progressed. We have come to a point where a simple ABS or wheel speed sensor basically affects the operation of an entire vehicle. And while technological progress is always a good thing, it can also be equally annoying when your car loses the ability to shift gears due to just a faulty wheel speed sensor. And while the entire ABS system does make our driving much safer, it also makes it much more prone to breakdowns and costs. But we think that the benefits greatly outweigh the negatives in this situation.

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