VW owners have had a lot of ABS complaints over the years, and rightfully so. Not only are their ABS modules failing early, but they also fail at the most inopportune time like when slamming on the brakes to avoid an accident. And the repairs are costly.
What is ABS?
ABS is designed to help maintain traction between your wheels and the road. It does this in a number of ways.
First, ABS replaces the practice of “cadence braking” or pumping the brake pedal to come to a stop. Ever hear the term “pump the brakes?” Of course you have. Every dad and high school math teacher has used the phrase excessively over the last half-century.
Pumping the brakes is very important – it brings the car to a stop without locking up the wheels. As long as your wheels are spinning, you maintain control. And we all like control. Thanks to ABS your car now pumps the brakes for you, and you probably don’t notice it because it’s doing it much faster than you could.
Second, a modern ABS encompasses other electronically-aided systems like emergency brake assist, traction control, and electronic stability control (ESC).
All that is to say, ABS is meant to keep you safe. But it comes at a cost – complicated electronics and code that are subject to failure.
When your car’s ABS fails, there’s a sudden loss of traction and stability control. There’s a jarring display of warning lights on your dashboard that makes Times Square cringe. And then, of course, there’s the crippling fear as your car slides out of control.
ABS Problems in Volkswagen
ABS has a central electronic control unit (ECU) that controls and monitors the system. Everything from data from wheel speed sensors, to controlling hydraulic valves inside the brake lines. If anything goes wrong (in any part of the system), your ABS will hurl some lights at you and go full out fainting goat.
And it never seems to happen at a good time, like this story from a 2009 GTI owner:
“Without notice, traffic suddenly slowed to approximately 40 mph, causing me to hit my brakes hard. The ABS system engaged and my car was thrown sideways off the road at approximately 70 mph. I pulled the car back left, causing vehicles in the left lane to swerve to miss hitting me.”
“The ABS and brake light illuminated on my car, indicating a failure however, a dummy could figure out the brakes were not working. There is no doubt in my mind, had my car been thrown left when I hit the brakes I would have been smeared by on coming traffic, likely a fatality.”
Many VW vehicles – particularly those from the 2009 model year – are seeing their ABS fail early on in the vehicle’s life.
The Repairs are Costly
And the repairs are complicated and expensive. A new ABS module isn’t much, but the part is located in the middle of the braking system and requires a lot of disassembly to replace. Plus there’s all the scanners and oh, yeah the “recoding fee” to integrate the module into your car’s computer.
Many owners are getting quoted $2000 to $2800 without any guarantee the new ABS just won’t do the same thing.