There's most likely no reason to be afraid to drive the car. The Anti-Lock Brake Computer detected a problem in that system, set a diagnostic fault code, turned the system off, and turned the light on to tell you. With the system turned off, you're left with the base brake system, often referred to as the "foundation" brake system which is what all cars had for many decades. Your mechanic will connect a scanner that can access that computer to read the code(s). Those will indicate the circuit or system that needs further diagnosis. Until then you will not have the anti-lock feature, which is basically an add-on feature that cars never had years ago.
Given the recent events, a common suspect would be a torn wire going to one of the wheel speed sensors, but that will turn on only the yellow warning light. If the red one is on too, that is not related to the anti-lock system. That light turns on for one of three reasons related to the base brake system, and that could be as simple as low brake fluid level. If the parking brake is not fully released, that will also turn on the red light. Regardless of the cause of the red light being on, the Anti-Lock Computer doesn't know the reason, and since it could be just low brake fluid level, it shuts the ABS system down because it can't operate properly with low fluid level.
At issue then is why the fluid level is low. That will happen when the front brake pads are worn and ready to be replaced, but it would be quite the coincidence that it happened right now. There can also be a leak in one of the brake lines. That will turn on the third switch that turns on the red light. The brake hydraulic system always has two parts so one will work when there's a failure in the other one. You will notice the brake pedal goes too far to the floor, or more commonly, as you hold steady pressure on the brake pedal, it slowly sinks to the floor. Those are indications of a leak and you probably don't want to drive it like that. Mechanics can nurse it along like that but it's risky when you don't know what the other drivers on the road are going to do. If the brake pedal feels as high and as firm as it normally does, it should be safe to drive to a repair shop.
Sunday, January 5th, 2014 AT 1:17 AM