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Harley Davidson ABS Light Flashing – Why? What To Do?

When you start your Harley Davidson, the ABS light will illuminate. If the light flashes as you ride your motorcycle, it's a warning there is something wrong. We did research to provide in-depth information on this problem, and here's what we found.

There are two main reasons the ABS light on your Harley Davidson motorcycle may flash:

  • Mechanical Issues
    • Different wheel-rotating speeds
    • Hydraulic fluid leak
    • Faulty speed sensors
    • Different tire size from the original
  • Electrical Issue
    • Communication error between modules

Keep reading to learn why the ABS light sometimes flashes and how to solve this problem.

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Reasons The ABS Light Is Flashing On Your Motorcycle

ABS is the abbreviation for antilock braking systemEach time you start your motorcycle, the ABS light should light up, but only for a short while. That's how your motorcycle checks the system. 

ABS sensor lights up

However, if the light continues to stay on and flash, then it's an indication that there's something wrong with the system. 

Mechanical Issues

Anti-lock braking system ABS light on motorcycle dashboard, Harley Davidson ABS Light Flashing - Why? What To Do?

Mechanical problems like the ones listed here can cause the ABS light to flash.

Different Wheel Rotating Speeds 

The ABS indicator will light up if the front wheel moves at a different rotational speed than the rear wheel. 

Hydraulic Fluid Leak

If there is a hydraulic fluid leak in your Harley, then it will interfere with its braking system. As a result, the ABS will flash to indicate a problem. 

Faulty Wheel Speed Sensors

A damaged wheel speed sensor will cause the ABS to flash due to a loose bolt or cracked wiring. Metal and ferrous debris may accumulate on the sensor since it has a magnet inside. This can interfere with the signal from the sensor to the ABS.

Different Tire Sizes

Motorcycle with biker on the asphalt road

If you have different tire sizes from what your Harley requires, then the ABS will light up. Also, the ABS will come on if you ride with under-inflated tires.

Electrical Issue

Mechanic using multimeter checks voltage level motorcycle

If there is a communication error between the modules in your motorcycle, the ABS will illuminate. There may be an issue interfering with the communication between the ABS module, the body control module, and the electronic control module.  

In this case, you need to check for error codes to know what is causing the ABS to keep flashing. You may need to use a scanner like the OBD2 scanner. This has been implemented on Harley Davidson models for years.

Check out this motorcycle OBD2 scanner on Amazon. 

The following videos explain the electrical and mechanical issues covered above and how they can cause the ABS to illuminate:

Can You Ride Your Harley With A Faulty ABS?

American man riding Harley Davidson

You can still ride your Harley even though the ABS is faulty. However, you'll miss out on its benefits.

If you apply too much pressure on the brakes, you might cause the front or rear wheel to lock. It can cause the bike to skid or even overturn.

The ABS helps prevent the wheels from locking and gives you more control when braking. However, if you apply enough pressure on the brakes, you may be able to avoid a crash.

You should check your motorcycle is there's a with the ABS. You'll be much safer on the road with a well-functioning ABS.

Benefits of ABS

The following are three significant benefits of having ABS on your motorcycle:

Reduces Braking Distance

As you apply the brakes, the stopping distance is significantly reduced. You will not have to move a long distance to stop your bike after you apply the brakes.

Maintains Stability

If your bike brakes suddenly, you will still be able to control it, which prevents you from skidding.

Equal Braking Force On Wheels

The ABS will help you to maintain your grip if you apply the brakes on a slippery surface. Instead of veering off the road, you'll continue in a reasonably straight line until you stop.

Is ABS Different For Cars and Motorcycles?

The basic principles of ABS in a car and motorcycle are the same. It prevents the wheels in a vehicle from locking up, and it does the same on a bike. As a result, the car or the motorcycle does not skid.

However, it can be a little complicated for motorcycle riders. This is because the motorcycle's brake controls on the front wheel are separate from those on the rear wheel. 

When the wheel locks up on a motorcycle, it may lead to a loss of balance. But the ABS helps riders to maintain their balance and remain upright. 

You might be wondering what the term lock up means. It doesn't refer to a complete wheel lock-up when braking. Lock-up means that when the brakes are applied, they are not released as they should.  

How To Maintain The ABS On Your Motorcycle

You now know how important ABS is. It gives you more control of your motorcycle. Therefore, it is a system you need to keep in good condition. The following are some tips on how to do so:

Readjust Speed Sensors Once A Year

Detailed sight with speed indicator and tachometer

With time, the speed sensors can get skewed or crooked. You should take your motorcycle to a professional to calibrate the speed sensors. 

Use ABS When Necessary

Don't depend too much on the ABS when driving. Use it mostly when there is an emergency. It's best to ride carefully. For example, stop at a reasonable distance from other motorists and ride carefully when road conditions are bad. 

Experienced riders can break at a shorter distance even with the ABS off. They do not necessarily have to use the ABS to brake safely.

Regularly Clean The Brakes

Clean the brakes regularly, removing any dirt or mud. Also, ensure you have enough brake fluid. 

Can You Reset The ABS On Your Motorbike?

The ABS can flash for other reasons, not necessarily because of a problem. Sometimes changing the battery can cause the ABS to illuminate, and it will continue until you reset it. To reset the ABS, check the manual for your Harley Davidson.

The following are the basic steps used on most motorbikes for resetting the ABS:

  1. Look for the diagnostic hookup plug and remove the cap.
  2. Get a ground wire that you know is good. Use a voltmeter to ensure it's good. The ground wire should have the same voltage as the battery voltage.
  3. Place the end of the ground wire into the center of the hookup plug.
  4. Start the bike.
  5. The ABS light on your dash will flash.
  6. Press the ABS button and hold it for a few seconds.
  7. The flashing light should go out. 
  8. Turn off the bike.
  9. Remove the ground wire from the hookup plug and put the cap back on.

Check out this voltmeter on Amazon.

This video explains the above steps but on a different type of motorcycle. You can apply the same process to your Harley Davidson. Just make sure you read your owner's manual.  

In Closing

The ABS is a system used to prevent the locking up of wheels, giving you more steering control when you ride your Harley Davidson.

When you start your motorcycle, the ABS indicator should illuminate for a while and then go away.

However, if it continues flashing, there could be a problem with the system, and you should have it checked. It might only need resetting. Maintaining the ABS will keep you safe on the road.

If you found this post, helpful, check out these related articles:

ABS Light Comes On When Braking

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