Following a breakthrough in modern automotive technology, motorists can now drive safely without any worries. Among the factors that have contributed immensely to this high level of safety are dashboard lights and service reminders. Now, speaking of the braking system, some alerts are common such as when you engage the ABS or the parking brake. But, there’s one dashboard alert that’s quite disturbing—the service brake assist. So, what does service brake assist mean?
You see, the braking system is very delicate. In fact, most motorists demand full control of their braking systems when driving to avoid any accidents. But, if what you can see is a “service brake assist” message gazing at you while driving, then that’s a huge concern for you.
So, in this guide, we’re going to explain what this dashboard alert means, what causes it and what you should do about it. We’ll also go in-depth to see how it works and why you shouldn’t ignore it.
What Is Brake Assist?
If you’re reading this guide, then it simply means that you’ve come across the “service brake assist” alert and you’re wondering what exactly it means. But, before we get to that, let’s start by defining what brake assist means.
Now, brake assist is a feature that’s used in most modern vehicles to assist motorists to brake more quickly and efficiently. To do this, most vehicles are fitted with special sensors that monitor your driving habits. So, whenever you apply great sudden braking force to the brake pedal, these sensors alert the onboard computer of a possible emergency braking situation.
What happens next is that the onboard computer deploys an assistive measure where it supplies your car with the extra braking power to help you achieve a sudden quick stop.
If you’re a motorist, especially an inexperienced one, braking confidently in an emergency can be a challenge due to the so-called “panic mode”. Since the amount of braking force you apply might not be sufficient enough to stop the car, the brake assist takes over by giving you an additional boost.
Something else you need to know about the brake assist system is that it was invented in the 1990s by Mercedes Benz and used in their S and SL Class models. The feature has since become mandatory for all vehicles due to its high level of safety.
The brake assist feature has now been paired with the Anti-Lock Brake system to improve braking efficiency and prevent the wheels from locking up.
But, despite being a critical safety feature, some motorists prefer to disable the brake assist system stating that it’s not safe. Others argue that this feature makes braking more difficult as the brake system might engage an emergency braking at a time when you don’t need it. This can result in an accident if you’re on a speeding highway with other motorists speeding right behind you.
How Does Brake Assist Work?
Now that you know what brake assist really is, the next step is to discuss how the brake assist system works. To begin, you need to note that the brake assist system comes in two types that consist of the classic/older mechanical brake assist type and the modern electronic brake assist type. So, how does each type work?
Mechanical Brake Assist
The mechanical brake assist represents the first generation of the brake assist system. This system was employed on old classic cars at a time when sensors and electronic controls were perceived as a future technological trend.
With no electronic sensors to monitor the force and the speed placed on the brake pedal, the mechanical brake assist relied on intelligent mechanical thresholds that were set in place. These mechanical parameters were the ones responsible for judging whether to engage the mechanical brake assist depending on the braking speed and the braking pressure applied to the brake pedal.
So, if you’re driving and you suddenly apply the brakes with great pressure to a point of exceeding the set threshold, then it means the mechanical brake assist will take over and assist you in stopping the car.
Brake Assist with Electronic Controls
The electronic brake assist is the modern version of the brake assist that relies on the electronic control unit to determine when to engage the brake assist system. This means that the ECU always stays alert monitoring your braking habits to determine when to engage the brake assist system.
Just in mechanical brake assist, the electronic brake assist monitors the speed and force at which you press the brake pedal.
But, other than assisting you with braking, the electronic brake assist has one unique feature that interests most motorists—it can remember and adapt to a driver’s braking habits or patterns. So, if you’re a driver that presses the brake pedal too aggressively, the electronic brake assist can tweak the programmed thresholds to engage the brake assist when it senses you’re in a dire situation.
Something else about the electronic brake assist is that some vehicles are equipped with a dynamic brake assist that uses the Adaptive Cruise Control to detect obstacles that are right ahead of you. This system then notifies you in the form of alerts or audio warnings.
Is Brake Assist Similar to Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS)?
Now that you’re aware of how the brake assist system works, one question you’re likely to ask yourself is whether the brake assist is the same as the ABS. The simple answer is NO. These two systems are not identical. In fact, each of them is designed to function differently.
For instance, the ABS, or rather the Anti-Lock Brake System is designed to maintain excellent traction and prevent the wheels from skidding or sliding whenever you apply the brakes abruptly. This safety feature is very critical because of two factors.
One, it allows the tires to maintain a good grip each you brake abruptly. What this means is that the vehicle will come to a sudden stop without colliding with whatever is ahead of you. Two, the ABS prevents the wheels from locking whenever you brake too aggressively. Remember, once the wheels are locked, then it becomes difficult to control the vehicle leading to the possibility of a fatal accident.
So, to guarantee driver’s safety when braking, vehicles combine the brake assist and ABS to provide additional safety in case of an emergency. With these two systems working together, your vehicle will come to a sudden stop smoothly and safely without stalling or locking the wheels.
How to Troubleshoot Brake Assist Unit?
We’ve discussed how the brake assist system works right? In this section, we’re now going to learn how to troubleshoot this brake system in a few steps. In most cases, troubleshooting the brake assist system occurs when you suspect the system is the root source of your brake system failure.
- Step One: Start by turning off the engine then pump the brake pads slowly for a few seconds. The reason for this is to ensure there’s no vacuum inside the brake assist system.
- Step Two: Press the brake pedal one last time and leave your foot on the pedal. With your foot still on the pedal, turn on the engine.
- Step Three: To ensure the brake lines aren’t leaking, you’ll notice a slight give or rather some resistance from the brake pedal. However, if you don’t notice any resistance, then it means the brake lines are leaking.
Also, if the brake assist unit is working correctly and the brake light on the dash is still on, then it means there’s a problem with the sensor.
How to Fix Service Brake Assist?
Now, the brake assist warning light can come on due to several reasons. Some of these reasons include worn-out brake pads, low brake fluid level, handbrake warning, and issues with the ABS. So, how do you fix the service brake assist warning?
- Step One: The first step in fixing this problem is resetting the electronic control unit (ECU). To do this, you’ll start by disconnecting the positive battery cable to deplete the car’s electrical system. With no power, the warning light will turn off and the computer will reset.
Next, reconnect the battery cable and see what happens. In case the warning light turns on again, then it means there’s another underlying problem that takes us to the next step.
- Step Two: This is where the OBD scanner comes in handy. Since you’re not aware of the problem, an OBD reader can be used to scan the error codes to identify the main reason that’s causing the service brake assist warning light to turn on.
So, here, you can use your own OBD scanner or you can drive to your nearest auto parts store to have the car scanned by an expert mechanic.
- Step Three: Once the problem is identified, the last step is to work upon it. In case it’s a problem with the sensor, then what you need is to replace it with a new one.
What Does It Mean When There Is a Service Brake Assist Warning?
So, what does it mean when it says service brake assist? In most cases, a service brake assist warning light indicates a problem with the brake sensor. You see, most modern vehicles have an indicator light that consists of a wired circuit connected to the car’s electronic control unit.
Sometimes, this sensor can go bad and other times it can detect a failed or damaged component in the braking system. In case any of these happens, an alert in the form of a “Service Brake Assist” will be displayed on the dashboard.
If this is what you’re seeing, then it’s recommended that you drive to the nearest auto parts store to have the issue checked with an OBD scanner.
Is It Safe to Drive with the Anti-Lock Brakes and Traction Control Lights On?
As an experienced motorist, any alert or warning light on the dashboard means that your vehicle is trying to communicate about an underlying problem. The Anti-Lock and traction control warning lights are no exception. These warning lights indicate that the brake assist system is struggling and needs to be examined immediately.
So, is it safe to drive with these warning lights on? Well, the answer can be yes or no. The reason why we say yes is that even with these lights turned on, you can still manage to drive safely and carefully to your destination.
On the other hand, it’s not recommended because you don’t know when a scary moment might occur. Remember, with the anti-lock and traction control lights on, it means your vehicle is missing vital security features.
So, in case of an emergency where hard braking will be required, your vehicle will be at risk of having a wheel lock, and worse, it will take too long before coming to a sudden stop. This means that if there was an obstacle ahead of you, your vehicle will most likely hit the obstacle with a high impact or even stall making the situation worse.
So, if you’re driving and what you’re seeing on the dashboard is the ABS and traction control warning lights, then you should have the vehicle checked immediately. Sometimes, the problem can be as simple as disengaging the traction control feature or a failing sensor.
Can You Turn Off Brake Assist?
Yes, you can. All you need is to disconnect the brake assist fuse to disable it. However, this only happens in some car models and not all. Secondly, most car makers include the brake assist system as a permanent feature that shouldn’t be tampered with.
Therefore, trying to turn it off means that you’re voiding the vehicle’s warranty. You see, the reason why most car manufacturers are strict with the brake assist system is due to the high level of safety it offers. This system allows you to drive safely and above all, it saves you from engaging in a severe accident.
What Does Your Truck’s “Service Brake Assist” Mean?
If you’re driving a truck and the service brake assist warning light turns on from nowhere, then it means there’s a problem with the brake assist system. In most cases, the problem might be severe. However, there are other times when it might just be a minor issue.
Cases that are considered severe include;
- Leakage in the brake lines
- Failing ABS
- Low fluid level
On the other hand, cases that are considered minor include;
- Malfunctioning sensor
- Issues with grounding
- Light malfunction
- Warning for mileage inspection
In the case of severe issues, these should be dealt with as soon as possible to avoid vehicle failure, an accident, or high repair costs in the future.
On the other hand, minor issues should not trouble you that much. However, it’s important if you address the problem early enough before it develops into a serious problem.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. What Does the Brake Assist Feel Like?
You won’t feel anything when the brake assist feature is activated. In fact, what you’ll notice is the Service Brake Assist warning light when the system is not activated or if it malfunctions. From what we’ve discussed, the brake assist system assists the driver by amplifying the braking power to help the vehicle avoid a collision.
Q2. Do I Really Need the Brake Assist?
The simple answer is Yes. The brake assist system is a feature that has become increasingly widespread in modern automotive technology. Most vehicles fitted with the latest electronic brake assist are more secure and safe when driving. With outstanding features such as the ability to master your driving habits, this system can determine when to apply emergency braking to avoid any inconveniences when driving.
Q3. What Does the Term “Service Brake Assist” Imply on Chevy Equinox?
If you have a Chevy car model, then you’re likely to wonder what service brake assist means on a chevy equinox. If this is what you’re seeing on your dashboard, then it simply means that your brake assist system needs to be examined. In this case, all you need is to drive to your nearest auto parts store to have an expert mechanic check and fix the problem.
Q4. Can Worn-Out Brake Pads Cause the Brake Assist Light to Turn On?
Yes. However, this is a factor that will hugely depend on your vehicle’s make, model, and year of manufacture. You see, some modern vehicles have sensors that trigger when the brake pads wear thin. Also, as brake pads wear out, the brake fluid level runs low. Therefore, most vehicles will turn on the brake assist light to point to a low brake fluid level.
However, if you have an old vehicle, worn-out brake pads will come with different common signs such as squeaking or grinding sounds when braking, vibrations when braking, and vehicles taking too long to stop.
Q5. How Do I Know The Brake Assist is Working?
Well, to determine whether the brake assist system is working, all you need is to press the brake pedal several times with the engine turned off. Press the brake pedal one final time without releasing your foot from the pedal. After a few seconds, you’ll notice the pedal will start getting stiff indicating that the brake booster isn’t leaking.
As you can see, the brake assist system is a vital component and a key safety feature that allows motorists to enjoy a higher level of safety when driving. Although it’s not 100% necessary, this safety feature has become a key component in most modern vehicles to a point of being compulsory.
In most modern vehicles, the brake assist is a default feature that can’t be tampered with. Although it can be disabled by disconnecting the relative fuse, doing this means that you’re voiding your car’s warranty.
So, with that said, we believe that this guide has discussed everything you need to know regarding service brake assist.