Wheel speed sensors are essential in today’s modern cars.
They monitor the vehicle’s speed by measuring the wheels’ rotation, providing valuable data for ABS and other automated driving aids to ensure your car handles safely.
Therefore, if you experience an issue with your vehicle’s wheel speed sensors, you should never ignore it but get it repaired or replaced immediately.
As you’d expect, the average cost to replace a wheel speed sensor varies with the make and model of the car. But, typically, it’s around $200-$300.
This amount breaks down into $100-$150 for labor and the same for buying the part. However, if you prefer a more specialist car, you could end up paying up to $1,000.
Of course, if the sensor failure that prompted you to replace it caused other issues, you have the additional diagnosis and repair costs to put those right, which could cost hundreds of dollars.
The table below shows a quick price comparison for replacing the wheel speed sensors:
|Walmart||$55-$620 (Parts only)|
|Amazon||$50-$550 (Parts only)|
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How Much Does Wheel Speed Sensor Replacement Cost?*
As you can see, the ranges are very similar and don’t allow for different makes and models and how much you might spend on your wheel speed sensors.
To help you out, we have listed several standard cars and their corresponding prices. Using new parts, we assume average labor rates of $80-$100/hr.
|Make and Model||Estimated Labor Cost||Estimated Parts Cost|
|Chevrolet 1500||$40-$90||$25-$180 (front), $50-$70 (rear)|
|Kia Optima||$60||$65-$140 (front), $100-$160 (rear)|
*Note: Prices are estimates and were correct at the time of writing (February 2023); since then, our cost estimates may have changed. Use our figures as a starting point for your own research.
What Is A Wheel Speed Sensor?
A wheel speed sensor, also known as a vehicle speed sensor or an ABS (anti-lock brake system) sensor, is a tachometer that reads the vehicle’s wheel rotational speed by generating an electrical current formed when a metal conductor moves in a magnetic field.
The sensor then transmits this to the electronic control system.
Initially, its purpose was to replace the mechanical linkage between the car’s wheels and the speedometer, thus preventing the inherent problems associated with cable breakage and other moving parts.
However, as an added advantage, wheel sensors provide data enabling many automated driving aids, such as ABS and traction control systems, to function.
Even though this sensor’s name implies it reads the wheel speed, it isn’t always so. For example, in particular cars, such as the Ford, the four-speed automatic transmission has sensors mounted on the tail shaft extension housing.
This layout doesn’t provide the true wheel speed, as the differential axle allows the rear wheels to turn at slightly different speeds when turning corners. Instead, it measures the driveshaft rotation and calculates an average wheel speed.
However, this value is close enough to provide a useful speedometer signal and data for other purposes.
Overall the wheel speed sensors are a crucial component of your vehicle’s operation and provide data for the anti-lock brake system.
Crucially, they must operate correctly to maintain vehicle safety on the road, especially in bad weather and adverse road conditions.
Wheel Speed Sensor Replacement Price Factors
Several factors affect the cost of replacing a wheel speed sensor.
You should understand them if you want to pay the correct amount.
Manufacturer’s Spares Parts vs. Discount and Independent Retailers
Dealers specializing in a vehicle manufacturer’s spare parts offer these items at a higher price than other available generic brands. Whether you choose the more expensive manufacturer’s part or the cheaper generic one depends on your choice.
Generally, manufacturers’ parts are usually of higher quality than their cheaper counterparts and last longer with fewer issues. However, if you decide on a more affordable wheel speed sensor, ensure your choice doesn’t affect the car’s warranty.
How Many Sensors Are There?
Each manufacturer uses varying amounts of wheel speed sensors on their vehicles.
- When the system uses four-wheel speed sensors, one will be behind each wheel’s rotor.
- If the system uses three-speed sensors, there will be two situated at each front wheel and one on the rear axle instead of at each rear wheel.
It’s self-evident that those vehicles with more sensors will potentially have more things to go wrong, resulting in a higher replacement cost.
What ABS Type Does Your Vehicle Have?
This is where things get complicated.
The ABS type determines the number of speed sensors your vehicle has, and there are four separate configurations.
- Two-channel, four-sensor ABS systems have one sensor at each wheel, with the front pair using one channel while the rear pair use the second channel. This configuration allows the ABS to engage in that part of the vehicle rather than at separate wheels.
- Three-channel, three-sensor ABS systems have one sensor at each front wheel and one on the rear axle. Once again, if the computer sees issues at the front or rear, it engages that section’s ABS.
- Three-channel, four-sensor ABS systems use one sensor on each wheel, but the rear wheels use one channel.
- Four-sensor ABS systems use one sensor at each wheel, each with its dedicated channel, so they are monitored separately. Most modern vehicles have this configuration.
It’s probably now apparent why there is such a wide range of prices for sensor replacement.
- The mechanic must check each sensor and its wiring before replacing the faulty one.
- There might be more than one faulty sensor.
- The sensor’s location affects how long the replacement will take.
5 Signs Of Bad Wheel Speed Sensors
It’s no good paying for a replacement wheel speed sensor if you don’t need it. Therefore, it’s helpful to know what symptoms and signs to look out for that indicate when you need the sensor checked and possibly replaced.
Typically, the brakes will still operate when the ABS control module fails; you just won’t have the additional safety advantages. Therefore, driving the vehicle to your local mechanic is okay if you take care on the road without any unnecessary risks.
1. Dashboard Warning Lights
The first signs you will notice are the ABS and traction control system lights illuminating your dashboard.
Although the brakes still operate, driving with these warning lights operational is very risky and can cause issues if you frequently drive in adverse weather conditions.
2. Faulty Speedometer Display
As the sensor provides the data needed to calculate the wheel speed, you might notice the speedometer stops working.
Although, this only occurs in very rare cases.
3. Brake Pedal Is Pulsating
The sensors measure the speed of every wheel of the car. Therefore, if the sensor operates incorrectly or stops working, it will detect the incorrect speed on one or more of the wheels.
Then, the ABS control module interprets the inconsistent data as a slippery road surface, causing the ABS and traction control systems to operate. You will notice this by a pulsating brake pedal when braking.
4. No Anti-Lock Brakes
When a wheel speed sensor stops working, it won’t provide data to the car’s electronic control module. The module needs this info to decide whether the wheels are sliding or locking.
During failure, the onboard computer doesn’t know what’s happening, so it turns off the ABS and causes the anti-lock brakes to stop working.
The module then informs you by illuminating the ABS warning light. The system will remain like this until you repair the sensors.
5. Loss of Stability Control or Traction
It’s not only the ABS that suffers when the sensors cease to operate correctly. Other functions in your vehicle rely on the sensor’s data too.
Typically, traction control, stability control, roll stability, and hill-start assist also need this information. So, when the computer no longer receives data from the sensor, it shuts down all of the said systems.
However, don’t automatically assume the sensor is at fault if these other systems stop working. You could have issues with damaged wiring not transmitting the data from the sensor to the electronic control module.
But, whatever the cause, get these issues looked at and fixed by a qualified mechanic.
How Do You Replace A Wheel Speed Sensor? (Video)
Generally, diagnosing the problems associated with a vehicle’s wheel speed sensor follows a set procedure.
Qualified mechanics use computerized diagnostic software tools loaded onto a portable laptop computer to interrogate the car’s engine and find the problem issues using the least time and effort.
Otherwise, finding the fault will be a case of trial and error with the subsequent high labor costs associated with this inefficient fault-finding method.
In general, leaving the wheel speed sensor replacement to the professional makes sense. They have the required tools and experience to do the job with the least possible cost to you as the vehicle owner.
However, knowing the steps involved when replacing the wheel speed sensor is helpful.
- Use diagnostic computer software to scan the ABS system for problem codes.
- Inspect the brake system. This involves checking the brake pedal, pads, rotors, calipers, and every other part of this safety system. If any item needs replacing, you will pay an additional amount for the parts and labor to fit them.
- After inspecting the braking system, the mechanic checks the sensor and associated components for any damage.
- Remove and replace the damaged wheel speed sensor.
- Check the sensor and brake system operates correctly.
If you want to see how to replace a wheel speed sensor, you can watch many good videos online. Remember that the method will vary depending on your vehicle’s make, model, and age.
Here’s a YouTube video from 1A Auto showing how to replace the speed sensor for a Toyota RAV 4:
Who can replace a wheel speed sensor?
Because replacing a wheel speed sensor involves diagnosing the issue, you must have the necessary diagnostic software to do the job. Furthermore, there are many other vehicle parts you must remove and replace to gain access to the sensor.
Therefore, although anyone with the necessary tools and knowledge can replace a wheel speed sensor, we recommend using a registered professional mechanic with the latest diagnostic tools.
Also, you might find that it’s compulsory to use a company authorized by your car’s manufacturer to preserve the warranty on your vehicle.
What is a wheel speed sensor?
A wheel speed sensor is a type of tachometer fitted to either the axle or wheel.
Its job is to monitor the rotational speed of the wheel or axle and transmit this data to the electronic control module, which uses the information in several automated driving aids such as ABS, vehicle stability systems, transmission control, and general engine management.
The wheel speed sensor and associated components contribute significantly to
- Road safety
- Improved passenger comfort
- Lower fuel consumption
- Better driving dynamics
- Reduced emissions
If your wheel speed sensor malfunctions and the warning lights on your dashboard illuminate, don’t worry. You won’t be stuck miles from the nearest vehicle repair shop. The brakes will continue to work, but you won’t have the additional safety features we have come to expect from ABS and the other automated driving aids in modern and newer cars. So be careful.
When you arrive at the repair shop, the price will vary depending on your vehicle’s make, model, and age. But, expect a typical quote to be from $200 to $300 unless you have one of the more exotic cars, for which you might end up paying about $1,000. And, of course, if there are other issues associated with the sensor failure, you will have to pay for those repair costs too. However, the price to get your wheel speed sensors and the associated automated safety driving aids working again is peanuts compared to the safety of you and your family when you drive on slippery roads in adverse weather conditions.
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