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1988 coupe ABS problems & questions from a forum newbie


fordrodsteven
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I bought an 88 coupe a few years ago. I don't know how long it sat before I bought it. I'm finally working to get it on the road. (Most of my life I worked on Fords - finally retired and have time to tinker with it) I have done some work to the car (headlights, Cruise control module, exhaust, headliner & a few other items) I didn't notice the piece of tape over the glowing amber ABS light until after I got it home three years ago. Anyway, now I am also getting a red brake warning light with a message about low pressure on the CRT screen. My thoughts are that the problem could be almost anything in the brake system (electrically and mechanically) I don't know the history because the only driving I have done was the 75 miles to get it home when I bought it. I am coming to this forum for a little advice on a starting point. Do I follow the troubleshooting procedure in the service manual or should I start with the procedure outlined in reatta.net/brakes/brakes_troubleshooting? Also how does the emergency work.... Pump the pedal? How many pumps? How hard should I press / pump? I don't want to break cables or bend brackets. I don't seem to have any emergency brake at all. I guess I'll be crawling under the car to sort that out.

My other vehicles now are a 1955 T-bird (currently under construction) and 2011 Dodge Charger MOPAR (special editon) (That would be a Ford, Chrysler & GM in myy stable)

Edited by fordrodsteven
added other vehicle info. (see edit history)
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First off, the mechanical parking brake is pretty straightforward. Yes, you pump the pedal, typically several times to adequately set the parking brake. You should be feeling tension on the park brake pedal after one or two pushes. There are a series of connected cables that link the parking brake pedal to the rear calipers. The first cable runs from the parking brake pedal to a connection located about midway on the driver's side door just underneath the edge of the car. The next cable, know as the intermediate cable runs in a sheath from there to a point just above the rear axle area. This intermediate cable being enclosed is also a point of failure as moisture collects inside the sheath and eventually rusts out the cable. The remaining cables that connect each caliper to the intermediate cable are easily inspected. The SAD news is that you can get all the cables new EXCEPT the one that tends to fail, the intermediate cable. There is NO repairing it, just replacement with a salvaged cabled. You can tell if this cable has failed by the tell-tale sagging cable just underneath the drivers door. Jim Finn, of this forum, supplied me with a salvaged intermediate cable, so I would drop him an email and see if he has more (he prefers email.. jfinn@cpinternet.com)

As for the ABS, start with the process outlined on Ronnie's site (reatta.net). That will help you isolate things a bit. You likely will need to order up and replace the accumulator. Those things fail as they are a nitrogen charged rubber bladder and age is NOT friendly to them. The internal seals in the ABS can also fail (result of NOT flushing the fluid routinely) and if that is the case, a total rebuild is the order of the day, but I would start with all the external things that are fairly easy DIY projects.

David T

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I've tinkered now for a few days. I feel pretty comfortable that I have come down to the accumulator as my problem. I remembered reading somewhere that purchasing from the Reatta Store helps to keep the Reatta Journal forum working. I just ordered the accumulator from the Reatta store and should get it early next week. I could have gotten the accumulator for a little less $ but I wanted to support the Reatta forum. It has been VERY helpful in finding information and parts for my Reatta. This is one of the few forums I've seen where the members are actually pretty savvy regarding working on the cars and helping each other out.

Edited by fordrodsteven
grammar (see edit history)
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I've tinkered now for a few days. I feel pretty comfortable that I have come down to the accumulator as my problem. I remembered reading somewhere that purchasing from the Reatta Store helps to keep the Reatta Journal forum working. I just ordered the accumulator from the Reatta store and should get it early next week. I could have gotten the accumulator for a little less $ but I wanted to support the Reatta forum. It has been VERY helpful in finding information and parts for my Reatta. This is one of the few forums I've seen where the members are actually pretty savvy regarding working on the cars and helping each other out.
Thank you for purchasing from The Reatta Store. Your purchase helps support Reatta Owners Journal at no additional cost to you. Your support is much appreciated.
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  • 2 weeks later...

well.... I put in the new accumulator. Before the changeout I replaced all the brake fluid with new DOT3 fluid. I was very careful about getting no air into the system. (Been doing this stuff for close to 50 years now although ABS is new to me) I changed the accumulator. I still have both lights. I expected the yellow ABS light because I had that before the red light started coming on. My brakes seem to work fine (not excessively hard - not spongy) and the car stops as it should. When I did "the brake test" everything comes out as it should with one exception. The pump runs but not near as long as the average of the sample data. (mine only runs about 17 seconds vs 45 seconds on the sample data and the red light remains lit). I also noticed the pump doesn't seem to slow down as stated in "the brake test" Suggestions? - Pump? Pressure switch? I don't want to keep throwing $ at it! I feel like purchasing a pressure gage as stated in the SM is a few more dollars for something I will probably use only once. Maybe it's worth it though if it aims me in the proper direction for the fix.

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The red light WILL be illuminated if the parking brake pedal is set in even the SMALLEST amount. This is super easy to do just getting in and out the car IF the parking brake cable system is broken as the pedal has NO resistance to being depressed which sets the parking brake switch. As you had previously mentioned that you suspected issues with the parking brake, be sure that you pull the parking brake release handle. The red light CAN also be illuminated by brake issues as well, but FIRST make sure the red light is NOT due to the parking brake.

As for the yellow light, that can be set by ANYTHING in the ABS system such as broken lead wires on the ABS sensors, a faulty ABS controller, issues with the pump assembly. Sounds like you got the actual pump assembly working if the pump activates, then switches off. If you were NOT getting adequate pressure build up in the system, your brake pedal would be SUPER hard and stopping a lot more difficult that normal. Probably the second most common failure mode of the TEVES ABS besides the accumulator are the wheel sensor lead insulation cracking and allowing moisture to eventually corrode the lead itself. The front sensors are no longer available are a point of concern going forward. There is a running thread on this issue.

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Parking brake is sort of working. It grips on the drivers side but not on the passenger side. It pumps up and releases as it should. Maybe just needs adjustment? I had the same thought about the parking brake causing the light. I have actuated it numerous times while doing the other work on the car. Did I mention that I also get the screen message that the brake pressure is low and requires service?

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As you are getting the brake pressure low screen message, then either the pressure is actually low due to internal seals leaking or a defective pump OR the pressure switch itself could be defective. As you are aware of the parking brake issue and seem to have eliminated that possibility, then the red warning light indicates a problem in the ABS system itself. You can get a reasonable idea of the actual stored pressure by allowing the pump to run until it quits, then press the brake normally and release using about a 1 second interval and see how many you get before the pump fires up again. If the pressure is actually low, you won't get more than one or two at best. If it is normal, then you will get 5-7 depressions. The accumulator is usually the culprit for low stored pressure, but the pressure pump OR the pressure switch can also be at fault.

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Guest Mc_Reatta

There is a fluid level switch on the reservoir that can also turn the red light on, but with that warning message it is not your problem either.

Remount your gauge with the new accumulator and see what it says. Notice reading when pump is first turned on, when red light goes out (if ever), and when pump shuts off. Then pump pedal watching gauge and see what the reading is when the pump starts to run again, and when it shuts off again.

That should show if switch is working properly, and the status of the new accumulator.

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I don't think a bad accumulator will keep the red light from turning off when the pump builds adequate pressure and turns off. It will keep it from coming on again for a few pumps if it is good by storing a reserve of fluid pressure.

The Brake Pressure switch has a set of contacts that turns off the pump and another set of contacts that controls the red light being turned off. I's possible the contacts in the pressure switch that control the red light are bad and the ones that control the pump are still good. If the pump pressure tests good that is likely the problem.

Edited by Ronnie (see edit history)
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I made a fitting (to adapt a 1/8 pipe nipple) to bolt in where the banjo fitting bolts in. I put the gauge on and the pump is working fine. It is switching on & off at the correct pressures. I checked the pressure switch per the SM. I get no continuity between contact C & E. All the other checks are good. The book says to replace the switch. That's next.

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Guest Mc_Reatta

That's what it sounded like, but it's nice to have confirmation before parting with your hard earned money.

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