Q: I have a 2008 Ford Escape, and I am having an issue with my ABS and traction control. When I first start the vehicle, the ABS light and traction control lights are off, but moments after I start driving or once I take a left turn, the car starts to stutter, the ABS and traction control light both start blinking, but shut off as soon as I straighten out the car and it runs perfect again. (This does not happen taking a right turn.) Minutes later, after I drive a mile or longer, both the ABS and traction control light will turn on and stay on as long as the car is running. I can take left turns with no problems; almost like there's no problem with the car at all. Any thoughts as to what this could be? It all started when I was pulling a small utility trailer with nothing on it.
A: Most of your better garages have Ford software scanners to monitor the activity of the wheel speed sensors. Most likely, the problem is the wiring of one of the sensors is getting stretched to the point of the wiring harness opening up and losing contact with the main processer. A road test with this scanner hooked up is going to show exactly which sensor is giving the problem. Recently, I had a similar car in my bays that had a recent brake service performed by a non-professional shop. The antilock brake harness was left loose and rubbing against the tire. This caused similar problems to what you described. If you can't find a shop that has the Ford software, email me, and I will try to locate a shop for you.
Q: I am a weekly reader of your column. I have a 1994 Camry wagon, 4cyl with just over 200,000 miles on it that has a transmission problem. My wife was driving it when suddenly the transmission started acting strangely. It is not shifting properly. When first starting it stays in first gear a little too long and then shifts into third or fourth gear and doesn't go into overdrive. After it warms up, it seems to act more normally but has a little whine to it. Also, the speedometer stopped working and the overdrive light is flashing once every two seconds. The fluid level is OK. At this point, I do not want to put a lot of money into it because of its age and mileage. The motor runs like a top, and the body has very little rust. Any idea what is wrong and can you give me any idea what kind of money I am looking at to get it repaired if I decide to do that?
A: A car's computer looks at a few different inputs to mandate when it shifts. Besides the engine load and the position of the accelerator pedal, it also looks at the speed of the vehicle. First thing we need to so is monitor the computer while driving to see if the computer is seeing a vehicle speed. If it is not, we need to correct this problem. Most likely a speedometer transducer has a broken tooth. The part itself is not that expensive; however, removing the old one may be a bit of a hassle. If the car is otherwise good, I recommend you pursue this problem.
Car Care Tip: If your car or SUV seats are in tough shape, check with local scrap yards for replacement. Sometimes a good set of used seats are less expensive than having yours re-upholstered.
Larry Rubenstein is a master technician who owns a North Shore service station. Write him care of the Gloucester Daily Times, 36 Whittemore St., Gloucester, MA 01930, or send email to scan email@example.com.