2003 FORD WINDSTAR ABS AND BRAKE LIGHT COMING ON

  • Tiny
  • Rkirkland1
  • 2003 FORD WINDSTAR
  • 6 CYL
  • 2WD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 120,000 MILES

I have a 2003 Ford Windstar and the ABS and Brake light will come on simultaneously while driving. A just paid for a total brake job and still have this problem. This issue seems to be all over these forums. Why hasn't there been a recall? Any ideas about what to do without spending more than the vehicle is worth to get it fixed?

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Saturday, July 30th, 2011 AT 3:57 AM

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  • Tiny
  • Caradiodoc
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  • 25,993 POSTS

The anti-lock system has nothing to do with a brake job except that the base brakes have to work properly for the ABS to work properly. Brake pad replacement and most other brake work is the same whether or not an ABS system is on the truck.

The are dozens of different reasons for the yellow warning light turning on, so to say it's all over the internet can apply to a lot of different causes. If you think Ford has lots of problems, do some research on GM front-wheel-drive cars and their common and real expensive problems. Selling repair parts is extremely profitable for GM.

The place to start is by having the diagnostic fault code(s) read. Those will get you into the right circuit, not necessarily to the defective part. The fact that the red light is also on is likely related. That light turns on if the parking brake pedal isn't all the way up, there was unequal hydraulic pressures in the two circuits, or if the brake fluid level is low in the reservoir. Ford is the only manufacturer that uses a non-spring-loaded pressure-differential valve to turn the light on when system pressures are unequal. That valve and switch can trip during brake bleeding or even just from pumping the pistons out of the calipers to contact the new pads right after installing them. That valve can be REAL frustrating to center so the light will go off. You have to unplug its electrical connector to see if that is the cause for the light being on. Usually when the red light is on, the yellow one will also turn on and the computer will disable the ABS system because it doesn't know WHY that red light is on. It assumes the cause will prevent the ABS system from working properly.

As for a recall, that is only done when there is a known common problem related to safety or emissions. Pattern failures which are common ones that you hear about over and over are just that; common problems. Every manufacturer has them but that doesn't mean they warrant a recall. If that were the case, Ford would have done nothing but recall all of their trucks and front-wheel-drive cars for tie rod ends falling apart leading to crashes. We called them "killer cars", and couldn't keep parts in stock. No recall. Just lots of crashes and unhappy owners. There was nothing defective about the parts. They just wore out real fast.

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Saturday, July 30th, 2011 AT 4:49 AM
  • Tiny
  • Saturntech9
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Keep is posted on the outcome.

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Wednesday, December 31st, 2014 AT 12:15 PM
  • Tiny
  • Lockandload
  • MEMBER

The ABS light / Brake light problem on the Windstar is not a genuine fault. It's a phantom signal. I'm an owner/operator of a 2003 and I have the issue on mine too. I removed the instrument cluster trim and the brass colored screws that captivate the clear plastic instrument cluster cover.

On the rear of the dash cover that holds the vents you will find several black rubber mini boots near the outside corners. I removed one of them and glued it to the instrument cluster face just below the number 7 on the tachometer. This will prevent the tach needle from ever jumping past the tachometer range again. Next, I used a black paint "sharpie" pen to black out the area over the ABS light and the Brake light. I will never see them illuminated again.

All of my high tech repairs were completed in less than 30 minutes and I had all of the parts on hand. Now all I have to do is beat the shit out of the dash when the needles act up so I keep a carpenter's rubber hammer next to the center console.

My engineering works better that Ford's.

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Tuesday, July 26th, 2016 AT 12:13 PM
  • Tiny
  • Caradiodoc
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There is no such thing as a "phantom" fault. If there were such a thing that it caused a fault to be detected, it would also interfere with proper operation of the system, and that needs to be addressed. There will be a diagnostic fault code stored in the ABS Computer when the yellow warning light is on, and the computer will have shut the system down. It's very easy for a mechanic to read the codes and tell you which circuit needs further diagnosis. Sounds like you didn't bother with that.

If you are in a crash caused by the other guy running a red light, you can be sure you will end up in court. Insurance investigators and lawyers love to find your kind of modifications because they will convince a jury that you were partly at fault for the crash because you were less able to avoid it, ... And they will be right. You were knowingly driving a vehicle with a defect in a safety system, and worse yet, you defeated the warning system. You must be so proud.

Now ask yourself, what would you think of a professional who "fixed" your vehicle like that?

I'm not sure how the tachometer got in this story, but if there is a voltage spike, as in when connecting the battery, the pointer on "stepper motor" gauges can be pulsed to bounce real high, then when you turn on the ignition switch, they look for the shortest way back to "0". If the shortest way is clockwise, the pointer will get stuck on the wrong side of the stop peg. There are three ways to fix that properly, but you found an idiotic fourth way. All you have to do is momentarily rev the engine over half scale so the shortest way for the pointer to go to the correct reading is counter-clockwise. After that, it will follow engine speed back down like normal. A brief tap on the accelerator pedal seems a much more logical choice than taking the cluster apart.

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Tuesday, July 26th, 2016 AT 11:40 PM
  • Tiny
  • Lockandload
  • MEMBER

I don't think Ford would do a recall on their own and nobody is forcing their hand to do anything. I understand the ABS/Brake Light issue to be a result of a defective printed circuit board. It's located on the frame rail under the drivers seat under the car and exposed to the elements to some degree. Seems the board can crack and create open open circuit condition. The crack probably allows the metal trace on the board to have an intermittent open and close.

The cost of replacement / repair isn't cost effective for a phantom problem like this so in my opinion a bypass option needs to happen. A simple plug and play module that can be plugged into the factory wiring that sends a false positive signal is what should happen at some point. Find a company to offer one and we all win.

An example of this is the flex fuel sensor on GM vehicles. The sensors always go bad and a factory replacement part is around $400.00. For about $30.00 you can get a simple aftermarket module to plug in as a replacement that simply sends the right resistance signal to the computer. I call it PFM engineering ( pure f*#king magic )

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Wednesday, July 27th, 2016 AT 2:05 AM
  • Tiny
  • Caradiodoc
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The only thing I can agree with is the high cost of repair, regardless if the vehicle is worth fifty dollars or $50,000.00. Technology is cool, but in most cases we are out-pacing our need for it. Chrysler had anti-lock brakes in 1969, and they did it without a computer. My other complaint is the availability of electrical parts when a vehicle gets to be 20 - 40 years old. Ford is already famous for not supplying parts for cars that are only four or five years old. The aftermarket industry has to step in and take over. I have a 1980 Plymouth and a 2014 Dodge truck. It's easier to find parts for the '80 model. What are the chances I can keep the '14 on the road for another 30 years?

The issue still remains that if you indeed found the cause of the warning light to be electrical in nature, that defect is going to prevent the system from working properly either due to incorrect input information or because the computer detected it, set the fault code, and shut the system down. What you described sounds to me like something I could repair rather easily. That is a much better alternative than purposely disabling the system. If you indeed found a break on a circuit board, anyone at a tv repair shop can repair that.

If you have a vacuum power brake booster, you can remove two ABS fuses to disable the system and turn off the warning light. You'll have the normal base brake system that worked fine for almost 100 years. If your power assist comes from brake fluid pumped up to very high pressure, you need the system functioning to have power brakes. I'm not recommending disabling the system. If you were to do that, your safest bet would be to remove everything in the hydraulic system, then install the combination valve made for that vehicle without ABS. Part of that valve limits brake fluid pressure to the rear to prevent rear-wheel-lockup under hard braking. The valve is carefully calibrated to maintain balanced braking, front-to-rear, based on vehicle weight distribution and weight transfer. Also, without ABS you have a split-diagonal hydraulic system. The insures that if there's a leak in one half of the system, the other half is working one front brake. If you bypass the system to have front / rear hydraulic systems and there's a leak in the front, the rear brakes will lock up, tires will skid, and they'll find you in the next county before the van stops. Explain THAT one to your insurance agent after a crash.

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Wednesday, July 27th, 2016 AT 2:44 AM

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