2005 Saturn Vue Technician Diagnostic Tools

Tiny
JOE CRABS
  • MEMBER
  • 2005 SATURN VUE
  • 6 CYL
  • FWD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 10,000 MILES
When your anti locking break lights go on and the front wheel locks and temperatures melt the plastic lugs, doesn't them errors get logged into the computer. Doesn't Saturn have a specific diagnostic tool to read them errors off the messages logged in the history of the computer. I have been a Saturn owner for 20 years and they always would use a test tool to read the computer to diagnose problems when I took it into service. I would like to confirm my understanding and what service providers such as maybe a Midas would have this diagnostic tool besides GM to dump the computer logs. I have a service issue with a GM dealer recommended by Saturn that resulted in major damages and fortunately no injuries. The dealer did break work, the problem occurred a month later, I took it back to service and they found no problems. Then it reoccurred and damaged the front breaks, both front calipers, the right ball joint, the master cylinder hose was burnt, and the master cylinder seal broke. A reputable break specialist service provider clearly identified the problem with the right front caliper that should have been seen after the first reported problem. If it was corrected at that time the other problems would not have occurred. The dealer said he took it for a ride but it is clear the breaks were not visually checked let alone the computer diagnostic test done. They don't have the tool. I need to confirm I am right from an outside party that them errors would be logged in the computer and who has the tool so I can dump the logs. I am getting the run around from Saturn and GM on what they will do regarding this problem. They couldn't even expedite a part I have been waiting for a week. Thanks.
Do you
have the same problem?
Yes
No
Sunday, August 29th, 2010 AT 11:46 AM

6 Replies

Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Hi Joe Crabs. Welcome to the forum. Sounds like there's some misinformation in regards to a number of things. The "dumping of logs" you're referring to involves diagnostic fault codes that get stored in the various computers when one of them detects a problem. All codes require an electronic circuit or system to be detected and stored. Mechanical problems that don't result in something amiss being detected with a sensor will not be recorded.

You are correct in that when the ABS warning light came on, there should be a code in that computer but GM is famous for warning lights coming on intermittently but no code is stored. Even when a code is stored, it only indicates the circuit or system with the problem, not the specific part. For many years, independent shops could only read Engine Computer codes with their aftermarket scanners. Newer equipment is getting better but they are always playing catchup to the manufacturer's stuff. Most shops like Midas that regularly do brake work now have scanners that will access anti-lock brake computers and can read their stored codes.

One comment we hear all the time is when you said, "the problem occurred a month later, I took it back to service and they found no problems. You can't possibly blame someone for a problem that occurs a month later. If the mechanic did something wrong, why were there no problems for a month? We call that "being married" to the car meaning we get the blame for everything that goes wrong from the moment we touch the car. Things break down all the time and someone has to determine exactly what is wrong and what might have caused the problem before we go blaming all the past mechanics who worked on the car.

The fact that parts are getting so hot they are melting plastic parts indicates a brake that is sticking on. To get that hot, you will notice the serious lack of power and you should not continue to drive the vehicle. I have a car right now with a slightly sticking right front caliper and I can notice right away that something is wrong. It's not bad enough for parts to get hot but I can feel the drag and the pulling to the right. To further aggravate your problem, it CAN be intermittent so there might not be a problem to be found when you take it to a shop. Based solely on your description, most mechanics would suspect a sticking brake caliper. Now the question is, ... What do they do to fix the problem? Most people would replace both front calipers and 99 percent chance that would solve the problem. But they might be worried about that one percent chance they will be wrong. If they ARE wrong, you will be angry because they sold you parts you didn't need. If they do the proper thing and want to verify the diagnosis first to be sure they're selling you the right service, you will be angry because they didn't do anything. There are other things that cause a brake to drag including a constricted rubber hose, (usually those that have a metal bracket in the middle that builds up rust inside the crimp and squeezes the hose), brake fluid contaminated with petroleum product causing seals to swell, (this is a REAL expensive problem, especially with anti-lock brakes), and a brake light switch that is misadjusted and holding the brake pedal down a little.

The best thing you can do, if possible, is to get to a shop when the problem is occurring. If you're lucky, someone will have the time to run out and open a bleeder screw. If fluid pressure and the brakes release, they will know something is keeping the calipers applied. If the brakes still don't release, the calipers themselves are about the only thing that can be bad. That is fairly common on many car models although GM seems to have a little less trouble than some other manufacturers.

That fact that your ABS light is on could be due to a wheel speed sensor melting, or it could simply be the computer noticed that it is not able to control one wheel properly due to the sticking caliper. Reading the fault code(s) will point in the direction to start looking.

Caradiodoc
Was this
answer
helpful?
Yes
No
Sunday, August 29th, 2010 AT 1:20 PM
Tiny
JOE CRABS
  • MEMBER
I read your response and I agree with your analysis, but here is where my break issues are. One, they inspected the breaks on 6/17, flushed them, added fluid and everything was fine. The problem occurred on 7/29. Yes I agree I can't prove the problem just didn't occur but if you want to give them the benefit then everything was good. They inspected the car supposedly on 8/12 and said everything is fine. Yes I know it was too long and it's my wife's car and she is stubborn and left the hubcap with the melted lugs on it in NY and wanted to take it to them. But the problem didn't occur again until after they inspected the car on 8/12. The problem happened again on 8/20 when all the damage was done. Pep Boys simply stated by the conditions of the parts that because the right side with the bad caliper was bad and the breaks on the right side were way out of spec with the left side they didn't visully check it. There was no way the deteriation of the breaks would be that bad and uneven in one week. They also stated based on the condition if they checked the breaks visually they would have seen it let alone checked the computer. The dealer said he took it for a ride. Pep Boys told Saturn this and I have the parts being held. My issue was more of one tying in a anti locking break fault occurring on 7/29 with the fact they did not visually check the breaks on the 8/12 service which was also suppose to be a 27 point inspection besides the fact of the problem I told them I had. I been a loyal Saturn customer for 20 years. I am not a fan of GM, I had problems with a Chevy and was forced to take them to court after 18 docemented problems and 25 years of being a direct GM customer and won. But Saturn kept trying to get me to use GM Buick for service (no more dealerships around) and kept sending the free oil change and inspection coupons to try it. I expected them to do the right thing here and I am not sure they will. They couldn't even expedite the part which I am still waiting for 8 days later. They are going to call me back on Tuesday with their response. The GM Buick service mgr has been on vacation. If Saturn was still a legitiment company I know they would do the right thing but I don't have faith dealing directly with GM. I just want to get all my facts straight before they give me their response, so I know what my options are. Your thoughts on this and then thank you.
Was this
answer
helpful?
Yes
No
+1
Sunday, August 29th, 2010 AT 9:36 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
I guess it's hard for me to draw a decent conclusion with so many variables in the braking system. A sticking caliper is not common on GM cars, but it CAN happen. Any caliper sticking intermittently is not common, but it CAN happen. When it sticks, it can reduce the effectiveness of the anti-lock function, but the computer will just assume the tire is sliding on ice or is finding extra traction compared to the other three tires. That won't result in a fault code. Also, the ABS doesn't even do anything unless the brake pedal is pressed AND one wheel is spinning slower than the two other slowest wheels.

I suspect any fault code in the computer will be related to an overheated sensor and that will be the result of a mechanical problem, (sticking caliper). The question is if it was overlooked during an inspection or test drive, was it sticking intermittently and why?

Rusted pins, bolts, or slides that a caliper mounts on will also allow it to stick but I don't believe that would be so bad as to melt a wheel cover. Usually that problem just results in a slight pull to one side during or after braking. It can also keep only one pad on that wheel partially applied so you might see an inner pad, for example, half worn out while the outer pad looks like new.

I suppose a leaking valve in the ABS hydraulic controller could be leaking and partially applying the brake but I've never really heard of that on any car. I don't think that is something that is even monitored by the ABS computer. The place to start is by having the codes read. Their description will provide a good starting point. By the way, when the yellow ABS warning light is on, the ABS system is disabled and shouldn't even be a factor. If they're still using the same system they had in the '90s, your system doesn't even pump and store high pressure fluid like other systems, so internal leakage can't even be considered. Three rotating gears run screws rapidly up and down that pressurize and depressurize fluid in their cylinders many times per second that feed either front wheel or the rear pair of wheels as necessary to control the braking force to that wheel. With the system disabled, there will be no pressurized fluid to cause a brake to apply on its own. That leads back to a sticking caliper.

If I understand your complaint correctly, it isn't so much that there is a problem, it's the fact someone should have caught it earlier during an inspection. That might have saved overheating and melting parts, but I can think of a few scenarios where it could be overlooked even during a thorough inspection. Some hints or clues that might have been visible could also be present when there is no other underlying problem. One example is uneven pad wear from side to side or between the inner and outer pads on either side.

I should probably clarify too, after rereading your first post, that the computer only memorizes fault codes for electrical problems, not physical problems with the base brake system. By that I mean worn pads, rotors that are too thin or grooved, sticking calipers, even fluid leaks are not monitored. What IS monitored is the continuity to the four wheel speed sensors, the four signals from those sensors, the continuity to the three motorized actuators and the voltage supplied to the brake light switch. One real common problem only GM has been having for a few years is "dropouts" from one wheel speed sensor due to the tiniest amount of play in a wheel bearing. Only they build the wheel speed sensor into the bearing assembly, and while the bearing itself is not defective or even excessively worn, replacing it is the only way to get the ABS sensor working properly again. While that IS indeed a mechanical problem, it shows up to the computer as an electrical problem in the form of a loss of signal from that one wheel.

Another mechanical problem that should be mentioned for the benefit of other readers with different brands of cars, is a cracked toothed tone ring on the cv joint, rotor hub, or brake drum hub. Water can seep in under it, freeze and expand causing the ring to crack. The sensor will pick up that crack as another gap between two teeth and end up with one extra pulse per wheel revolution. While that doesn't sound like a lot, it can be enough to turn on the warning light and disable the system. Even though the ABS doesn't do anything unless the brake light switch is turned on, (brake pedal is pressed), the computer still monitors wheel speeds while driving, in part, to identify if one or two tires are a different side than the rest. This is how the system works on Chrysler products. Based on distance traveled, usually less than a mile, the computer can determine the difference between a cracked tone ring, (causing 48 pulses per tire revolution instead of the normal 47), a slightly different size tire, and the vehicle going around a gentle curve on the highway. Part of the strategy is on a curve, all four wheels will be going different speeds while if three wheel speeds are the same, it knows you're going straight and the fourth wheel is supposed to going the same speed.

Sorry to get so long-winded with that description but it might help someone else looking for a solution to their problem. Your car can not suffer from the cracked tone ring. It uses a stamped steel disc inside the wheel bearing that can't get water in it and it won't crack. Only the signal dropouts have been real common, but that won't lead to melted wheel covers either.

One simple thing you can look at quickly is the rubber bladder seal under the cap on the fluid reservoir. If it balloons up and is mushy and hard to reinstall, the fluid is contaminated with petroleum product. If that's the case, we have other, serious issues to discuss. That WILL lead to sticking brakes eventually and replacing just a caliper won't be the final fix. By the way, the most common clues to contaminated fluid is a car that won't move, (brakes stay applied), and melted wheel covers, usually on multiple wheels. If that seal looks normal and pops back into the cap with light finger pressure, (be sure your fingers are clean and have no grease on them), I suspect the whole problem stems from nothing more than a sticking caliper. They are normally replaced in pairs to insure even braking. Also, if the mechanic says you need rotors too, that is real common on today's cars because they are made so thin to start with to save weight and improve fuel mileage. The good news is most rotors that used to cost near $100.00 are now often less than $25.00. Many shops elect to replace them during routine brake service rather than machine the old ones because it saves time, ($$ for both of you), and eliminates the cost of machining that you would ultimately pay for. The other advantage to replacing both rotors is they will heat up and cool down at the same rate. The friction characteristics of the brake linings change with temperature, so the rotors being the same thickness promotes even braking all the time. This has become a real big issue with larger, heavier pickup trucks. It's not much of a problem on smaller cars. On some trucks, (including two lemon law buybacks I was ultimately involved with), a difference in rotor thickness of.007", (the thickness of two sheets of paper), is enough to cause a wild brake pull after the brakes got hot. That's on rotors that are way over an inch thick. Years ago we never had such a problem. Bottom line is once the sticking brake cause is identified and corrected, a standard brake job with two new rotors will probably provide the most satisfactory braking performance. It doesn't sound like anyone did anything to your car to cause the problem. They just didn't find or search for the cause on previous inspections.

Caradiodoc
Was this
answer
helpful?
Yes
No
Monday, August 30th, 2010 AT 1:06 AM
Tiny
JOE CRABS
  • MEMBER
Thanks again for your thorough expert analysis. You hit it on the head the service is my issue and the computer error logging. I spoke to the dealer service mgr today and I got a bunch of lip service as expected. He blamed Pep Boys for replacing everything to solve the problem and even hinted of a possible different cause that he can't resolve on another Saturn. He said he inspected the breaks and no codes in the computer. He then told me he didn't want to inspect the wheel because it would have cost me more money. On the service report it states melted lugs on hub cap. My wife brought the hub cap. I asked him why he didn't call and tell me he needed to do more work after I told him the wheel locked up with my wife and granddaughter in the car. No sensible answer. I reviewed the parts and they were damaged. I agee with you it is most likely the failed caliper as diagnosed. However, the condition you stated for the code to be entered occurred, the right wheel locked, the 3 wheels were spinning, and my wife hit the breaks after the ABS light came on. I will now get Midas to dump the codes they have the tool for my own satisfaction. I don't expect much from Saturn or a reimbursement here because I didn't spend money on the inspection. However, the internet is a wonderful place for information and I think at wosrt case I can cost them a few cars and hopefully save someone else some grief. Great job in your information, I will certainly use your service again if needed.
Was this
answer
helpful?
Yes
No
Monday, August 30th, 2010 AT 8:53 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Very happy you're happy with me, but I don't think I helped very much. As a side note, I believe once a fault code is stored in the ABS computer and that disables the system, it will not continue to record additional, different problems. That might not pertain to all car models, but as an example, if one wheel speed sensor is not working properly, the computer won't detect a problem with a second one since it already recorded a problem with one that is needed to compare readings to. I said that kind of goofy but I think you get the idea. As a better example, the Engine Computer knows that when the engine has been off for many hours, the coolant temperature sensor and the incoming air temperature sensor had better be reading the same temperature. If it has memorized a fault code for one of them, it will never record a code for the other one since it has nothing reliable to compare to. The problem with that strategy, from the mechanic's point of view, and of course from yours, is if there are multiple problems in a system, you might not know about the second one until the first one is repaired. Then you get the surprise of more trouble after spending a pile of money. That usually occurs when the first problem has been ignored for a long time. I don't think you have to worry about that, but it's good to mention it in case it does happen.

Caradiodoc
Was this
answer
helpful?
Yes
No
Tuesday, August 31st, 2010 AT 2:37 AM
Tiny
JOE CRABS
  • MEMBER
No worry if that's the case. All I need is the error code from the problem before I brought it back for service on 7/29. The failure after they looked at it is insignificant, the damage speaks for it self. I have all the damaged parts but I think the code will be key. They said there were no error codes in the system, period. However, on that note if they erased the codes does it show the date of deletion? I really don't believe they checked the computer period. Let's face it GM Buick had an oppertunity to check the brakes and fix the problem and I would have been more then happy to resolve it and pay for it. Makes you wonder though, he didn't have a problem asking me to authorize the $700 on the first visit 6/17 and he was in the brakes. My biggest issue was my wife's safety which he seemed to forget was the main reason I was there, not a free oil change paid by Saturn. He said he wanted to save me the expense instead of replacing all the parts in the breaks like Pep Boys did. Different circumstances you think. It's marked on the work order, lugs melted to cap. My wife brought the hub cap with her, it flew off the wheel when it locked. Scary isn't it. Saturn is in the middle right now because they recommended the dealer and of my long patronage (20 yrs) to their vehicles (4) and all were dealer maintained. I never had a problem with their service and they took good care of me. My complaint to Saturn was escalated to the next level manager from the 2nd level and a complaint filed against the dealer on my behalf. They are going to talk to the dealer again. You put me in the right direction no matter how it turns out and gave me a good education. Thanks again
Was this
answer
helpful?
Yes
No
Tuesday, August 31st, 2010 AT 7:20 PM

Please login or register to post a reply.

Recommended Guides