01 Windstar Electrical Issues (Brake lights and dead battery)

01 Windstar.

Cruise control doesn’t work and the brake lights on the back of the vehicle often stay on or come on by themselves even when the vehicle is parked.

This has been going on for some years. The battery would drain and then the car would not start.

Last year the battery would be intermittently dead and I would have to get it jumped. The battery (several times) and the alternator have been replaced (at the prompting of repair folks.) I never believed it was the battery or the alternator; I always suggested these were symptoms not problems.

Two weeks ago the instrument gauges rotated back and forth when I started the car. They did not stop; all gauges went from resting position to maximum position repeatedly. I shut the van back off and started it again only only to find it was doing the same thing. Concerned and agitated, I drove home with moving gauges. While driving the tach arm went beyond its limit and got stuck in the drive identifier to the left of the Park P. It’s still there.

Two days later, the van idled up and down rapidly waiting to make a left turn and then almost died. After my turn the blinker arm came back down in place but the light would not shut off. Within a mile, and after two more turns, the van died. I put the van in park, took the key out, got out and the blinker was still going. The headlights were also on although the switch was in the off position.

The van had to be jumped again. It drove about 200 yards at a low idle and then died again. After 3 more jumps (and 15 minutes of letting it charge off another vehicle) I got it to a dealer.

After 4 days of “we can’t figure it out”, they said that the brake switch and the after-market electric remote starter were draining .01 amps from the battery causing the batter to die out. I had already disconnected the remote start wire from the battery. They replaced the brake switch and disconnected the remote start under the dash.

The brake light and ABS lights were also on and I was told that the ABS hydraulic control unit and electric control unit (that goes with it) needed to be replaced ($2,700.00). I did not have that replaced as I believe they were possibly seeing those codes due to my unskilled changing of the front brake pads.

When I got the van back it drove fine for two days. Then yesterday the blinker failed to shut off again, then the radio turned off by itself (3 times) and then the idle went low and the van died. I tried to restart it but the battery was dead. There wasn’t even enough energy left to get the windows up. After the car sat for an hour, the battery recharged itself enough to get the windows up but it would not start.

The dealership is supposed to come get the vehicle and try again. I’m concerned they aren’t looking in the right places or are now just going to try whatever they can.

Does anyone have any ideas?

Even though the dealer replaced the brake light switch it still sounds to me as if that is the problem. If the brake lights stick on, the cruise control won’t work. This is why the cruise control goes off when you step on the brakes.

I had a 2000 Windstar that I sold to my son. When the battery was low, the gauges did all sorts of interesting things. If your brake lights are sticking on, the battery is going to run down.

My son, who is not mechanically minded, managed to replace a brake light switch when he owned the Windstar. Money is tight in his household and a shop wanted $100 to replace the switch. He called me and I told him to go to an auto parts store and buy a switch. The switch clips in place under the dash. When he bought the new switch, he knew what to look for. He changed the switch in 15 minutes without tools–switch clips in and there is a plug in connection. He said he could do another replacement in 5 minutes since he now knows how to do it.

There was a 2002 recall, #02S33, for the electrical connections and wires in the right rear quarter floor area.
Short cicuits here will affect the brake lights all the related systems.

Has 02S33 ever been done to this truck ?

I have an 03 that had a brake switch problem resulting in stories like yours, The gauges used to do the dance every now and then before I finally fixed it. The brake lights when the battery got so low would even flash on and of synchronized to the theft light. My first fix worked, cracking the plastic box saturating the thing with wd40 then exercising the heck out of it. 2 years ago. (looking at the switch it is not a normal switch nor easy to replace)