Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

ABS and Traction Lights are On!

RE: 1995 Mercury Mystique 6 cylinder GS 86,000 miles.

Suddenly, in the midst of a heavy rain the ABS and traction lights came on. They went off when it dried up the next day and came back on during another rainshower the next day. Now they are ON all the time. I took it to a Ford dealer and they did a diagnostic. They said it was coding on all 4 sensors and on a few other things. They re-set the codes (or whatever they do) and now the lights are off. They also said that the module may be ‘going’ and that a new one with labor would be about $2000!

My question is: 1) Does this sound like a reasonable diagnosis and a reasonable repair?

2) Is the ABS system working even though the light is on? I’ve heard two different answers on this. According to the Ford dealer, if the light is on then they are not working. According to the local brake shop (that doesn’t do ABS repair) the ABS system is still working.

Thanks for any clarifications here!


If the ABS light is on, the anti-lock function is disabled. The brakes will still work, but the are no longer anti-lock brakes as long as the light is on.

If the light stays off don’t worry about it. Maybe the rain is affecting the electrical connections at the wheel speed sensors and turning on the lights, since the traction control works off the same sensors.

How do they know the module is “going?” That’s BS. The module works or it doesn’t. When and if it fails the light will come on and it will stay on, regardless of any reset.

Thanks Much…If the rain ‘precipitates’ another problem with the lights staying on permanently (as happened last week) what do you suggest? A module reset costs about $100 so that’s not really practical, and, of course, I’d like to have the ABS working, especially in the rain!

plus its a ford motor com
my dad has like a ford every year of my
life and i’m 21 has red 98 did his new 04 does it
so there you go
{JaSpEr RACE boy}

You need to find a different mechanic-- this isn’t that hard. Basically, you need to find a shop that has an ABS scan tool, which most of them should, and they’ll check and see why the light is actually coming on. Given that it seems to be going on when it’s wet (the module doesn’t get wet after all!), I’d guess there’s a very good chance the problem is a wheel sensor, which should be maybe a couple hundred bucks tops.

Be sure to emphasize to them that it only happens when wet-- it sounds like maybe the dealer didn’t see anything currently wrong with the system and concluded module (which is what you say it is when you can’t find anything else wrong). If I were doing it, I’d get it on a lift and spray each wheel sensor with a hose one at a time until I got the light to come on.

The names of companies that repair ABS and other modules have been listed on this Forum,if it turns out you need a module you may want to explore this avenue.

I think the Dealer is relying on past situations when they state “the module may be going” as I don’t know of a diagnostic test that can give a expected remnaining life span of a part such as a ABS module.

Lots of money to fix a $2000.00 car (please don’t be offended)

Can you please type full words and sentences? I have no idea what you just said

Since moisture is a factor, on a car this age it could be that the seal on the module is old. High humidity does affect electronics and as time passes residue accumulates on the circuit boards and even a slight amount of new humidity will cause the malfunction.

Another age/humidity related possibility is around the electrical connectors. they’re supposed to be weather sealed and may have had dielectric grease also but over time those seals and grease dry out. Then you add the accumulation of road grime, oily residue, and dust & dirt and you can easily see the possible conductivity of those gunky accumulations when wet.
A good cleaning certainly can’t hurt. Unplug each connection and clean with a circuit cleaner front and back , inside and out. Dry. Some connections use a dielectric grease to keep out moisture and it will need to be re-applied.

I can’t fix it for you but I can give you sympahty. I have a 98 Volvo V 70 Station Wagon with the exact same problem except I am having problems off and on with my brakes. Mine started after a bad rain and the traction off and ABS light came on. I can hear the Traction noise from time to time even when the weather is dry. Sometimes it comes on and then it will go off for a while. Locally they have not been able to fix it but am told I need a new control box. I have to drive in snowy weather and so far have been able to work with the brakes when I don’t have ABS. Wonder if it is dangerous or hurting the brakes. Any ideas for me? It will be another month before the garage can see my car. ??? Help me too

Not to be a stickler about it, but this is a 2 month old post, and the OP probably doesn’t frequent the site anymore. A new post would have been more appropriate.

“…they have not been able to fix it but am told I need a new control box”? I don’t quite understand. I think they are correct, you need a new controller, or at least this one remanufactured. If they did not do that, can they not find a replacement, or are you not authorizing them to do the work? There are places that can remanufacture the controller, like According to thier site, a common failure of the module results in multiple speed sensor codes and a pump out of tolerance code. Luckily, while they are re-building it, you can continue to drive the car. We used them for a failed module in a 2000 Cadillac Catera, and managed to get the module out on a Sunday, and the rebuild unit back on Friday using overnight shipping both ways.

On the other question, using your brakes while the unit is being flaky will not damage the brakes. The ABS system is designed to be fail-safe, and should not interfere with brake operations when disabled. The only dangerous part is if your not trained to use the brakes in snow without the ABS. While the ABS light is on, the ABS will not kick in when needed. You’ll need to do the brake pumping and metering to control the wheel slide.