Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

ABS Disabled on 97 Ram

I’ve got a unique and puzzling problem that I hope someone can help me with. I recently bought a 97 Dodge Ram 1500 at an auction and I noticed the brakes were a little worn at the time, but otherwise it checked out mechanically and the price was right, so I bought it. About a month ago, I changed the brakes, new calipers, cylinders, the whole shebang. After that I noticed the brakes were especially touchy and that they would lock up at the slightest push. It’s especially bad when the brakes are cold, but it gets a little better when they warm up. I instantly suspected a problem with the ABS, maybe a bad relay, so I cracked open the fuse/relay box under the hood - which I hadn’t bothered to check when I bought the truck. I was shocked to discover that someone had completely disabled the ABS system. Not only were the relays and fuses pulled, but some of the metal contacts that were in the relay sockets had been removed, so even if you replaced the relay, it wouldn’t work. The ABS warning light on the dash never came on because the relay that activates that was removed too. So other than competely replacing the fuse box and the missing relays which I don’t really have the time or money to do, can anyone suggest how I can make the brakes less prone to locking up. It’s especially dangerous in the rain.

So, boiled down, the ABS has been disabled. After a brake job, the brakes grab and lock up.
The problem was there for the previous owner. S/he disabled the ABS rather than fix the problem.
With a pick up, rear ABS makes the most sense because of premature brake lock up.
Does the truck have RWABS (rear wheel anti-lock brake system)?
Since you changed most of the parts, the parts you didn’t change are likely the cause of the wheel lock up. The brake hose can deteriorate internally and cause brake lock up. Change the brake hoses. Check the brake lines for dents or kinks.

Yep, RWABS. Checked the lines and hoses externally, but didn’t think about internal brake hose deteriorization, good thought. Lockup is occurring on the front brakes primarily so hoses are probably a good candidate for the cause. Thanks.

I am sure this vehicle was cheap at auction. To fix the issue will likely cost more than finding another auction truck of same vintage with working ABS.

A salvage yard may have the RWABS parts at a reasonable price.

It sounds like your brake pads/shoes may be contaminated with oil or something else. That will tend to make them “grabby” A mis-adjusted parking brake can make rear drums lock up too. I’d give the thing a total brake job, it may not even have the correct parts installed. As far as some relay sockets missing contacts, are you sure they’re for the ABS? A lot of times the fuse box or distribution center under the hood is used for several models of vehicle, and it’s not supposed to have a relay installed in every spot, nor contacts there if the vehicle’s wiring harness doesn’t call for it. The best might be to find a competent Dodge mechanic, or at least compare it to a same model and year vehicle and see how it matches up.