Cruise Control Sudden Death

My cruise control suddenly quite while driving … the speedometer dropped to 0 … no more odometer … and automatic shifting became very harsh! Oh yea … no more overdrive either! What happened?

You will need to provide more details so that others can help you. Make and model of vehicle? Year? Miles ?

Given almost nothing to go on… Best guess is it is a problem with the VSS (Vehicle Speed Sensor). That would cause all the problems mentioned. Some cars just have one, some average the signals from all four wheels.

OK … it’s a '98 Ford Contour with about 70K. I was driving down the road at about 59 mph … I tapped the ‘Coast’ button (which drops the speed in one mph increments) and just as I tapped it my speedometer dropped to 0. Then we were kind of afraid to stop but we did (had to pick up fresh oysters!) It started right back up but as we motored back to the highway it didn’t shift out of first gear till it revved way high … and then when it did finally shift it did so with a huge jerk accompanied by a loud thump! It didn’t sound good.

Agreed, a bad VSS could account for all symptoms. Fortunately, these gizmos are not expensive.

OK! Thank you all for your responses! Now since the VSS is so inexpensive … could I save even more money by simply going down to NAPA … picking one up … and slapping it in there myself? … or is replacement an ordeal?

Before even going to NAPA, did you check out the fuses? There is the basic fuse box under the dash as well as another under the hood. I would check the manual and look at the possibility of all of these things being on the same fuse and check it.

But - if it is fuse related, then you need to figure out what problem made it blow. Otherwise it will likely just blow again.

Understand we are just guessing about the VSS. We have not examined the car itself and your problem description is vague, not complete. The check engine light, for example? You can proceed with the replacement yourself if you are feeling lucky. We make no guarantees.

Oh I understand Steve …though not sure what more I can tell you to make my problem description less vague … other than Yes the check engine light is now on … it happened all at the same time. Doesn’t really seem like a fuse ‘thing’ since it happened right when I tapped the ‘coast’ button while in cruise control mode.

Definitely get the codes read then, before replacing any parts, and post them here.

A failed VSS should turn on the check engine light. You can get the code read for free at AutoZone, assuming your car is OBDII. I think around 97 was the cutover point for that. Anyway, even if it is the code for VSS, that doesn’t mean the VSS sensor itself is the problem.
The right way to do this is to get out the factory shop manual for the car and follow the troubleshooting flowchart for the problem.
The other way to do it is to throw parts at it. In this case, it might not be too bad to try. Before buying a VSS, I would at least find where yours is at and then check the wiring to it to make sure none of the wiring is cut or shorted, at least where you can see it under the car.

OK I’m back! I had to wait til Monday (today) to get the car into have the codes read … (no AutoZone around here) … so you asked me to post the code here …
it read PO500. The guy at the shop was ready to send me to a transmission shop to have it looked at but I talked him into ordering me a new VSS ($60) and installing it for me (shop book says it should take a half hour) but that won’t happen til Friday. So I guess I’ll report back after Friday … P.S. does anyone out there have the capability of finding out what
TSB 01-21-13 is regarding?

That TSB has to do with ignition switch problems. Is the ignition switch hard to turn? P0500 is a code for VSS, but it could be a failure other than the VSS sensor itself. As was said, replacing it may be worth the gamble. Please report your results Friday.

OK … It’s Friday and I have results! … We threw a VSS at the ol’ Contour and it is now “back to it’s old self” …(actually I haven’t driven it … that’s a quote from my wife … she drove it home from the shop.) The old VSS had a plastic ‘plunger’ (actuator stick? not sure what to call it) but anyway it had broken clean off! The new VSS has one made out of brass! ( a rare case of where they make the replacement part better than the original!)
Anyway thanks for all your help everyone that posted! This is a great site … I’ve got it bookmarked now and I may be back with tales of my '92 Ford F350 that I plan on running into the ground!

Glad it worked out okay, and that we could help. Thanks for posting the end result, many don’t.

Another satisfied customer!

Well done, BK. Thanks for the follow-up.