Ford Focus Brakes

I have a 2000 Ford Focus ZTS with 88,000 miles on it. I went in to NTB to get my brakes checked today and they found I need new brake drums and shoes no real big deal, go ahead and replace them.

Well at the end of the day (6 hours later) the brakes are replaced but the car is throwing a code on the panel (the ABS and Brake idiot-lights are on) but the NTB guys are saying they not getting any codes from their diagnostic machine. They’re not sure what to do since near as they can tell everything should be fine and tell me to take it to the dealer (since the dealer’s diagnostic machine is better suited for getting the code the car is tossing) and send me on my way.

On may way home in an empty stretch of road leading to my house I decide to “test” my brakes by slamming on them (expecting the car to come screeching to a halt and to feel the ABS pulsating in the pedal.) Well much to my surprise not only does the ABS not seem to activate but the back end of the car swings out as if it isn’t be stopped by the brakes! The car stops fine normally (under I’m guessng the influence of only the front-end disc brakes) but not only do I precieve this as being very, very dangerous but I’m curious and puzzled as to what NTB could’ve done/not done to cause the lights to activate and for the brakes to not work at all!

Any help would be appreciated.

The back end of your car “swinging out” is not caused by no brakes it is caused by wheel lock up. This shop has totally screwed up your brakes. They have caused the ABS to throw an error code and now your rear brakes do not have anti-lock which is what allowed the wheel lock up and the rear end to “step out”. This is an extremely dangerous condition and they must fix it immediately.


The only reasons that the ANTI-LOCK light AND the BRAKE! light will come on SIMULTANEOUSLY and REMAIN LIT is this: An ABS system fault or failure has occured, and is affecting the service braking system. A BRAKE light by itself means partial system failure, or low fluid level (generally caused by part or full failure due to a leak.) or sometimes a bad combination valve. An ABS light alone means that the ABS system has detected a fault and is no longer operating, but the normal service braking system is unaffected.

If you ever get a combination ABS and BRAKE light that does not turn off, get home immediately, and keep a constant check on your brakes. They could fail at any moment if they have not already. You should NOT be driving this car!

As for your “swinging out.” The rear end of the car only “swings out”, as in, the car turns sideways, if the rear wheels lock up durning braking. If this was the case, I’d say that your brakes are operating normally, or you could possibly have a faulty combination/proportioning valve or valves. But since the ABS light is on, I’m inclined to think that the problem may be within the ABS system itself. Maybe ABS systems that are fully contained into one unit control brake proportioning at the ABS master cylinder. The master cylinder, accumulator pump, accumulator bladder, proportioning device, control vavles and actuators are all contained into one unit mounted to the firewall. If this was the case, you’d know, because instead of a simple master cylinder, you’d see a major mechanical jumble on the firewall, within which the master is embedded.

In some other systems, the proportioning valve is electronically adjustable so that under ABS braking, with differing system pressures, the proportioning valve doesn’t throw off the ABS’s game, so to speak. If it’s under the ABS’s control, it’s a non variable, and you get a more reliable non-skidding stop.

So first you should get to the dealer and have them retrieve the ABS codes. That will tell you what is wrong. Leave computer related issues, as well as major component issues to the dealer or a competent mechanic. Simple component replacement (master cylinder, wheel sensor, proportioning valve assembly, etc.) you can safely handle if you know what you are doing. Or you can leave those to most any (good quality, trusted) brake mechanic.

If you plan on driving the vehicle to the dealer yourself, keep a constant check on your brakes as long as the lights are on. Plan to go at a time where the traffic is lightest, and use the route less traveled. The lower the speed limit, the better. If you have Tripple A coverage, and you haven’t used it in a while, this would be a good time to give that great little AAA card of yours some use and have the car towed to the dealer.

Until the problem is fixed, remove the vehicle from normal service.


Damned lack of an EDIT button! Here are corrections to my previous post, in the order of writing in the original post.

  1. I did not mean to say that your brakes are operating normally, as they are likely NOT operating normally. I simply meant to say that the symptom of the car “swinging out” sideways does not provide enough information on its own to indicate a brake fault. If the car braked abnormally heavilly at the front end (you got a bigger dip of the front end than normal) or at the rear end (less dip, but the rear wheels locked), then you probably have a bad proportioning valve/valves or combination valve.

  2. I meant to say “MANY ABS systems that are…” not “Maybe ABS systems…”

  3. If you have a fully contained ABS hydraulic assembly (such as an earlier Bosch model, or Teves models), and you feel like replacing it yourself, you can generally safely do that too if you know what you are doing.

  4. I can’t stress enough that the car should remain benched until the problem is fixed.

-Matt (again)

Oh and PS: Once the dealer has determined what is wrong, be sure to ask them if these guys could have caused it. If so, I’m sure the dealer could help you put pressure on the other mechanics to rectify the problem for free or pay for the dealer’s repairs if the necessary work is outside the scope of their shop. If it saves the dealer money and makes them look better, they’ll hop on.

-Matt (once more)

Well turns out the guys at the first shop didn’t do something right with the brakes (according to the tech at Ford) the sensor on one brake wasn’t fully seated and the sensor on the other brake was broken into… the spindle… Or something. In short the ABS sensors weren’t hooked up so it got fixed They suggested the guys in the first shop did this but in dealing with them they weren’t convinced it was them (even though they where the last ones to mess with the brakes before the problem arose) but gladly paid the $450 bill for replacing the spindle/sensor thingie.