Chrysler Corporation Antilock Brakes
General ABS system precautions
First, don't rely on ABS. Leave safe distances between you and the next car and remember that no ABS system is infallible. Nor do they dramatically reduce stopping distances on good pavement. Marv Miller suggests replacing the brake fluid every 2-4 years, as many European carmakers recommend. Use only the brake fluid the manufacturer recommends -- silicone based fluids often may not be used (using the wrong fluid may destroy the entire system - at your expense!). Be careful to fully depressurize the system before adding or changing brake fluids.
If your brakes fail, ABS or not
- Try pressing down harder; you might have just lost your power assist.
- Use the emergency brake. It has a mechanical connection and is not related to your normal brakes (though it uses the same shoes on some cars, they are activated by a cable rather than by a fluid). On many vehicles the emergency brake is foot operated; don't go crazy with this brake, a light touch is best, slow down gradually.
- Downshift and use engine compression.
- If in a panic stop with an automatic transmission, use Reverse. A new transmission is cheaper than a new car and life.
Modern antilock brakes are far more reliable and less likely to need repair than the older systems. Indeed, actual system failure is almost unheard of. Most common is dirt getting into the sensors, which activates the ABS light and shuts down the system. When this happened on our 100,000 mile Neon (after the leaf-blowers visited - which is one reason we still rake), we examined and tried to clean each sensor. We ended up having the system checked by a mechanic with a code-checker to find out which sensor was not working, and took it out and cleaned it - which worked once we reset the computer (by the unplug-the-battery method).
Do you have the Bendix ABS-10 system? (You don’t if your car is newer than 1993)
These are the Chrysler Corp vehicles that had the ABS-10. According to some Net sources, GM also used the ABS-10, but that has not been verified.
- 90-93 C body (Dynasty/New Yorker)
- 90-93 Y body (Imperial)
- 91-92 BB body (Premier/Monaco - Renault designs)
- 91-93 S body (Minivans - Caravan/Voyager)
David Yohler noted that in his case, ABS failure on a 1993 minivan (ABS-10) was due to a bad pump, replaced under warranty, and a pressure switch to tell the pump when to run (which cost a couple hundred between parts and labor). Even on these systems, ABS repairs don't necessary get too pricey.
Aaron wrote: I have an 1989 Cherokee with the recalled ABS system that has close to 300,000 miles on it. Because the people at Jeep know the system was a bad design there is a LIFETIME WARRANTY on certain parts of the system. If your warranty has not been previously voided by a mechanic you can get many repairs done for free at any Jeep dealer. [This may apply to other cars with this system - if the dealer denies knowledge, call the warranty hotline at 800-992-1997. This might only apply in the US.]
Update (posted circa 1997)
G. Smith writes: The Bendix-10 system and the very similar Bendix-9 (optional on '89-91 Cherokee) are basically a "one-piece" system. They do not have a separate master cylinder or vacuum-operated booster as we would know them from non-ABS vehicles. This design type was more or less the industry standard in the mid to late '80s when the Bendix 9 and 10 were developed. Other brake systems manufacturers, such as Bosch and ATE, also sold their own design one-piece ABS systems to a variety of domestic and European auto manufacturers.
The Bendix 4 system and other ABS systems which CC is currently using in production, use a SEPARATE master cylinder and vacuum-operated booster which are similar to, but not identical to, the units found in non-ABS vehicles. The hydraulic assembly (the "guts" of the system which builds and releases brake pressure when ABS is invoked) is a separate assembly and can be mounted remotely from the master cylinder's traditional location on the driver's side of the firewall. CC has, therefore, mounted the hydraulic assembly on its newer vehicles ('96 minivan, Neon, Cirrus/Stratus, LH, Jeeps) on the crossmember at the bottom of the engine compartment. This move has freed up room for "cab-forward" design and a lower hoodline. The systems using a separate hydraulic assembly may also be lighter and/or cheaper to manufacture.
Any '92 and newer Jeeps with ABS use a separate master cylinder and hydraulic assembly. It is important to note that CC uses Bendix on some vehicle lines, and Teves (a German company) on other vehicle lines. There may be other ABS system manufacturers currently in use by CC, but no others come to mind.
ABS-10 system problems (posted circa 1996)
If you have had problems with your Bendix ABS system, write to Bendix and say that you will not be buying any of their or their parent company's products until they stand behind their products and replace defective components with redesigned ones.
Chrysler has reportedly slashed prices of replacement ABS components to dealers, and, acccording to some reports, will share the cost of ABS system replacement on many out of warranty vehicles. This of course does not apply if the owner or a mechanic put the incorrect brake fluid into the system.
The following information was sent third-hand to the Webmaster. It is therefore hearsay and the Webmaster takes no responsibility, particularly in legal terms, for the accuracy of the information on this page. Please proceed at your own informational risk.
The central problem of the ABS-10 system is a leak in the seals of the master cylinder piston. When this leak occurs, reserve pressure continuously bleeds off; this causes the pump to run more as time goes on. Eventually, the pump runs continuously until it burns out. For example, in one person's vehicle, the pump runs for over 5 seconds every 30, whether the person is using the brakes or not. This appears to be the only visible symptom, so watch for it.
Unless you notice that the pump is running every time you press the brakes, there may be no warning of failure - until the pump fails. Then, after a couple of normal brakings, the brake light on the instrument panel will activate and the power assist will disappear. The brakes will still work, but the power assist will be gone. Without the power assistance, it may seem as though you have lost the brakes. To a large degree, of course, you have unless you have a strong leg and foot. On the brighter side, you are not much worse off than you would have been in a large car with no power brakes, such as the Webmaster's 1973 Dart Swinger.
There have also been reports of complete brake failure.
Parts to repair the brakes have not been made available by Bendix to anyone except Chrysler and GM. Chrysler is generally aware of these problems and handling them on a car by car basis. There is apparently no real fix available.
These brakes have reportedly been recalled by Chrysler, and the warranty extended to 100,000 miles.
Another Perspective (George Bonser)
Something that everyone needs to understand: If brakes are controlled by electronics, they will fail. It they are mechanical they will fail. There is no foolproof system for brakes of any type. Since antilock systems have more parts, there is naturally a better chance for a failure and since the technology is new, there is even a better chance. Railroad locomotives have used anti-lock brakes for a long time in that when it senses a wheel begin to slow too quickly, it releases brake pressure.
In my opinion, antilock brakes are a good thing. There may be problems with particular systems that must be addressed. If lawyers had not made the manufacturers so scared, they might have admitted and fixed problems by now. Instead, I have a feeling that the money that WOULD be going into improving the system is being spent on lawyers.
Life is not without risk. If you drive a car, you risk a catastrophic failure that will place your life in danger (tire failure, etc). Accept it or don't drive. Cars are not toys and are the most dangerous means of transport on the surface of the planet.
Know the systems that your car is equipped with and if you do not understand it and feel comfortable with the risks, do not buy it. The makers are driven by the market, if you do not buy it, they will not sell it.
I must say, though, I have not seen an instance, yet, of the Chrysler problem. I thought I had one once, but the customer didn't keep the appointment. Considering the number of these vehicles on the road in this area, I should have seen it by now.
(Though this does not invalidate George's experience, some years after he wrote this, a case was brought to our attention. We believe he meant is comment to mean that the issue is relatively infrequent.)