July 17

2009 Mazda Tribute ABS Repairs



Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert. I'm here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience, 24 time winners of best auto repair in Vancouver, BC Canada, as voted by their customers. We're talking cars. How you doing, Bernie? 

Bernie: Doing very well. 

Mark: So today's victim is a 2009 Mazda Tribute. What was going on with this vehicle? 

Bernie: So this vehicle had a really interesting issue. The client's complaint was that the brakes, at certain times, the pedal would be very low, brake pedal would sink a lot. And this vehicle, we've been kind of looking at it over a little while.

First drove it never really noticed a problem with it. There was one component in the brakes, I can't remember if the front or rear brakes needed to be replaced. So we did that. And you know, he drove it for a while. Then, you know, his complaint was still there, so drove it a little further, you know, asked a few more questions.

And it seemed like it was under a circumstance when the ABS brakes would activate that the pedal would get low. So did a little more detailed road testing and found that basically when the vehicle would go into ABS brake mode, the pedal, instead of returning back to sort of normal height, would now the normal breaking height would be like, sort of halfway or less to the floor. Which was kind of a concern. It seemed to stop fine, but it wouldn't get any better. So that was the issue that was going on. 

So it took a little while to find it. And a lot of times, you know, if you're watching this video and you've got an issue with your car, it's really important when you bring your car to be really specific about, you know, this is the time that it happens. To let us know for people in the shop, service advisors, this is the time that it happens because for some things where if it happens all the time when you're driving, that's one thing. But when it's like kind of intermittent and odd, it's really good to kind of go, okay, is the car hot? Is it cold? What am I doing? Am I going around a corner when it happens or what is it? So those are the kind of things that are important to note. 

Mark: So what triggers the ABS in your brakes, and what is the ABS?

Bernie: So ABS is anti-lock brake system and it basically prevents the vehicle from skidding when you put the brakes on. Normally if you're in a vehicle without it, when you put the brakes on hard, usually a wheel or more will lock up depending on the road surface. Vehicle skid, you lose control of the vehicle. Now you can control it and a good driver, you know, if you modulate your brakes you can actually control it, possibly better than ABS. 

But the thing about ABS brakes, it's great is if you happen to be going around a corner, your vehicle kinda loses, you know, if you hit the brakes hard the wheels won't lock up and so the vehicle is still stable and you can still control the vehicle. That's why every new vehicle has it. There was a while where it came out in luxury cars, then it was available for a while and any car and then they stopped doing it. But by law, every vehicle has to have ABS traction control and ABS.

We humans aren't good enough drivers. So the car has to take control. I'm kind of joking there, but you know, it is helpful for sure in a lot of circumstances. 

Mark: So the computer, if the way it operates, the computer takes over and starts putting the brakes on and off really quickly.

Bernie: Yeah, it'll adjust the brakes. So there's a four channel ABS system, which is common on almost every car. There used to be three channel systems on some trucks. At least, you know, we're going back 20 years or more. But the four channel system, basically every vehicle has a brake line going to it. There's a speed sensor in each wheel and through an ABS module. If the computer picks up the one wheel is turning faster, slower? 

Mark: One of those. 

Bernie: We do these early in the morning, so my brain's kind of, I'm trying to think of it. It's turning at the a speed that's not right, not correct. It'll actually adjust the wheel. As a matter of fact, if it's turning too slow, because that would be a wheel locked up, it'll actually ease the brake pressure off of that wheel so the wheel doesn't stop so fast. 

So it's all computer controlled, adjusts really fast and you'll know you're in ABS mode because when you push the brake pedal, there's this vibrating feeling and you sometimes hear a kind of, a, kind of, it's my best sort of description of it, but you can kind of feel this vibration sometimes in the brake pedal.

It's very subtle and it used to be very harsh when again, going back like two, three decades when ABS systems came out. They would actually make a really big kick in the brake pedal. Apparently it would scare people and sometimes they'd let their foot off the brake. And of course, as soon as you let your foot off the brake and you're about to hit something, you've lost your advantage of stopping. So if you have a vehicle with a BS brakes, when you put it on the brake feels funny. That's normal.

Mark: What did you find that was causing the issue? 

Bernie: Yeah, so kind of narrowed it down with the client that it was when the ABS brake was activating and I drove it for a while and I was actually able to mimic the issue. And what I did notice when I drove it, is that when you shut the key off and restart the vehicle, the brake pedal was back to normal. Which kind of indicated to me that there was two things possible issues with either the master cylinder was bad or the ABS module was bad. But because of the shutting the key off and restarting it and it all returning to normal, the ABS module is problematic. 

Now part of the diagnostic procedure of course, is we hook a scan tool up to the vehicle cuz the ABS system is electronic. There's lots of information we can get outta this vehicle through our scan tool. And there were no trouble codes stored in the ABS system, which if there's a code stored, then we would know, yes, for sure it's this. So it was a bit of a speculative repair, but we were pretty sure we had it nailed down. 

Mark: So what's involved in replacing the ABS unit? 

Bernie: Well, let's have a look at some pictures and we can get at some context and what's going on. Okay. So there's our vehicle, 09 Mazda Tribute. So it's about 14 years old at this point. It's really good shape, nice wheels. It's kind of a sporty looking Tribute if we can say that. 

2009 Mazda Tribute ABS Repairs

This is the old ABS module. I'll just show a few different views of this thing. So before we talk about what's involved in replacing, just a couple things about it. There's a very large motor and a high pressure pump in this unit. You know, blocking these brake system pressure lines, it's a big deal. There's a lot of pressure involved.

2009 Mazda Tribute ABS Repairs

You need to have powerful, strong motors. There's solenoids. And actuators and things inside this sort of silvery area here. Onto the left here, this is where the electrical connector goes. So that connects to the computer that controls the ABS system. 

Another view here, we're looking at the top of the unit here. Again, there's the connector plug and the pump motor, and the valve and solenoid block area. 

2009 Mazda Tribute ABS Repairs

And then the final view we have is this one. These are where all the brake lines go in. So you have two pipes going in and four pipes going out. These go to the wheels and these come from the master cylinder here.

2009 Mazda Tribute ABS Repairs

So what's involved? It's basically buried down under the hood. Usually takes a little while to take the unit in and out, and then the system has to be bled, which is a bit of a nightmare. There's a lot of passageways and things to to do. So the bleeding procedure is very time consuming on this vehicle. And that's what's involved.

Mark: Is this a unit that requires reprogramming? 

Bernie: It does, yeah. It has to be reprogrammed for the vehicle. Otherwise it doesn't work. There's warning lights on and I don't know why it really does what, you know, it makes my head spin sometimes going like, why not just plug it in and the way it goes? But for some reason it needs to be programmed for the vehicle.

 This is a Mazda Tribute, which is the same as a Ford Escape. And getting the parts for this thing was a bit of an interesting procedure. You know, there are various options for parts. There are companies that rebuild these units. You can buy a brand new, if it's available or a used one. And for some reason, this model of Tribute, 2009, there's only one or two model years where this ABS unit worked. So we had a real hard time finding the part. We weren't able to find a used one anywhere.

Not that that was necessarily the best option, but then we finally decided to order and a rebuilding company we deal with, they didn't rebuild them. So we went to order the unit from Mazda, ordered it, and two weeks later they told us, Oh, the part's discontinued. We can't get it. So, kind of scratching our heads going, Hmm, okay, what are we gonna do now? 

Did a little more research and then of course being that it's a Ford Escape, Mazda Tribute did a little more research, got the Ford part number off the unit and found out, Oh yeah, we can actually buy the part from the Ford dealer. So probably should have just gone with that in the first place and saved some time. But anyways, that's where we ended up getting the part from. And you can actually replace this part in two ways. 

I'll just go back to the screen share again. So if you look at this black part, we're not talking about the round piece, but the black square part. That part's available or you can buy the whole unit with the pump. And I figured, you know, it's a little cheaper to buy it without the pump. This is sort of the valve block and the electronics and that part probably fails more commonly, but I figured let's just replace the whole unit because we don't know exactly which part is bad and causing it. It would be kind of silly to replace one piece and then have it go bad and have to replace the other one later. So replace the whole unit. 

2009 Mazda Tribute ABS Repairs

But there are options available and sometimes it's just a solenoid block that goes bad, but without codes, we didn't really know which part was faulty. So that's the options we chose to repair it. 

Mark: So how did it work after everything's buttoned back in? 

Bernie: It was good. Yeah. So the great thing is once you figure out how to make a problem occur all the time I found a place with some very intense gravel and gravel's a great place to test out ABS. Because as soon as you nail the brakes, it goes into ABS mode. Hit it went in ABS mode and then, you know, hit the brakes after that and the pedal as hard as a rock just like normal. So confirmed fix. 

Mark: And how are Mazda Tributes for reliability? 

Bernie: Yeah, they're good. Pretty decent car. I mean, this one's 14 years old at this point. Still trucking along pretty well. You know, like any car, if you do good maintenance on it, they'll tend to last for a long time. And yeah, they're pretty good, you know, not trouble free, but pretty decent.

Mark: If you're looking for service for your Mazda or Ford in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them on the website, pawlikautomotive.com or you can call them at (604) 327-7112. You have to call and book ahead. They're always busy, really busy right now. So check it out. Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, BC Canada. Thanks so much for watching and listening. We appreciate it and thanks Bernie. 

Bernie: Thank you, Mark. Thanks for watching.

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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