Top Technician flashback: Issues of rotation

We take a look back at a 2016 technical issue investigated by 2015’s Top Technician winner Andy Gravel

Published:  19 November, 2018

I received a phone call from another garage: “We were wondering if you would be interested in looking at an ABS fault for us?”
The car in question was a 2011 Honda CR-V, which had been taken as a trade in at a local garage. The fault only occurred after around 50-70 miles of driving, at which point the dash lights up with various warning lights. The vehicle had been prepped and sold to its new owner, who was unaware a fault was present.
After only a few days the fault reoccurred and the vehicle returned to the garage. They had scan-checked the vehicle and the fault code ‘14-1- Left Front Wheel Speed Sensor Failure’ was retrieved. On their visual inspection, it was obvious a new ABS sensor had already been fitted to the N/S/F and clearly not fixed the fault. Was this the reason the vehicle had been traded in? They fitted another ABS sensor to the N/S/F and an extended road test was carried out. The fault reoccurred. This is when I received the phone call. The garage now suspected it was a control unit fault. My first job was to carry out a visual inspection for anything that was obviously wrong and had possibly been over looked: correct tyre sizes, tyre pressures, tyre tread and excessive wheel bearing play. All appeared ok. The ABS sensors fitted to this vehicle are termed 'Active' meaning they have integrated electronic and are supplied with a voltage from the ABS control unit to operate. The pulse wheel is integrated into the wheel bearing, which on this vehicle makes it not possible to carry out a visual inspection without stripping the hub.

Endurance testing
With the vehicle scan-checked, all codes recorded and cleared, it was time for the road test. Viewing the live data from all the sensors, they were showing the correct wheel speed readings with no error visible on the N/S/F. The road test was always going to be a long one. Fortunately at around 30 miles, the dash lit up with the ABS light and lights for other associated systems; the fault had occurred. On returning to the workshop, the vehicle was re-scanned, fault code 14-4 ­– Left Front Wheel Speed Sensor Failure was again present. Again using the live data the sensor was still showing the wheel speed the same as the other three, so whatever was causing the fault was either occurring intermittently or there was not enough detail in the scan tool live data graph display to see the fault. It was time to test the wiring and the sensor output signal for any clues.
Using the oscilloscope, the voltage supply and the ground wire were tested and were good at the time of test. I connected the test lead to the power supply wire and using the AC voltage set to 1v revealed the sensors square wave signal. Then, rotating the wheel by hand and comparing the sensors output to one of the other ABS Sensors, again all appeared to be ok. A closer look at the signal was required, zooming in on the signal capture to reveal more detail; It became easier to see something was not quite right with the signal generated by the sensor when the wheel was rotated. With the voltage of the signal remaining constant, a good earth wire and the wheel rotated at a constant speed the signal width became smaller, effectively reporting a faster speed at that instant, not consistent with the actual rotational speed of the wheel. It was difficult to see the error, zooming out of the capture to show more time across the screen it could be seen that this appeared in the signal at regular intervals, although not visible all the time because it was such a slight difference. Using the cursors to measure between the irregular output and counting the oscillations, it was clear that it occurred at exactly the same interval every time. It had to be a physical fault on the pulse wheel.
This meant a new wheel bearing was required. The vehicle was returned to the garage as they wanted to complete the repair. A new wheel bearing was fitted and extended road testing confirmed the vehicle was now fixed.

Related Articles


©DFA Media 1999-2020
Terms and Conditions