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Old 04-03-2008, 11:55 PM   #1
'00sl2
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Default Brake question

When ever I stop at a stop light, etc. my brakes make an electrical noise. My lights also dim. I thought about asking the guys down at Saturn, but I always just figured that it was an anti-lock braking system check or something along those lines. Is that what it is?

It is a 5 speed

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Old 04-04-2008, 12:22 AM   #2
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Default Re: Brake question

Quote:
Originally Posted by '00sl2 View Post
When ever I stop at a stop light, etc. my brakes make an electrical noise. My lights also dim. I thought about asking the guys down at Saturn, but I always just figured that it was an anti-lock braking system check or something along those lines. Is that what it is?

It is a 5 speed
What exactly do you mean "electrical noise"? If it's the ABS activating, it's a clicking (mechanical) sound. Otherwise, the abs should not be doing anything (except when you first start the car and reach 3mph or whatever). My lights will dim a tiny bit when i first hit the pedal, because of the drain of the brake lights, but it's hardly noticeable (usually only when i'm not moving (lower alternator capacity) and paying special attention to the lights). If your lights are dimming significantly, and staying dim, then something is wrong. I don't see how it could cause a noise, but if your alternator or battery aren't very good, it could cause the lights to dim. Have they been checked/replaced recently?

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Old 04-04-2008, 12:31 AM   #3
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Default Re: Brake question

It may be more of a mechanical noise, I figured it was electrical based on the dimming of the headlights. I can also feel it in the brake pedal. They dim for a second and then returns right to normal.

I have not checked the battery or alternator. How would I go about checking?

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Old 04-04-2008, 12:50 AM   #4
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Default Re: Brake question

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Originally Posted by '00sl2 View Post
I have not checked the battery or alternator. How would I go about checking?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g5B54xX_QVg
Video by Richpin

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Old 04-04-2008, 12:52 AM   #5
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Default Re: Brake question

Quote:
Originally Posted by '00sl2 View Post
It may be more of a mechanical noise, I figured it was electrical based on the dimming of the headlights. I can also feel it in the brake pedal. They dim for a second and then returns right to normal.

I have not checked the battery or alternator. How would I go about checking?
For starters, you can check the fluid level in the battery, that's pretty easy (it should be completely covering the plates). To do a simple test on the alternator, use a volt meter hooked up to the terminals on the battery. Before starting the car, it should be approximately 12.6. Once you start the car it should be around 14 volts, after a few seconds, I believe-maybe a bit more. If this checks out, turn the headlights, rear defroster, blower, etc on and check again-it shouldn't have dropped much, if at all (except for the brief second when you turn the item on).
If the battery is at 12.6 volts with the car off, I don't know how else to test it (other than running it down, which is not good for it). Maybe someone else has a suggestion?
Many auto parts stores will check your battery and alternator for free (hoping to sell you a replacement).

The abs will make a very pronounced grinding/clicking noise, which can also be felt in the pedal. Assuming you are not locking the tires, it should not be doing this. When does it do it: the entire braking, just at slow/high speeds, right before you stop?
I know a faulty wheel speed sensor can cause the abs to activate at low speeds (on a mercedes, at least-I don't know for sure about saturns, as it hasn't happened to me). Does it make a difference how hard you stop? This may sound silly, but are all of your tires the same size? If they are dramatically different, the larger one will seem to be skidding, as it will be turning slower, especially at higher speeds. I'm not sure how much of a size difference it takes, but I'm sure it's pretty significant (normal wear won't do it, because the system is designed for some difference to account for wear and turning).

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Old 04-04-2008, 12:58 AM   #6
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Default Re: Brake question

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Originally Posted by rc1488 View Post
I second that. It's a very good tutorial.

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Old 04-04-2008, 01:08 AM   #7
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Default Re: Brake question

It does do it more when I stop harder, but it will make that noise at least once if I stop really slowly. Tires are all the same size.

I will try checking the battery and alternator as soon as I get the time.

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Old 04-04-2008, 02:35 AM   #8
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Default Re: Brake question

Ok. It sounds like you have two separate problems. The first is, of course, the abs activating when it should not be. The second is a weakness in the electrical system. I'm sure a low voltage from a poor electrical system could screw with the abs, but it fails to off, and I do not see any way that a low voltage would cause it to operate.
Since you haven't mentioned it, I am assuming that your abs light is not on. You should make sure the light is functioning (it comes on when you first turn the key, along with every other light). I do not know what would cause the abs to activate incorrectly, while still apparently passing the self-test, however, if I were to guess I would have to say it's a problem with a speed sensor. On some cars, they can get dirty and need to be cleaned, but I just looked at a spare rear hub I have here, and it does not appear to be serviceable (completely enclosed, which means no dirt, and no servicing). I believe the speed sensors can be tested fairly easily with an oscilloscope, but I have no idea how (if you can even get your hands on one).
Anyways, check on the alternator/battery and the abs light, and hopefully someone else will have a suggestion about the abs.
Quote:
Originally Posted by '00sl2 View Post
It does do it more when I stop harder, but it will make that noise at least once if I stop really slowly.
Does it do it more or less at different speeds? Is it constant throughout an entire stop from highway speed, or does it just occur at low or high speeds, or randomly at either?

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Old 04-04-2008, 03:04 AM   #9
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Default Re: Brake question

While checking the battery and alternator, be sure the belt tensioner is keeping the serpentine belt taut and not loose, preventing the alternator from supplying the electrical system with the proper voltage and charging the battery. If you can depress the belt between the pulleys easily or see the belt flapping at idle rpm then the tensioner spring is either broken or worn out.

Have you ever heard or felt the ABS operate, whether on purpose or on loose dirt/gravel roads? Familiarity with when ABS activates or not is valuable experience when describing whether or not your ABS actually activates. As a rule, ABS will never activate inadvertently but will operate when the conditions are met. The easiest way to deliberately activate ABS safely to become familiar with its peculiarities and the vibration feedback through the brake pedal would be to jam the brakes on a secluded dirt road, gravel surface, snow covered parking lot, icy road, all when traffic is non existent to keep away from any potential accidental scenarios not thought of. Any low traction surface and some speed with a long run out for the skidding anticipated will quickly demonstrate ABS activation. The deliberate jamming of the brakes will do no harm to the braking system and no damage to the tires but will give an excellent learning experience when ABS activates. Keep the brakes jammed for the complete stop, the higher the speed the longer the ABS stays on and vice versa. Do this alone without distraction from a passenger so you can concentrate on its effect on you and how you deal with emergency braking with ABS activated. When you fully experience ABS, you'll be able to tell the difference whether or not ABS activated with certainty.

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Old 04-04-2008, 04:06 AM   #10
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Default Re: Brake question

Quote:
Originally Posted by fdryer View Post
While checking the battery and alternator, be sure the belt tensioner is keeping the serpentine belt taut and not loose, preventing the alternator from supplying the electrical system with the proper voltage and charging the battery. If you can depress the belt between the pulleys easily or see the belt flapping at idle rpm then the tensioner spring is either broken or worn out.

Have you ever heard or felt the ABS operate, whether on purpose or on loose dirt/gravel roads? Familiarity with when ABS activates or not is valuable experience when describing whether or not your ABS actually activates. As a rule, ABS will never activate inadvertently but will operate when the conditions are met. The easiest way to deliberately activate ABS safely to become familiar with its peculiarities and the vibration feedback through the brake pedal would be to jam the brakes on a secluded dirt road, gravel surface, snow covered parking lot, icy road, all when traffic is non existent to keep away from any potential accidental scenarios not thought of. Any low traction surface and some speed with a long run out for the skidding anticipated will quickly demonstrate ABS activation. The deliberate jamming of the brakes will do no harm to the braking system and no damage to the tires but will give an excellent learning experience when ABS activates. Keep the brakes jammed for the complete stop, the higher the speed the longer the ABS stays on and vice versa. Do this alone without distraction from a passenger so you can concentrate on its effect on you and how you deal with emergency braking with ABS activated. When you fully experience ABS, you'll be able to tell the difference whether or not ABS activated with certainty.
I agree. Not just to diagnose this problem, but I think it's always a good idea when you get an unfamiliar vehicle to take it out to a (deserted) snowy parking lot and try stopping, turning, etc to the point that you lose traction so you can a) learn how the vehicle reacts under these low-traction conditions, and b) be more able to properly react to such a situation (turning or stopping) if it should occur on the road when you are not expecting it.
And yes, definately try it now so you can tell for sure if this is, in fact, your abs activating.

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