Dash light turns on dur­ing day’s sec­ond drive

The Mercury News Weekend - - DRIVE - By Brad Bergholdt Brad Bergholdt is an au­to­mo­tive tech­nol­ogy in­struc­tor at Ev­er­green Val­ley Col­lege in San Jose, Cal­i­for­nia. Read­ers may send him email at brad­bergholdt@gmail.com; he can­not make per­sonal replies.

I have a 1996 Acura TL 2.5 with about 89,000 miles on it. At the be­gin­ning of the first drive of the day, all of the dash lights glow and then dis­ap­pear. Af­ter driv­ing any dis­tance — 5, 25, 100 miles — and then shut­ting the en­gine off and then start­ing it again for the trip home, all the dash lights come on, per usual, but the anti-lock brak­ing sys­tem light stays on. The next day, the process starts all over. What might be go­ing on, and is it danger­ous to have the ABS light on all the time? Brak­ing func­tions seem to be nor­mal. Thanks for any sug­ges­tions. —Larry T.

Larry, your Acura’s anti-lock brake sys­tem has de­tected a fault and is alert­ing you via the ABS light. It’s dif­fi­cult to say why the fault doesn’t oc­cur or isn’t rec­og­nized un­til a sec­ond drive of the day, but per­haps the fault is made more ap­par­ent to the sys­tem dur­ing the res­tart di­ag­nos­tic check by un­der-hood or brake-sys­tem heat.

As long as your am­ber ABS light is the only one il­lu­mi­nat­ing— not the red brake light as well— nor­mal brak­ing will be un­af­fected. How­ever, when­ever an er­ror is noted, your an­tilock brak­ing sys­tem will stand down and not pro­vide its anti-lock func­tion. Among the things that could be caus­ing this is­sue are a bad con­nec­tion some­where in the ABS cir­cuitry, a faulty wheel speed sen­sor, a mal­func­tion­ing hy­draulic con­trol so­le­noid, or even a busted ABS con­troller. One odd pos­si­bil­ity could be that when you’re restart­ing the en­gine, you’re al­low­ing it to run more than 30 sec­onds, per­haps to air out a hot in­te­rior, be­fore re­leas­ing the park­ing brake.

Di­ag­nos­tics on this sys­tem are old-school and lim­ited, but a code can likely be re­trieved by a savvy tech count­ing flashes of the ABS light while the ser­vice con­nec­tor is jumped. My hope would be that the cause is a fairly in­ex­pen­sive and easy-to-re­new wheel speed sen­sor. We have a 2011 Honda Pi­lot with ap­prox­i­mately 48,000 miles. As you prob­a­bly know, the first-gen­er­a­tion Pi­lot main­te­nance sched­ule calls for a tim­ing belt change at seven years or 105,000 miles. I’m wor­ried that, at our present driv­ing rate, it will take us well over seven years to reach 105,000 miles. I’m there­fore un­sure when we should change the belt. Can we safely wait to reach that mileage, or should we change it at the seven-year mark? — Hideo H.

This ques­tion comes up fre­quently in a va­ri­ety of main­te­nance sit­u­a­tions. As you are likely aware, your tim­ing belt per­forms the crit­i­cal func­tion of se­quenc­ing the en­gine’s crank­shaft and camshafts. Should the belt ever fail, there would be a very ex­pen­sive col­li­sion of pis­tons and valves. When a tim­ing belt is re­newed, it’s pru­dent to also re­place the wa­ter pump and re­lated belt drive com­po­nents such as idlers and ten­sion­ers.

I think most in the in­dus­try would agree that miles are more stress­ful than time to parts and flu­ids. If it were my ve­hi­cle, I’d con­tinue driv­ing with this belt un­til the 105,000-mile mark, per­haps hav­ing the part re­newed once the ve­hi­cle reaches 10 years of age.

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