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Tech Talk


In part 1 to this article (Dec/Jan issue),we discussed the principles of ABS and that, like all electronic control systems, it consists of sensors, an ECU and an actuator. The wheel speed sensors allow the ECU to determine accurate wheel speed values the ECU uses these values to determine the locking or slipping condition of the wheels through the use of a slip ratio calculation. If excessive slip is detected the ECU uses an ABS actuator (modulator) to control the slip ratio through the regulation of applied braking pressure. Let us now study these systems in more detail.

ABS - the systems

Basic operational overview
The ABS ECU monitors individual wheel speeds and calculates overall vehicle speed by taking an average of these values. The picture shows a typical layout of an ABS equipped vehicle.

Conventional hydraulic brake circuits appear in various different layouts (often determined by the weight distribution characteristics of the vehicle) and this can have a bearing on ABS hydraulic variances.

Front to rear split circuit

Hydraulic control variations

Diagonally split circuit

The stop light switch provides a signal that the ECU can use to determine that the brakes are being applied. The ECU, through the monitoring of the wheel speed sensor signals, calculates any sudden reduction in wheel speed. The ECU will now control the hydraulic brake actuator to provide optimum brake fluid pressure to each brake to achieve maximum deceleration conditions. The hydraulic brake actuator operates on control signals from the ECU to reduce hold , or increase brake fluid pressure as necessary in order to achieve and maintain an ideal slip ratio of 10% to 30% and avoid wheel lock up. These changes of braking state can be effected at a frequency of up to 60 times per second.

Types of ABS control

It is important to understand that the ABS is an addition to the existing conventional brake system. It does not replace any existing components.

This system is often used on vehicles that have an uneven weight distribution, such as front engine, front wheel drive. This ensures that in the event of a single system failure there is always one loaded wheel that can be braked effectively. As the two rear brakes are not connected directly together (or the two fronts), the ABS actuator has to provide separate hydraulic connections for all four braked wheels. This is known as four solenoid control .

In the case of front to rear split circuits (even weight distribution vehicle layout), the actuator could have just one outlet for the rear brakes. It is important to note that the steered wheels are always controlled independently because of their importance to the maintenance of control (steerability). If just a single hydraulic connection were used for the rear brakes then this would be known as three solenoid control Note: on a . modern motor vehicle, four solenoid control is commonly used regardless of hydraulic layout.

Electrical control variations

In addition, the electrical control of the ABS varies from vehicle to vehicle: individual control of the front wheels whilst controlling the rears together. This is known as three channel control . individual control for all four wheels. This is known as four channel control.

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Component overview

Q A Mitsubishi Pajero 1995 2.8 turbo diesel came in with a power loss fault. There is no missing and although the fault does seem to point to the turbo, boost pressure is normal and the engine revs to the redline OK. Theres some black smoke, but I have found this is not unusual for a Pajero. A This could be an exhaust gas recirculation valve sticking open. Clean it and refit with the vacuum pipe off to see if the power loss is still evident. If theres no improvement, the next possibility is a restricted fuel supply to the pump. Change the fuel filter and check that there is no air by substituting some clear plastic pipe in line between the filter and pump. Sometimes, the ability of the pump to suck fuel through the filter from the tank decreases with age, in which case it is cheaper to put in a low pressure electric fuel pump into the fuel line than to change the main pump. Also, there is a wire mesh screen on the inlet union to the injector pump that can get clogged. Dont forget the breathing: the air inlet can get restricted, inlet hoses can collapse and silencers can collapse and restrict the exhaust. I dont think its anything to do with valve timing as I am fairly certain that the valves would have hit the pistons. Q A Toyota Corolla is displaying EML, with fault codes P1346 VVT sensor and P1349 VVT system malfunction. The fault remains, despite fitting a new VVT sensor and checking the wiring for continuity from the VVT sensor back to the ECU. A VVT (variable valve timing) is designed to provide optimum valve timing for all engine conditions by altering the valve overlap using hydraulic oil pressure to activate a link between the inlet and exhaust cams. The link is connected to a sensor that tells the ECU how much overlap is present. If the oil pressure is wrong, or sludge and varnish build up is excessive, then this mechanism will not work correctly; the ECU

The ECU controls the entire system. It monitors wheel speed and determines wheel lock up. It uses control signals to influence the hydraulic actuator to reduce, hold or increase the brake fluid pressure. It carries out a self-check of- the system at start up and informs the driver of any abnormalities via the dashboard ABS warning light. It stores any diagnostic information for later retrieval by a technician.

Diagnostic check connector

Various types of check connector have been used over the years but they all have basically the same function, which is to allow access to ABS diagnostic codes and other diagnostic data.

Through this article we have taken the principles studied in Part 1 to a system level. Part 3 will study the sub-systems and components in depth, looking at how the wheel speed sensors actually generate signals and how the ABS actuator controls hydraulic braking pressure. We will then look in detail at diagnostic processes employed in the finding of faults on such systems. If you would like to study anti-lock braking systems in more detail we would be delighted to provide you with a place on one of our technical courses. Please see details below on how to contact us. ProAuto Limited are an automotive technical training company based in Shrewsbury, Shropshire. Our core business is the design and delivery of technical training to the automotive industry, which includes vehicle manufacturers, component manufacturers, diagnostic equipment manufacturers and independent garages. We run courses from numerous select venues nationally, so a course is never too far away. For further details you can visit our website at, email us at, or telephone 01743 709679.

Wheel speed sensors

These enable the ECU to detect individual wheel speed and also calculate vehicle speed.

Sensor rotor
Attached to the hub or drive shaft, it has teeth that when passed in front of the ABS wheel speed sensors cause a signal to be generated.

ABS actuator/modulator
This controls the hydraulic brake fluid pressure to the individual brakes dependent upon control signals generated by the ABS ECU.

ABS warning light

This alerts the driver of system malfunctions. It can also be used as a diagnostic code indicator on some makes of vehicle.

Control relays
Usually two relays are required to facilitate electrical control of the ABS. One relay is the actuator pump relay and the other is for the actuator solenoids. They can be located on the actuator itself or an adjacent fuse/ relay block.


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