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Old 08-11-2019, 12:13 PM
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Is the wheel speed sensor weak to water?

Hi, everyone--

I've got a 2013 JK Rubicon with a very low 21k miles on it (weekend driver).
One of the rear wheel speed sensors failed a month or two ago and had to be replaced. I could not figure out what caused it to fail, but it was alarming that it failed so early with such low miles. My mechanic charged me a whopping $200 for the repair (I figured out they charged full MSRP for the wheel speed sensor plus one hour of labor.)

Then, I noticed something. Every so often I ford a small creek, not very deep, just enough to splash water up onto the axles.

Right after fording the creek, while driving at highway speeds on a highway, the ABS and skid lights will come on (these are the same two lights that came on when the first wheel speed sensor failed). This time, however, I can pull over and turn off the vehicle, then turn it on and the lights will turn on and then shut off a little while later.

This has happened twice so far: ford the creek, get the ABS + skid lights.

It makes me wonder: is water getting into the wheel speed sensor somehow? Or maybe it's getting into the connector between the sensor and the cable harness. It doesn't make sense that a sensor that would get wet just from driving in the rain would malfunction from getting wet. Maybe it's some other sensor triggering the two lights...

Even if it is not the wheel speed sensor that is malfunctioning when I ford the creek, it is alarming to have the first one fail with such low miles. Is it just that the design of these sensors is terrible and we JK owners are all doomed to keep replacing them over and over? Is there anything we can do to repair/strengthen the wheel speed sensors without having to buy new ones?

Any tips/advice is appreciated. Thanks!

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Old 08-11-2019, 12:23 PM   #2
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There is a very good chance that when you ford, you are getting rust from your rotor breaking free, and it is sticking to the magnetic face. And/or crap from the river crossing itself getting onto it, or buildup between the teeth of the tone ring, which vould also have rust.
There is a very good chance your first one was not bad, nor is this one.
It's a fairly simple process replacing it. Or, remove the rotor and see what the ring (looks like a gear) and face of the sensor look like. I am certain you will find this to be the cause, not the sensor.

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Old 08-11-2019, 12:35 PM   #3
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Also Check the wiring to the sensor as well. It is possible that it has worn on something and shorts when wet.


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Old 08-11-2019, 03:29 PM
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Ah, thanks, those possibilities make much more sense.

I'll check--thanks!
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Old 08-14-2019, 05:03 PM   #5
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I've gone through water many times, never had a failure from that. But had a sensor fail because the wire rubbed on a tire.
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Old 08-15-2019, 12:57 AM
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Originally Posted by cdeslandes View Post
I've gone through water many times, never had a failure from that. But had a sensor fail because the wire rubbed on a tire.
Thanks. I checked the cables and didn't see any obvious wear.

I'll ask the mechanic if he saw anything when he was changing the sensor. (I figure if he had, then he would have sold me a new cable.)
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Old 08-15-2019, 07:14 AM   #7
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I've found that yes, most of the time its metal specks sticking to the sensor, so now I just pull em, blow them off, stick my air hose in the rear backing plate and blow it all out, then reinsert the sensor.
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Old 08-16-2019, 12:30 AM
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I've found that yes, most of the time its metal specks sticking to the sensor, so now I just pull em, blow them off, stick my air hose in the rear backing plate and blow it all out, then reinsert the sensor.
Thanks for confirming that and explaining how to clean them out!
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Old 12-02-2019, 09:57 PM
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Follow-up on this weak-to-water thing.

I forded the creek again last month, and sure enough, it got the dreaded ABS and traction control lights.

This time, however, the Jeep was pulling to one side while on the drive home, and the usual routine of driving X miles and stopping and restarting didn't make the warning lights go away or the braking stop.

So I kinda limped home the whole way.

Worse, the error remained for about a week. I couldn't drive the Jeep anywhere without the brakes engaging on the left side (probably rear).

Eventually, the problem went away on its own from the Jeep just sitting there. The warning lights went off, and the Jeep drove normally. I guess either water drained out of somewhere or a cable assembly/connector dried out. But it took a lot longer to dry out this time, if that's what happened.

A buddy lent me his BlueDriver ODB2 reader, which is able to pull the JK wheel speed sensor codes (using the "Show Common Dashboard Codes" choice in the main menu).

It reports these codes: C1011 Stored: Left front wheel speed sensor erratic performance and C1041 Stored: Left front wheel tone wheel performance.

So it's a different wheel than the last several times (the one I paid $200 to replace was the left rear wheel speed sensor). This made sense. I figured it was a front wheel speed sensor this time due to the brakes pulling the Jeep to one side.

I'm not looking forward to the fording next month. Driving home with the brakes kicking in is stupid.

I checked the cables on all four sensors and didn't see any obvious wear. The mechanic probably broke the left rear cable connector while swapping the sensor (so I overpaid to have them damage the cable).

I'll replace the broken connector to keep water out, but that's just the left rear. What to do about the left front? Removing the left front wheel and calipers is a pain if it's just water infiltration, but I don't want to be driving home with the brakes burning up either...

Any suggestions? Just swap the left front sensor?

Thanks in advance!
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Old 12-04-2019, 08:49 PM   #10
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put some dielectric grease in the connector and it should waterproof it:

https://www.walmart.com/ip/permatex-...tube/849009947.

I use this stuff for my trailer lights.
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Old 12-04-2019, 10:44 PM   #11
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Install the ABS/traction control kill switch mod. After having a wheel speed sensor issue in mud and almost getting bogged down I decided enough was enough and installed the kill switch.
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Old 12-05-2019, 01:43 AM
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Sweet! Thanks for the tips. I will do both of them (never hear dof the ABS/traction control kill switch mod--it's perfect for my needs).


I have another question: is it possible to flush out the tone ring on the front wheels without having to take apart anything? For instance, if I were to jam a water hose into some hole or crevice in the front wheel, could I flush out metal particles, mud, and rust? If so, where would this be located? (I've watched one YouTube video on tone rings, but it was not for a Jeep JK or JKU, so I'm not sure whether it's accessible.)


Thanks in advance!
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Old 12-05-2019, 05:25 AM   #13
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Here's a pretty good write up on the ESP kill switch mod. This disables the accelerometer which is responsible for ABS/traction control/cruise control.

https://www.jk-forum.com/forums/jk-w...ort-jk-264528/
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Old 12-05-2019, 06:29 AM   #14
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FWIW, a wheel speed sensor is about $27 at O'Reillys and it takes 10 min to replace. $200 is robbery.
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Old 12-05-2019, 07:35 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dchang0 View Post
Sweet! Thanks for the tips. I will do both of them (never hear dof the ABS/traction control kill switch mod--it's perfect for my needs).


I have another question: is it possible to flush out the tone ring on the front wheels without having to take apart anything? For instance, if I were to jam a water hose into some hole or crevice in the front wheel, could I flush out metal particles, mud, and rust? If so, where would this be located? (I've watched one YouTube video on tone rings, but it was not for a Jeep JK or JKU, so I'm not sure whether it's accessible.)


Thanks in advance!
I believe the tone rings on the front are built into the unit bearing/hub assemblies. You'd probably need to unbolt the allen head bolt holding the speed sensor in the hub and remove the sensor from the hub. You should then be able to see the tone ring through the hole. At that point you could spray the crap out of the tone ring with either brake cleaner or electronics contact cleaner and let it dry overnight before re-installing the sensor. As I remember the brake dust shield may be in the way of removing the speed sensor and may need to be removed.

Thinking this over some more:
The entire unit bearing should be sealed, even the sensor should have an o-ring on it to prevent water from entering. If you spray a bunch of cleaner into that hole you could affect the bearings and have pre-mature bearing failure. You should be able to visually inspect the tone ring from the sensor hole and determine if it looks suspect. You probably just have a speed sensor going bad.
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Old 12-05-2019, 08:21 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by dchang0 View Post
I have another question: is it possible to flush out the tone ring on the front wheels without having to take apart anything?

NO.
The tone ring sits inside the unit bearing wheel hub. Sensor is sealed with O-ring.


as to your errors:



C1011 Left front wheel speed sensor erratic performance can be caused by bad sensor, bad wiring, intermittent short or open circuit, water in the sensor plug or similar



C1041 Left front wheel tone wheel performance can be caused by all of the above plus possible damage to the tone ring itself. The tone ring is a fine metal ring with magnetic pads (about 0,08" thick) bonded to bearing race inside the hub it can be bent or separated or whatewer. Is that the case, then you need a new wheel hub.



The only relevant diagnose for that is a lab scope, because all diagnostic tools (including OEM) use filtered sensor data from ABS module. So looking at WiTech display for ABS module sensors you stare at perfect steady wheel speed data for every wheel, no errors but ABS/ESP still kicking in....



Then you connect a multichannel lab scope directly to the sensor outputs and you will see the mess. Learned that hard way after replacing 3 sensors.
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Old 12-05-2019, 08:36 AM   #17
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This ^^^^^^^
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Old 12-05-2019, 09:08 AM   #18
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Is the wheel speed sensor weak to water?

Quote:
Originally Posted by skjeep1 View Post
Then you connect a multichannel lab scope directly to the sensor outputs and you will see the mess. Learned that hard way after replacing 3 sensors.

On the JKs the wheel speed sensor has a IC transistor and possibly a diode. They are powered by 12V and I believe the current is modulated. I remember a while back I saw a diagram of the internals and what you need to do to measure it, but I donít think itís as simple as hooking it up to an o-scope. Thinking there needs to be a resistor in series to measure the voltage drop.
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Old 12-05-2019, 11:44 AM   #19
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On the JKs the wheel speed sensor has a transistor and possibly a diode. They are powered by 12V and I believe the current is modulated. I remember a while back I saw a diagram of the internals and what you need to do to measure it, but I donít think itís as simple as hooking it up to an o-scope. Thinking there needs to be a resistor in series to measure the voltage drop.

Sure you can not just disconnect the sensor from the harness and measure. IT WILL NOT WORK. You have to tap into the ABS harness and measure with sensor connected to the ABS unit.


The sensor is a hall effect (or magnetoresistive) producing square wave signal. Powered by 12V. it has a combined signal and earth reference circuit, where the earth reference for the sensor floats at the voltage level of the signal.


Depending on the sensor design, the tooth (or magnet) causes either a high or a low current and a gap the opposite. This current flows through the resistor inside the ABS unit and produces a voltage related to the ground in a square wave pattern.

Or you can make a simple device with a resistor between power supply ground and the ground/signal sensor wire and measure there. But you have to fiddle with the resistor values for different sensors.
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Old 12-06-2019, 12:15 AM
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These are truly awesome answers. Thanks to all of you for the discussion of how the front assembly is supposed to be and how they work.


I have a crappy oscilloscope and some understanding of using one on a vehicle, just zero hands-on experience. This could be a [forced] learning experience. I did see a YouTube video where a guy had hooked up a Jeep Patriot to a scope and was diagnosing a problem with the wheel speed sensor. Hopefully it's pretty similar to a Jeep JK/JKU.



It looks like I'll start with the two low-hanging fruit: water shorting the connector or cables and swapping the sensor.


If I do try to clean up the tone ring it will be with a vacuum cleaner and brush and no fluids.


Thanks again!
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Old 12-06-2019, 03:58 AM   #21
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If I do try to clean up the tone ring it will be with a vacuum cleaner and brush and no fluids.

In fact there is just nothing you can do with a front tone ring.
It sits deep inside the non repairable weheel hub, the only access is a 1/4" sensr mount hole and inner parts incl. tone ring are full of bearing grase.

Besides the scope measurement, you can use a magnetic test card to look for oddities in the tone pattern. But it is not 100% accurate
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Old 12-06-2019, 09:20 AM   #22
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Before getting my J-Scan, I removed all the sensors to clean them when I got the dreaded esp/abs faults, randomly applying the brakes because the Jeep thought I was in a skid. The rears are very easy to remove and re-install. Maybe 5 minutes each round trip. I found my rears to be covered with mud. I cleaned them off, blew the holes with air from my compressor and re-installed. The fronts had no mud, but one had a small amount of gunk on it. I cleaned that with brake cleaner and re-installed.

So yah.....fording water (I do that too) can bring crap into the ABS sensing system.

I found the J-Scan to be wonderful for diagnostics. For a failed front sensor, I cleaned it and just pushed it back in place and turned the hub, seeing it reading again on my phone, so I knew I didn't have to unplug and replace the sensor (getting the stupid front plug behind the shock mount and plugging back in is more difficult than removal and replacement of the sensor).
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Old 12-07-2019, 01:58 AM
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@skjeep1 : Ah, full of grease--I thought it would be empty air in there and figured I could stick a thin vacuum cleaner in through the hole where the front wheel speed sensor goes and a thin brush (like the ones used to apply glue).


Thanks for explaining that.

@Jack _FFR1846: That J-Scan sounds perfect for me--thanks!
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Old 12-07-2019, 08:00 PM   #24
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I have a wheel sensor that occasionally causes the low tire warning light to come on but no information as to which tire. Ot is very random and always goes away in a short period of time. It is usually when I'm on a bumpy dirt road. Is this a different sensor from the speed sensor?
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Old 12-07-2019, 09:28 PM   #25
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Take the wheel speed sensors off and clean them. The rears are easy but the fronts while not technically difficult it's still a lot of work. If you take the rears off you will see tiny metal slivers. Take a brush and brush the metallic debris off and put them back on and it should go away. If that don't work you're gonna have to do the front.
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Old 12-07-2019, 09:30 PM   #26
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I have a wheel sensor that occasionally causes the low tire warning light to come on but no information as to which tire. Ot is very random and always goes away in a short period of time. It is usually when I'm on a bumpy dirt road. Is this a different sensor from the speed sensor?
Yes. TPMS.

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