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Old 06-01-2010, 12:39 PM   #1
Acejam2k
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Default ABS, Airbag, and Rear Diff light on after washing engine

Hey all,

Before I start - let me say that I've done this over 10 times over the years with various cars, and never had an issue. In fact, I've done this to my STi probably 3 times since I've had it. I'm always careful to cover the alternator and battery.

So - long story short, I did a spring detail this past weekend. I typically do one at the beginning of each season. This includes washing my engine bay/motor. During this process, I run the motor until it's warm, and then turn it off and cover the alternator and battery, while hosing down the ENTIRE engine bay, and scrubbing with a sponge and simple green. I've done this probably 3-4 times to this very car.

I then proceeded to let it dry in the sun for several hours with the hood open. After about 5 hours, I pulled the car into the garage. (it was started for ~30 seconds, I literally drove forward 10 feet)

This occured on Saturday. I let the car sit all day Sunday, while I was detailing it, and went to start it this morning. It fired right up without issue, however the ABS, Rear Diff, and Airbag lights are now on, on the dash. In addition, my Valentine 1 was making some really weird noises, and the display looked like my car battery was dying. (it was flickering) I drove the car down the street and it definitely felt weird. I then brought it back into my driveway and let it idle for about 3 min. I noticed there was some white smoke coming out of my exhaust. I know for a fact that I did get some water into my exhaust when cleaning it, but usually it just flies right out after starting the car and revving. (not a ton, just a cupful or so)

I was also under the car on Saturday and used a hose and simple green with a sponge to clean the undercarriage of my car. This includes primarily the suspension, transmissions, and the rear diff. However, I was careful to not bump the rear diff temp sensor - however it did get wet. (but it's under the car, it does all the time)

Any thoughts as to what might be causing my issue? I took another car to work today, and I'm hoping to fix this tonight when I get home.

Thanks,
Josh
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Old 06-01-2010, 12:57 PM   #2
xrocket21
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You ground needs to be tightened, or cleaned up
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Old 06-01-2010, 12:58 PM   #3
vrusso
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I would think that even though you were careful I would assume that it is water related and that when all the electronics get a chance to dry out more it will return to normal.

Quote:
You ground needs to be tightened, or cleaned up
This is also a good thing to dbl check
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Old 06-01-2010, 01:04 PM   #4
Acejam2k
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xrocket21 View Post
You ground needs to be tightened, or cleaned up
That's what I'm suspecting as well. Do you think it needs to be cleaned at the battery, and other places on the car as well? I was under the car for a bit cleaning the undercarriage, but as you know - it rains/snows/etc like crazy here, so it's not like I haven't driven through puddles WRC style.

I'm going to disconnect the negative terminal on my battery when I get home today - and will clean the terminal and reset the ECU in the process. Hopefully these lights go away!
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Old 06-01-2010, 05:17 PM   #5
Acejam2k
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So I'm pretty confident the issue might be related to the ground terminal on my rear diff temp sensor. I remember seeing this when I moved it out of the way during my rear diff bushings install, which was about 1 month ago.

When I get home, I'm going to get under the car and pull the terminal out and clean it up. Hopefully this fixes my issue.
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Old 06-01-2010, 11:59 PM   #6
Acejam2k
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Findings:

I managed to get the lights to go away, but now they're back - flickering on and off. When I took the rear diff temp sensor ground off, it definitely had some water on it and was wet. (I could feel some drip out) I shook the end piece, and I could feel more droplets continuing to come out. I think the spade terminal on the inside of the black ground plug piece might be coroded, causing a bad connection. I've found a few threads with this exact issue, and this appears to be the cause in each case.

I suppose I could buy a new spade terminal and cut the old one off and cut the wire. However, I want to be 100% sure this is the cause - so I might just take the car to the dealership tomorrow morning and see what they say. For $130, (cost of new rear sensor) I could honestly care less about the money - as long as I know it's fixed right. (and usually I'm a huge DIY'er)

I haven't reset the ECU yet. However, given that the light is flickering on and off and that it's behavior changed once I got some of the water out - I don't think resetting the ECU will help. If it was stuck on CEL, sure that's one thing, but this seems to be more dynamic and constantly changing. I took my battery box and drove the car around, and it still drives great.
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Old 06-02-2010, 12:32 PM   #7
Acejam2k
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So, the outcome:

I tried resetting the ECU this morning and I continued to receive my Rear Diff warning light, and now I also had the battery light too. I figure it was on just because it was trying to indicate their was an electrical issue somewhere. Resetting the ECU did not fix anything. (but it can sometimes, I agree)

I took the car to the dealership. The cleaned up the rear diff temp sensor's ground connection, which was deifnitely rusted a bit as I saw firsthand myself.

However - they also informed me that my alternator was dying, and was pretty much done. This would also explain why my battery died this past weekend. However when it actually happened (battery dying), I thought it was my own fault because I left one of my cabin light's on overnight. (about 1.5 days)

Therefore, I had them clean the rear diff sensor and replace the alternator. Car is now fixed and drives great. Yeah, that was an expensive mistake.
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