By on March 28, 2017

2008 Maxima, Image: Nissan

This week’s episode of Ask Jack is all about the magic boxes that separate today’s cars from their predecessors — and the unintended consequences of when it all goes wrong.

Reader Eiriksmal writes:

I hope I’ve startled you with this bold introduction. There’s a question I have that only you can answer … probably. It takes a sophisticated man with all sorts of worldly experience that I lack.

You see, I drive a car without antilock brakes, traction control, or stability control. I’m a whipper snapper who’s only been driving 14 years, so I never knew an era without ABS, at the very least. My beloved sixth-generation Maxima, what with the six-speed manual, has a malfunctioning ABS module, so the ABS and TC (no yaw sensor was installed on the 6MT cars — ESC was autotragic only) are kaput. I’ve driven it sans braking assistance for 2.5 years, but today was my first heart-clenching episode caused by a lack of experience with driving an ABS-less car.

I noticed when bedding in some new brakes recently that the back end tries to come around the front in a panic stop after the wheels lock. Sometimes it just squirms a little, other times it would step the back end out a solid 6-8 inches. This confuses me. When I’m pointing in a straight line, holding the steering wheel tight, and jamming the pedal to the floor, why does the lighter back end try to rotate around the heavy nose?

Today, a jerk in an Escape lumbered out in front of me …

This sounds like trouble.


Eiriksmal goes on to tell a fairly harrowing tale of trying to keep a partially sideways car in a lane while surrounded by traffic. It’s the kind of thing that goes well beyond “funny story to tell” and well into the territory of “… and that is how I ended up in this wheelchair.” So I figured it would be a good idea to come up with a potential solution right away — and as fate would have it, I’d just experienced a similar situation at Road Atlanta.

During the Friday qualifying for our AER race, we started experiencing a cornucopia of ABS issues. Early activation, uneven activation, and a pedal that went between “high-hard” and “on the floor.” With very little time to troubleshoot, we ended up disconnecting ABS via the fuse.

This fixed all of the above problems, but it led to another one. In most close-to-modern cars, the balance of pressure between front and rear brakes is set by a proportioning valve. In a race car, it’s typically adjustable to suit conditions. In a street car, like my mother’s 1977 Cutlass or my 1990 Fox, it’s a fixed valve that represents a best-guess approximation for all possible situations.

In many modern cars, however, proportioning is done via the ABS block. And why not? The ABS block is busy doling out all sorts of brake-pressure changes, as often as ten times a second. Why shouldn’t it go ahead and set the proportioning in non-ABS situations? Why not simplify by having one device do all the jobs?

This works very well — in fact, it’s the best way to do things. Until, of course, you turn off the ABS. At which point you get a default setting. And that default setting is going to be an afterthought on pretty much every street car money can buy, because the manufacturer does NOT want you running without ABS and they are under no obligation to make your life easier if you turn it off.

In the case of our Miata, the default is pretty-semi-kinda-good. But it was biased a bit to the rear, which meant that the rear wheels would lock under hard braking and make things very interesting. It also caused a bit of rear-steer which I didn’t mind but which was unappreciated by some of our drivers. Keep in mind, however, this is a nearly new car with fresh equipment from ABS block to the brake disc. What are the chances the brake system on that old Maxima is all in tip-top shape right down to the rubber lines?

You know the answer to that. And that is why Eiriksmal‘s car is skidding under braking — because he’s got some weak-ass default proportion and one of the rear brakes is gripping slightly harder than the other. After all, uneven rear braking is how stability control operates. It can be equally unhelpful if it’s happening by accident. And that’s what I think is happening here. The question is whether it’s worth putting a thousand bucks, or more, into a sixth-generation Maxima.

My advice: Fix the car and enjoy it. For Nissan fans, there will never be another sedan with that kind of brute charm available. Certainly not brand-new. Fix the brakes, put some cash into it, enjoy your time. If not, as Perry Farrell once said:

The world is loaded,
It’s lit to pop and nobody is gonna stop…
Gimme that!
Gimme that – your automobile,
Turn off that smokestack
And that goddamn radio
Hum… along with me…
Hum along with the t.v.
No one’s
Gonna
Stop!

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66 Comments on “Ask Jack: Got That Maxima On Lock?...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Scary stuff…

    Doesn’t surprise me that Mazda’s default ABS-off setting is pretty good. If any manufacturer (besides the Porsche, Ferrari, etc) was going to have a good setting – it would be Mazda.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Or he could use the time before he repairs the ABS to learn how to pump the brakes in an emergency stop situation, like us old timers.

    Certainly not the recommended long term solution. ABS is one modern innovation that I will not let my family drive without.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      Isn’t threshold braking the recommended technique for vehicles with disk brakes, while pumping was better on something with drum brakes?

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @Arthur Dailey – pumping the brakes in a vehicle without ABS isn’t all that effective. Pumping the brakes entails braking and releasing in a rhythmic fashion that never allows for maximal deceleration.
      If one is in an emergency and one has to brake hard, threshold braking is the preferred technique. You brake as hard as possible and if one senses the wheels are starting to lock up you let off slightly then reapply. The idea is to mimic an ABS system.
      In an ABS vehicle, you can literally stand on the brakes. I do find that the threshold braking technique still applies to ABS. I’ve been in situations where the ABS vehicle still starts to slide.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Threshold braking is pumping the brakes. It is the most effective way to stop a car in control that doesn’t have ABS. Pumping or attempting “threshold braking” on an ABS car is the quickest way to end up in trouble if you’ve got a properly functioning ABS system.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          “Threshold braking is pumping the brakes”

          No, threshold braking is holding brakes at the threshold of static friction of tires against pavement, ie avoiding any sort of lockup by lessening braking force if necessary, the priority being avoiding lockup at all costs.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            gtemnykh – Correct. Threshold braking isn’t pumping. You apply the brakes up to the “threshold” of loosing traction. You keep it there and if you do loose traction you release the brakes slightly to regain grip then reapply.

            Pumping the brakes with ABS is the worst thing to do.
            On the other hand, Threshold braking does work with ABS.
            There are times (rare) when ABS doesn’t provide the sensitivity needed to control a vehicle. I’ve been in very snowy conditions, very loose gravel, muddy conditions etc. where ABS still causes a loss of grip when one needs to stop.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Lou, agreed on threshold braking with ABS, and some cars make it easier than others. Some of the earlier systems were really kind of crude and activated prematurely or less than predictably (some of that has to do with tires and how they break away).

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            Lessening the braking force is “pumping” the brakes.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            Scoutdude – “pumping” is the rhythmic application and easing off of the brakes. Another name for “pumping” is Cadence or stutter braking.

            If you get the “threshold” right, you don’t need to ease off and reapply.

            “While cadence braking is effective on most surfaces, it is less effective at slowing the vehicle than keeping the tires continually at the optimum braking point which is called threshold braking. The latter is an expert driving technique that is even more difficult to learn than cadence braking, and again has been largely superseded by ABS.”

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            ‘Pumping the brakes’ is an old expression meaning manually emulating what your ABS system now does. Hold the brake down until you start to lose traction/slide then release, then re-apply. An experienced driver can do this very quickly, multiple times, while retaining control of the vehicle.

            If you have experience driving older vehicles with drum brakes or front disc and rear drum and no ABS/EXC etc and old tires then you would understand the importance of learning how to do this.

            Not as effective as a modern ABS system. But better than just ‘stomping’ on the brake and holding it. That in older vehicles was generally a recipe for disaster.

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            I see brake pumping as an advanced technique. F1 drivers occasionally do it while trail braking through a low speed corner if the inside wheel is locking.

            I’ve never done it myself. Threshold braking is better in a straight line, and there’s no benefit in using the brakes to steer in slippery conditions as weight transfer is negligible. On a high traction surface, I think most drivers should stay off the brakes while steering, to avoid instability.

  • avatar
    ajla

    2.5 years? Geez, fix yo car.

    You own a Maxima, not an Altima. More is expected of you.

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      Dunno… I always thought the only difference between a V6 Altima and a Maxima was the owner’s credit rating.

      (Altima owner here, so I get a free pass on making Nissan jokes)

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        He’s got a MANUAL Maxima. That’s quite a big difference from an Altima, even the old ones with the 4-speed auto.

        • 0 avatar
          kvndoom

          And coincidentally, I have a MANUAL V6 Altima. Those cars were probably more than 90% identical during those model years.

          • 0 avatar
            kvndoom

            Edit: “mechanically” identical. Most differences are cosmetic.

          • 0 avatar
            Eiriksmal

            I forget whether the ’04-’06 Altima had aluminum control arms. The Maxima had a lot of changes to the suspension to keep the weight down.

            My 5.5th gen (’02) weighed 3200 lbs with the twist rear beam setup. The 2005 is much, much bigger, and has IRS but only weighs 250 lbs more. Press events from the era talk a lot about using aluminum in the new suspension, front and rear, to minimize the weight impact.

            The Altima SE-R still has a bigger anti-rollbar up front than the Maxima SE. I don’t remember what else, besides its magnesium wheels, is different from the SE-R to a 6MT Maxima.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Yeah if it was truly important then it should have been done long ago.

    • 0 avatar
      Eiriksmal

      *shrug* It died after an extremely heavy rainstorm, right before I moved from ye olde Kentucky to San Diego. San Diegans don’t need ABS because no winter and no rain.

      You just drive slower in the very few times it rains here and it’s no big deal. I’ve spent ~$800 on sensors and labor so far, to no avail.

      I wasn’t worried about it until last week’s harrowing incident, because I was braking in a straight line, not trying to slow down and dodge an obstacle simultaneously–where I understand physics and limited grip enough to expect to slide.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        $800 on what sensors and labor? Sounds like it was someone who didn’t know how to properly diagnose the system.

        • 0 avatar
          Eiriksmal

          If you want the full story:

          Heavy rainstorm (10″) happened, drove through a lot of water that day. The next day, went to stop per usual at a light and the ABS kicks on, on dry pavement, at low speeds, in a straight line.

          I almost rear-ended the car stopped at the light in front of me because braking power was probably less than half of what it was the previous day, during the rain!

          It keeps doing this every time I slow to a stop, no ABS lights, no nothin’. Terrified, I hit up the Maxima forums and find it’s a common-ish problem.

          People claimed that the system would continue doing this, even after unplugging a wheel speed sensor. Advice was given to snip the fusible link (shared with the power driver seat) in the under-hood collection of beefy fuses.

          I did that and found a TSB for excessive rust/debris buildup in the driver’s side rear hubs. Solve is to replace the hub and drill a slightly larger drain hole.

          A mechanic friend and I replaced both rear hubs and drilled the drain holes on both sides.

          Tried cleaning the existing ABS sensor, put in a fresh fuse block for the one I snipped–no fix, no code.

          Sucks! Now I have to buy ABS sensors.

          Bought ABS sensors for both rear wheels, just in case (2 Beck/Arnleys @ $125 each. OEM is $250 each), paid to have those installed. The labor in San Diego is intense. I think it was 2 hours, $200 a side, so ~$650 for the replaced sensors.

          Excited, I swap back in the good fuse… No dice. It does the same thing, but at least this time it turns on the ABS light after driving for a little while. Code is complaining about the new rear-left sensor.

          Others on the forums claim that new sensors wouldn’t fix their problem and the stealerships were replacing the entire ABS actuator control assembly–$1150 from Nissan.

          Disappointed, I pay another $100 for the same shop to check the installation (no guarantee because they were my parts) and see if I’m missing something. Came back with no ideas, other than saying they really, really don’t want to replace the ABS actuator because it’s a sucky job.

          So my driving routine is: Get in car. Put on seatbelt. Start car. Press “TCS Off” switch. Drive as usual.

          After the ABS self-test happens in ~1/4->1 mile of driving above 12 MPH, the ABS lights kick on. It never kicks on the ABS erroneously until then if TCS is disabled.

          Such was my life until these new, not-worn-out pads on the rear aggravated the rear-wheel lockup problem.

          • 0 avatar
            SPPPP

            What a pain. It sounds like the root cause was the drainage issue with the hubs. But perhaps the moisture in that location shorts out something inside the ABS actuator. If it’s a potted assembly, it may be very difficult to check or repair (probably why the dealership is trying to sell new ones). It may be possible to find rebuilt ones, but then again, maybe not.

          • 0 avatar
            SPPPP

            FYI, I have noticed that one or two auctions for rebuilt modules have popped up on eBay in recent months. This is in addition to auctions for “used good” modules.

            Of course, this module is a pain to replace because of the location and all the stuff in the way.

            I’m curious if you found any resolution to your problem yet?

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        You haven’t lived in San Diego long enough to know NOBODY slows down in the rain in Southern California, even in heavy rain.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    You can often (usually?) have the ABS module for a car rebuilt for a lot less than $1k.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    It’d still be a great idea to learn to pump the (sh!t out of) brakes. Ghetto ABS, otherwise. One never knows when it’ll become *useful*! It works as Ghetto Traction Control or limited-slip too.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    ABS didn’t work on my ES300 (bad front speed sensor), could have fixed it pretty easily and I even had a hand-me-down Modis scanner to reset the system. Ended up selling without fixing, the snow tires made stopping this winter a breeze, much more useful than ABS ever would be.

    Current beater Ranger likewise has the ABS light on, I very well might just pull the bulb on this one, if I had to guess I’d say it’s a rear-wheel ABS-only system anyways.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      gtemnykh – how old is your Ranger? rear ABS was a early 90’s and mid to late ’80’s thing. My ’84 Ranger 4×4 was non-ABS but my 1990 F250 had rear ABS.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Mine’s a ’97. The brake lines front and rear were replaced be what looks to have been a half-drunk bozo, so I’m not exactly holding out much hope for being able to economically repair whatever might be wrong with the ABS. For what its worth the brakes actually feel really nice and firm and well up to the task of stopping the truck, so I guess kudos to the ham fisted “mechanic” that did the brake lines. Going to leave well enough alone for now, I’ve got bigger fish to fry with this thing in terms of repairs.

        Reading up on the Ford RABS system, some on the forums do state that there is no effective proportioning for the rear drums if the system is disabled… makes me thing a bit haha, I should at least scan the system to see what components may have crapped out.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Like a lot of DIY kind of guys i am willing to get cheap every now and again.

    However, brakes and tires are two things i never go cheap on. Too much at risk when you learn the error of your ways.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Proportioning valves are only used on disc/drum systems. Disc brakes have a linear response to input pressure. Drum brake response increases exponentially with pressure due to their self energizing function.

    So yes proportioning valves went away but that has nothing to do with ABS. Now later ABS systems do have Electronic Brakeforce Distribution which is not the same thing. Chances are the Maxima in question does not have EBD since I show it being introduced on the Pathfinder with it’s 2010 redesign, couldn’t quickly find when it was introduced on the Maxima.

    So the problem is that you messed with the balance of the friction materials from the stock specifications. That is part of how a disc brake system is balanced. With ABS the tendency is to put enough force in the rear to handle a fully loaded vehicle and rely on the ABS to modulate the application of the rear in lightly loaded situations. Not to limit pressure but to modulate it.

    The reason that the light rear wants come around on lock up is because a sliding tire has minimal friction. So lots of friction in the front and little in the rear means the rear will want to keep moving and want to pivot around the front. So install proper OE spec pads all around or if you are upgrading to a higher friction material do it on all 4 corners from the same line of one mfg.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Very informative Scoutdude. Yes I think Jack might be somewhat off-base here. I would assume that the engineers designing braking systems would have a “baked in” redundancy in the brake line/master cylinder/caliper design to apportion a front-biased braking force even when the ABS block has malfunctioned. In addition to your brake pad hypothesis, perhaps the tires on the Maxima are unevenly worn, with more worn tires put on the back (generally not recommended)?

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Thanks, good point on the tires, if they are mismatched what it takes to lock them up will likely be different.

        Actually the current recommendation is that the new tires go on the rear with the thought that the average driver can better control understeer and that a tire failure on the front is easier to control.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          “Actually the current recommendation is that the new tires go on the rear with the thought that the average driver can better control understeer and that a tire failure on the front is easier to control.”

          Yep, it always seemed kind of backwards to be when I was younger (I wanted maximum traction when accelerating, especially in the winter), but the logic in terms of safety makes perfect sense. I used to ride with my brother to school in the old family Civic wagon that my dad refused to pay for anything more than replacing a pair of tires at a time with the cheapest things possible. A few times I remember doing involuntary 180s driving to school in the snow (thankfully at low speeds). We developed a few creative methods for maximizing traction and control in the winter such as dropping the right side wheels down onto the gravel shoulder. Needless to say my brother and I are huge snow tire advocates now, as well as buying good quality rubber in a timely fashion in general.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            Back when FWD didn’t exist or was very rare the norm was to buy only 2 snow tires and of course mount them on the rear. When FWD started getting more common many people did the same thing and doing 180’s became very common. Shortly there after you found that many tires stores would only sell you 4 if you have a FWD vehicle. Now of course the norm is to do all 4 wheels even on RWD cars.

            I used getting into the gravel on the shoulder technique my self.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            “I used getting into the gravel on the shoulder technique my self.”
            I do that if the shoulder isn’t soft. Even shifting over to get out of the polished ‘ruts” on the road helps.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Regardless of the technical aspects, Jack’s ultimate advice is right on: fix it and enjoy a manual-shift Maxima, because they’ll never make them again.

    • 0 avatar
      Eiriksmal

      Hmmm… I always appreciate your engineering analyses, Scout, but Jack’s hypothesis explained so many things!

      1. @gtemnykh You’re right, I do have different tires front and back. I neglected to rotate a set of Contintental DWS Extremes (what Tire Rack calls ultra-high performance all-seasons) and bought a pair of Continental DWs (UHP summer tires), so the front has more traction than the rear. There’s still ~6/32nds on the rear tires and I wanted more grip for the front because of the high torque FWD setup. Not worried about oversteering or hydroplaning in the lack of rain San Diego offers.

      2. The rotors are all nice Centric blanks, but the rear is new and the front was simply resurfaced because…

      3. I replaced both sets of brakes at the same time, probably a year before the ABS failed, and the rear pads wore completely out while the front pads still had more than 55% life remaining, measured by a caliper. So new pro-street pads were put on, front and rear, with new rotors in the rear.

      4. This supports Jack’s hypothesis that no ABS is sending brakes in a 50/50 split (or worse?) instead of a ~60/40 split that the Maxima’s FSM wants. (1067 PSI front vs 750 rear) The rears have been doing too much of the braking and have shredded through the pads accordingly. I don’t remember the relative wear level of the pads when I replaced them circa 2012/2013, but I doubt they were that mismatched.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        I’d say your tires are definitely a part of the problem. There is a serious grip difference between the Max Performance Summer DW and the UHP All-Season DWS. I’d try rotating them and finding a safe place to try a little panic braking.

        If it does have EBD then yes that would explain the faster wear of the rear brakes and the way it is braking. It is defaulting to maximum available rear brake. Note a proportioning valve is different than and EBD valve even though they both are used to reduce the pressure to the rear brakes. A proportioning valve’s output is solely dependent on input pressure. An EBD valve’s output pressure is dependent on the electrical input from the ABS system and is not fixed but based on input from the various sensors.

        • 0 avatar
          Eiriksmal

          Ah, found this in the brake control section of the factory service manual:

          “Electronic Brake Distribution is a function that detects subtle slippages between the front and rear wheels during braking, and it improves handling stability by electronically controlling the brake fluid pressure which results in reduced rear wheel slippage.

          If the electrical system malfunctions, the Fail-Safe function is activated, the EBD and ABS become inoperative, and the ABS warning lamp and BRAKE warning lamp are turned on.”

          So… Yeah. The EBD could certainly be the culprit here.

        • 0 avatar
          rpn453

          “I’d try rotating them and finding a safe place to try a little panic braking.”

          That seems like the obvious first step to me now that we know the tires are set up for a bit of inherent instability. Not dangerous instability, like having tires that would be likely to hydroplane before the fronts. But instability nonetheless.

          The lack of ABS wouldn’t bother me as long as the brakes are still capable of providing reasonable braking distances. That is, they’re capable of locking all four wheels without too much delay between the fronts and rears, but preferably with the fronts locking a little before the rears.

          Having locked up the brakes and corrected the ensuing rotation thousands of times on ABS-less cars in winter conditions, this sort of behavior is of no concern to me. Release-correct-apply is all muscle memory now and any instinct to brake and steer at the same time had long been abandoned by the time I finished high school, so I see ABS primarily as a tool to avoid flatspotting my tires and to keep the studs in good shape in winter.

          Though there’s no question ABS is beneficial in that it allows a driver to easily optimize braking distances in most conditions without requiring expert threshold braking ability, I think it would be a freak situation where a few feet makes a big difference in the outcome of a braking event. Trucks and SUVs wouldn’t be such common personal transportation if that were the case.

          Regardless, make sure the brakes are still working as good as ABS-less brakes should before carrying on.

    • 0 avatar
      turbo_awd

      @Scoutdude: Proportioning valves are only used on disc/drum systems.

      Not really – my ’90 GTi 16v had one (it seized up at one point, leading to similar situations as described here – the rears would lock up sooner than the fronts), and it had discs all around..

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        That era GTI would have a load sensing valve which while it does adjust pressure to the rear brakes it is dependent on sensed rear suspension height, not input pressure.

    • 0 avatar
      5280thinair

      “Proportioning valves are only used on disc/drum systems.”

      That doesn’t match up with my experience. I’ve seen any number of cars that only ever came 4-wheel disc brakes that include a fixed proportioning valve/block. An example is my NA Miata which has such a block mounted next to the brake master cylinder. This isn’t just a distribution block, it reduces pressure to the rears above a certain threshold (on my model year the spec for the “knee” point is at 427 psi) to be a fixed fraction of the pressure to the front.

      Under hard braking pressure to the rears needs to be less than that to the fronts. Otherwise, as weight transfers to the front axle, the rears will lock. For track cars, it’s common to replace the fixed factory proportioning valve for an adjustable one so you can tune the setting to conditions.

  • avatar
    jmo

    I was watching a c. 1984 Motor Week review and in the breaking test the Caddy being tested probably moved 25 degrees while braking. They commented that it was pretty good. I get the impression that pre ABS a car twisting like that was considered normal.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      25 degrees rotation isn’t much, even today. If you knew what you’re doing, you’d use that rotation to “steer” around/miss an object/car, when “letting up” slightly on (and unlocking) the brakes, or “threshold” brake, assuming there wasn’t enough time/distance to stop.

      If so, as you go to stand on the brakes, in a “panic-stop” situation (if you don’t actually panic), you would jerk the wheel in the direction you want/need the nose to rotate, in the split second you have before the tires actually lock-up.

      Cranking the wheel to the left, would get you a counterclockwise rotation, for example. I’ve avoided accidents this way.

      But ABS is good too. But I’m sure you’ve seen the long, long “straight/parallel” skid marks, with a sharp-angle turn at the end. They could’ve avoid that accident with 4-wheel ABS, for instance. Or the long, long skid marks leading to a tree with much of the bark scrapped off it. That had to hurt!

  • avatar
    John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

    I was watching a Motoweek retro review of economy cars I believe. One would have the back end come around every time they did a braking test. It was comical to watch.

    ABS was optional on the 1995 Taurus, mine does not have that option. I wish it did because it would also have rear disks with it.

    Anyway, I have had to panic stop a time or two in both this one and my 1993 I had years ago (non-ABS as well). Never gave any indication that the rear was trying to come up and say hello.

    Once I was doing 50 (the posted speed limit) and this idiot in a C3500 crew cab pulling a huge horse trailer decided to pull across all three lanes and sit there blocking them until traffic going the opposite direction was clear. I was in the 93 and that’s one of the few times I actually locked them up and slid.

    When I was in Florida with the 1995, some b¡tch in a Town and Country decided to make a left in front of me, then decided against it (as in stopped the van) after she had already pulled out to block my lane. I slid only a little before I let up enough to allow me to swerve around her. I hope she will think twice next time before executing such an idiotic move.

    I (agree with others and) think the OP’s Maxipad has a more than just a malfunctioning ABS system going on. I’d get it fixed or sell it to someone who can. I personally would NOT sell it without disclosing that it acts very weird when full-on panic braking.

    I like ABS, but most of the cars I’ve owned didn’t have it, so, I’ve learned to drive without it. I do not pump my brakes, unless I feel a loss of pressure when braking (as in a weak master cylinder or something).

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      John I just happened to watch that too, it was econoboxes from 1982, the braking-offender was a gen 1 Nissan Sentra. Funny how in the list of pluses that gen 1 Sentra had the same overall strengths as a Sentra does now: roomy back seat, large trunk (for the class), good fuel economy and a decent ride. Albeit falling somewhat short in many other metrics (the horrid Yoko tires on the ’82 took a lot of the blame I guess). In other words an emphasis on real-world basics.

      • 0 avatar
        John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

        Really? I thought it was a 3 door hatchback. I want to say Subaru Justy, but I can’t remember right off. Maybe I’ll search my YouTube history and find it. If so, I’ll report back.

        Edit: It was the Sentra! I guess I was thinking of something else. I had a 1985 Sentra coupe. Not one of my favorite cars by a long shot.

        Maybe rear-end swing around is a Nissan trademark?

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    On cars without ABS, the proportioning valve (and yes, disc brake systems have them – I can point to it on my Miata, as well as to vendors who sell aftermarket adjustable ones) is set up conservatively to ensure that the front wheels will lock up before the rears. This keeps the back from stepping out at the expense of leaving some braking performance on the table.

    Cars with ABS have the proportioning valve set up more aggressively, where in some situations rear lockup might be possible. ABS deals with these situations just fine, and in many cases the proportioning is done with help from the ABS systems. This allows for better braking performance at the limit, but if the ABS system craps out, you’ll have less stability at the limit. I think that’s what’s happening with this Maxima.

    Any discussion about brake proportioning requires knowledge of weight transfer. The harder you brake, the more weight transfer to the front wheels, the lighter the rear gets, and the easier it is for the rears to lock and step out. Part of a brake proportioning valve’s job is to dynamically change the front-rear braking split. The harder you brake, the more of your braking can be done by the front wheels due to the weight transfer. An extreme example of this is sport bikes, which due to their short wheelbase and relatively high centre of gravity will actually lift the rear wheel during maximum braking at speed, ie: 100% of the braking is done by the front wheel, despite the majority of the bike’s weight being supported by the rear wheel when it’s parked.

    For those inclined, you can read about proportioning valves and their “knee-points.” There’s definitely more to them than just compensating for the differences in how discs and drums respond to line pressure. Some are just spring-controlled valves, and others work electronically in conjunction with the ABS system. It’s not uncommon for them to be influenced by the suspension in order to compensate for extra load over the rear axle – even my ’92 Jetta was set up this way.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    If the rest of the car is in good shape, fix the ABS, even if it’s expensive. That’s a neat car.

    • 0 avatar
      Eiriksmal

      What makes it neat is the “elite” package it has. A rare car (5% or fewer of 2004-2006 Maximas were 6MT) with a rare ordering sheet with every option ticked, even the factory chrome wheels ($1500 in 2005 dollars!). Navigation is fun, but the heated 2 + 2 bucket seating with power sunshade is what really sets it apart:

      http://i12.photobucket.com/albums/a215/yanman_69/maxima-backseat.jpg

      And, because I’m a huge dork: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/32683359203/in/album-72157679139686212/

      Finally had to retired the 2-years-expired Kentucky plate and get a proper California plate shortly before the Escape tried to total my car. RIP, VQ35DE vanity plate.

      • 0 avatar
        John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

        I love the rear bucket seats, and the skylight in the roof on those Maxi. The rest of the car is meh but I’ve always wanted rear bucket seats with a console in the back. As little as the middle seating position is used, it is a very cool way to create a unique feel to the interior IMO.

      • 0 avatar
        kvndoom

        You got the orange seats? There was one locally with that crazy package but I had just missed out, which is why I wound up with an Altima instead.

        • 0 avatar
          Eiriksmal

          No, sir. The 2004 was the only year that had the burnt metallic exterior (orange, a toned-down version of the Z’s gorgeous LeMans Sunset color) with the orange/black leather interior. I’ve only seen one of those since I got my first Maxima in 2010.

          That orange/black 2+2 6MT would be the rarest Maxima ever produced.

          My Maxima is silver with the cream-ish leather interior, much less stand-outy.

  • avatar
    pb35

    I had an Olds Omega X-car back in the 90s where the rear brakes locked up all the time. It was a known feature, not a bug.

    It was fun, like driving a 3000lb. big wheel.

    http://www.nytimes.com/1983/01/05/us/brake-tests-on-1980-gm-x-cars-suggest-a-wider-recall-is-needed.html?pagewanted=all

  • avatar
    cdotson

    Assuming that absolutely nothing else is wrong with the braking system other than disabled ABS, and assuming equal and good condition tires, I would argue that you would still find a tendency for the vehicle to rotate under panic braking situations.

    The only time this would not be the case is when your vehicle’s center of gravity is 100% evenly split side to side and there is absolutely zero road crown and your front wheels are absolutely symmetric about the vehicle center line pointed forward. The confluence of these conditions can be expected to be sufficiently rare as to be functionally impossible. Deviations from these conditions in addition to deviations in mechanical condition of each vehicle corner will allow wheels to exert varying braking forces and apply rotational moments to the vehicle. As road crown, weight transfer, bushing deflection etc vary, so too will the rotational moments. If you simultaneously attempt counter steering and varying braking pressure you’re going to go full-on pendulum.

    Why does a car step sideways under braking? The same reason you can’t push a rope straight uphill.

  • avatar

    This reminds me of an issue I’m having with a Belkin uninterruptible power supply that ATT makes me use for my fiber optic modem. When I say “makes me”, I mean that. They use a 5mm power jack but the tip is a non-standard size. I’ve tried powering it from a universal power supply, drilling out a Radio Shack adapter that was close to get it to power up but there’s some kind of logic circuit involved that’s probably looking for the Belkin because it will shut itself off.

    Anyhow, Belkin decided to design the UPS to go into fault mode when the battery needs replacing. A couple of weeks ago we had gale force winds here and almost a million households were without power. While they were fixing things and rerouting, I lost power for about 36 hours. Apparently that stressed out the UPS’ battery, though what it was running besides the modem, I don’t know since I couldn’t use my computers due to lack of power. Wifi stuff goes through a mains supplied router so that was out too.

    While forcing people to buy a battery when they have power may help Belkin’s sales of replacement batteries, it badly compromises the “uninterruptible” part. Yes, a UPS is supposed to provide power when the utility mains fails, but it’s also supposed to supply power when everything is hunky dory.

    This was after wasting 45 minutes with ATT’s Bangalore script readers who then routed me to someone in the USA – in the wrong office. Finally someone told me to call Belkin who gave me the nonsensical advice of letting the faulted battery charge for 18 hrs. Who doesn’t use their computer for 18 hr stretches? I ended up buying a replacement from Amazon, a company a lot more reliable than ATT or Belkin it seems.

  • avatar
    NetGenHoon

    I had a 6th gen Maxima with the 6 spd. Take my advice, just ditch it. I had the exact same issue. The car was never the same. I replaced all the speed sensors, the computer, everything. The issue continued. I spent over $3000 on it, no dice.

    Also, you can’t use a salvaged ABS computer, the car won’t start.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Ugh reading this and the OP’s above description of parts/cost really makes me appreciate selling my ES300 and picking up the Ranger. For comparison sake to the Maxima price-list, the ABS hydraulic control unit (a tiny little thing, rear wheel only as I suspected) for a ’97 Ranger like mine is about $150 minus $50 core, the control module is also around $100. And of course junk yard units are in plentiful supply and I am certain not “tied” to the car’s ECM/BCM. On the Lexus I had to replace a Darlington transistor unit for the blower motor, new Lexus part would have been $330, Airtex made one for $130, and I lucked into a working junkyard unit for $6. The old Germans (rightfully) get taken to task on the upkeep and repairs of various complex modules, but one cannot forget that the Japanese higher end cars also had a lot going on, and given enough time these things fail too. The Ranger is worse built out of worse parts, but it is very simple and not intimidating to work on, as well as fantastically cheap (ready supply of junkyard donors cannot be understated either).

    • 0 avatar
      Eiriksmal

      What’d you replace it with, though? There really aren’t any other cars like this, besides the insanely rare 4th gen Acura TL 6MT. It’s etiher German, a Chevy SS/G8, or a coupe.

  • avatar
    northeaster

    It could be a lot worse.

    When I was 14 just after getting a learner’s permit, my dad thought it would be a really good idea to teach me about what could happen during panic braking. He did this just after sunset in an early 60’s Olds 98 (with 4 wheel drums) he was about to retire.

    On his instruction, I entered a slightly tight uphill turn to the right, modestly fast, and was told to push on the brake pedal hard. Really hard.

    In retrospect, probably not a terribly smart idea as a car with what should have been beyond-terminal-understeer ended up rotating the rear out about 135 degrees clockwise and ended up pointed partly downhill, ass end of the car in the wrong lane and with an unintended stall to boot.

    I was lucky enough not to have been T-boned by someone coming around the blind curve in the dark, but the rapidly ensuing stream of obscenities from him about getting the car started and in the proper lane still introduced me to the idea that bad things can happen if you don’t do threshold braking.

  • avatar
    cognoscenti

    Nice Jane’s Addiction reference! Damn, I can’t believe that was way back in 1986…

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