Unraveling the Mystery of the Cut Wire

Dear Car Talk:

I have a 2013 Honda Accord with 80,000 miles on it.

I went to a local tire dealership and had a rear tire replaced. Right afterward, all my service engine lights on the dashboard were on.

I took it to the Honda dealership, and they told me that the rear sensor wire had been cut, probably when the tire was replaced, but they said I would have trouble proving the tire guys did it. They said that it would cost over $2,000 to have it rewired.

I've been driving around with a Christmas-tree-light dash, and it is bothering me. Could there be a cheaper way to fix the wire without rewiring the whole car? -- Cathy

I certainly hope so. Two thousand dollars sounds crazy to me, Cathy. It is suspicious that your dashboard lit up at the exact same time you had the rear tire replaced.

If the tire guys are at fault, it's because they somehow cut your anti-lock braking system wiring to that wheel. That would take an impressive feat of clumsiness, since it's intentionally kept way out of the way of the wheel, but I suppose it's possible.

What I don't understand is what the dealer wants to do for $2,000. Do they want to replace your whole ABS system?

I think you need a second opinion from a non-dealer Honda repair shop. If you need help finding one, enter your ZIP code in www.mechanicsfiles.com and see what comes up near you.

Usually, there are only a few wires in that ABS cable. And if you came into my shop, I'd at least try to patch the wire. It would have to be conscientiously, because those wires are sensitive to electronic noise. So I'd carefully solder the wires to help maintain good, clean electrical contact -- rather than just twist them together and put a wire nut on them. And if the wiring harness was mangled, I'd solder in a whole new ABS sensor, which costs about $40. Then I'd use shrink tubing around the patch to insulate the wires from dirt and moisture.

It's worth a try. It could save you $1,800. And you won't have to just "hope" you now have a working ABS system. You'll know right away if the patch worked because the dashboard warning lights will go off. And if it ever fails someday, you'll know that, too, because the lights will come back on.

So a second opinion is clearly called for here, Cathy. A good, independent shop can tell you whether the wire and sensor can be fixed, rather than replaced. And they might also be able to tell you if the tire shop is at fault -- and give you enough evidence to go back and ask them to pay for it. Good luck.

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