OK, My Alfa, She Rather Poorly - Diagnoses, Kind Sirs If You Possibly Could? - Alfa Romeo Forum
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(Post Link) post #1 of 6 Old 08-03-13 Thread Starter
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Warning OK, My Alfa, She Rather Poorly - Diagnoses, Kind Sirs If You Possibly Could?

Hello All!!

Ok, I have started a number of threads spreading my cars issues around but I am so confused now I am going to put it all in one place and ask you kind sirs to help the blind along with your knowledge.


For two years I have had an Alfa Romeo 156 TS 2.0 16V manufactured in 1999.

During those two years she has been a dream. There has been an ongoing problem with the air conditioning which hasn’t worked for 18 months but it’s unnoticeable enough that I am yet to do anything; I will get to it. Although, I am starting to wonder if symptoms of problems to come were showing themselves but I digress for now.

I also remember that I have twice jumped in the car, turned the key to start the engine only to be met with silence as though the car forgot what to do. No engine turning over or anything, nothing going on at all. However, in both instances simply turning the key off and starting again saw the car roar into life and had me almost second guessing whether it had happened at all.

Those were the extent of my cars problems for a good 18 months and a little more.

There was cause at one time to jump start my wife’s car about three times in two weeks or so and it was following this that events unfolded leading me here eventually, confused and frustrated.

It seems jump starting was not something my car was happy with at all (An imported car jumping an Australian car was not so good I was told). And, my battery ended up completely ruined and couldn't keep a charge. So I booked her in for an early service and a new Battery.


The battery was changed and of itself has seemed great. I have had not one problem with it that I am aware of, my car always starts, idles great, never stops, cuts out, loses power, anything like that. Really excellent in that sense. VERY reliable.

The lights are always bright, I can turn on literally every single electrical product inside and outside the vehicle and there is no loss of power, no dimming of any lights, internal or headlights and such, radio is great, dash lights have been great (Until recently) and so on and so forth. At the same time there is no increasing brightness, no hot, nor bulging, battery, etc, nothing to suggest an alternator putting out too much charge either.

However, since that service, the battery problems, its change to a large Bosch battery, and what have you, things have started going wrong.

  • ABS land handbrake lights both came on at the exact same time

  • The Speedometer immediately stopped working as soon as these two lights came on

  • The issue is confusing as the lights turn off every morning after the initial check that greets ignition, the speedometer also works. Yet, like clockwork, six to eight minutes into the drive, the lights are back on.

  • The same thing happens if I stop at a shop and turn the engine off in the morning. As soon as I am back in the car the initial check greeting ignition sees the ABS and Handbrake lights now stay on. WEIRD.

  • The car has been to my local trusty mechanic who has connected diagnostics and communicated with the engine and the airbags but cannot communicate with the ABS or ECU at all. No error codes, nothing, nada.

  • As time goes by I notice new things creeping in. The central locking has started to fail if an internal light is left on without the engine running even if just for a couple of minutes. Yet, rather than a battery problem the car roars into life as soon as the ignition turns and if left running for about 30 seconds before turning off, the Central Locking now works again. I have repeated this numerous times always with the same outcome.

  • Recently I have had some time off and put myself head first into trying to figure this out and so armed with my smart phone have been driving the car and feeling totally safe to do so.

  • The brakes still work perfectly and exactly as they always have. So either i have never had ABS or the ABS is working fine and the lights are telling me something much removed from what the manual says they are telling me.

  • The car has no issues. It is not sluggish, idles perfectly, doesn’t chug, runs smooth, pulls when I accelerate and so on.

  • When I am driving the Handbrake (Brake fluid or whatever) light is bright Red and angrily firm in its ON position. The ABS light however seems to be trying so HARD to turn off. It flickers like a fire turning to an ember and reduces to a silhouette and then I break and it beams Bright Orange at me and begins the dyeing ember process again. AGAIN WEIRD.

  • Obviously the speedometer has been replaced by my smartphone which is not ideal and with that has gone the Odometer also. Still does the temperature outside though. No problems there.

  • Finally, today. Under the hood, dirty, lost and confused, I decided before buying the damn REFURB ABS UNIT I would try the ECU RESET. I dont know if it is supposed to work with my model but I assume it does. Having followed its procedure the lower gears feel a touch more responsive. I didn't drive it hard as with my speedometer being my phone it felt reckless but she runs very well. Now, however, I have new problems!

  • Driving after ECU RESET tonight, the Dashboard lights began intermittently turning OFF. If the speedometer worked it would have been too dark to see, this happened four times. I did notice ALL FOUR TIMES I was turning left so on inspection found when the left indicator was on the Dash lights turned off and when the indicator went off the Dashboard relit USUALLY. If not the headlights had to be turned on and off. AGAIN WEIRD.

  • Now, I cannot say what caused this new Dashboard issue, but if it were me the idea is a great concern in and of itself. Being quite serious now, I purposefuly avoided touching anything I wasn't concerned with at any given time, and while anything is possible, to cause an issue like this while actively trying not to is concerning. In addition if the electrics are as tempremental as suggested here, exactly how bad could such a problem be?

OK, so that leaves me here now typing to you fine people and wondering what on earth is going on.

I will give you my thoughts based on the evidence and maybe you could discount some of my ideas or suggest I look closer at others or someone may be able to say that you know what the exact problem is, do this and this and your little drama is yesterday’s news.



I am not yet ready to fully commit to a Refurb from a smiling salesman who is charging a barrel load of dollars for a part he received for next to nothing and that while might help I may not even really need.

What I cannot get my head around here is why the lights pass the initial test every morning. Overnight reset or not the test is there as soon as the key is turned and no errors are reported for on average seven minutes. Do I really have to accept that both the ABS and ECU work for seven minutes every morning and then decide to call it a day (speedometer also but that’s all about the ABS so...)?

Also, why does the ABS light seem to be trying to turn off so desperately until I brake and then continue to do the same thing all over until I break again. It’s almost like there is a loose connection that is enough to stop communication and to result in the error lights but that in between braking the ABS module or Unit (whichever it is) keeps coming real close to re-establishing the full connection again only to be thwarted as I need to brake once more. (Incidentally it has never managed to turn off once it has turned on but it has come close enough to be unnoticeable until pointed out)

I know people have told me with the 5.3 BOSCH ABS modules vibrations have caused loose and failed connections and so I do wonder but in reality I cannot know this is the problem as I am no electrician, would solder my hands together before doing anything good with an iron for the job I am sure, so short of paying someone to check a hunch I have nothing but logic and guesswork to go on.

Besides would a loose connection inside the ABS electrics result in absolute no communications with diagnostics and for the ECU as well? Seems a little more than that to me?


Then I consider the sensors and I wonder whether the loose connection may actually be double barrelled. If it is the connection of the sensor between the engine and the ABS units then this would presumably cause all of the problems with the lights that I have.

I also assume that if the loose connection was at the ABS end then the Diagnostics could talk to the engine just fine but maybe not the ABS unit? Indeed as they share a sensor or so I believe (AM I wrong to do so, if I am please let me know) is this the reason also that the ECU will not communicate with diagnostics either?

We know the wheel sensors are working fine as when the ABS is working and therefore the speedometer is too, it works perfectly and so must be receiving the different speeds from all the wheel sensors to get its average for the Dash display.

Therefore it seems logical to wonder that if there is a loose connection causing issues with the ABS and the ECU and possibly their communicating with the rest of the car or diagnostics, symptoms might present as happenings like the ABS and Handbrake lights coming on after about eight minutes every morning, potentially after the vibrations of a moving vehicle having loosened the connection once more. The speedometer then follows as it relies on an operational ABS Unit.

As we continue on the journey however we find the odd occurrence of the ABS light flickering and seemingly almost to be trying to turn off. Can we imagine as the journey continues the loose connection still rubs against the point with which it should be connected and so confused the ABS Unit is trying to re-establish but the connection never quite takes and so my inevitable braking action causes the light to burn bright once more, and then to start the repeat all over again.

And, finally, when connecting diagnostics looking for error codes, what if the wire with the loose connection is the sensor wire that runs from engine to ABS UNIT and therefore while unable to communicate with the car it is also unable to communicate with Diagnostics, meaning there are no error codes, no clues pointing in the right direction, only symptoms and logically best guesses.

OK so that’s one of my largest theories although quite likely to be absolute nonsense I know. I’m prepared for that, I don’t profess to have any ideas I am clinging to at all, or about which I am even confident of validity come to it.



What are the chances that after 19 months of beautiful operation these two separate components, in close quarters though they are, just decided to both stop working, together, at the same time, the same second even, without any prior warning. (Unless the two times the engine did nothing upon the key turn and the 18 months of no air conditioning were early symptoms as I suggested earlier). This is extremely farfetched to me unless there is a very different problem that happened at that time or continues happening that effects both of these units to the extent of making them fail. Therefore, we have....


My final culprit and the one that scares me most as if this were the case just about anybody could take me to the cleaners and back while I held their hand and thanked them owing to the pitiful amount I know about anything electrical. Basically dont touch, dont intentionally risk a shock that may hurt or even kill? That’s about as much as I know. Except, rubber soles are good or something, is that right? They are either really good or really bad, see I know nothing.

However in my mind I can see an electrical problem, maybe a very tiny one, that happens over and again causing the ABS and ECU units to either shutdown or appear to have. That’s it, that’s my theory. I wouldn’t know what the problem is, I wouldn’t know how it has, or does, come about, nor would I even have an idea where it might be located so to look for anything obvious; sparks or a fire for example. But as small an idea as this is, and with as little depth as I can manage here, the possibility of this needing be considered was something I wondered about all the same.

As an adjunct to this electrical musing I could remind about and add to the subject area the weird new phenomenon of the Dashboard lights turning off while the left indicator is on. We can also consider the repeating BUG in the central locking when it becomes disabled following the short maybe five minute use of an internal light. Also there is the likely completely unrelated event where twice in the 24 months I have had the car, her engine has acted as if immobilised (see what I did there) without explanation only to fix itself on the very key turn that followed.

Finally we can chuck the air conditioning not working for 19 months on top just to complete a badly represented electrical equation. However, chide myself as I may, I can see it possible that there may be the parts needed to imagine a small bundle of electrical problems contributing to a much larger and more obvious one. Of course they could just as easily and as likely be small and explainable separate issues. But I ask because I don’t know.


Maybe YOU GUYS, if anyone has navigated the mess this far, can make some sense out of all this, or knock mine back into me. I may well be thinking too much, I do that, especially when I am convinced the answer is most likely quite simple and doesn’t need me to end up frustrated and handing over more cash than I want for a part I don’t actually need were the real problem to present itself more obviously.

Or if there is little sense to be made then your suggestions would be just as invaluable as without any error codes I am living on a prayer. Without heaps of money also I would love to imagine I might work the right order of play here and give myself the best chance to solve this mystery without resorting to just ordering the damn new (Refurbed) ABS UNIT and paying another chap to fit the thing. All the time wondering whether the process of fitting a new sensor or reattaching the old one to the New Unit, was the real fix to my problem, the loose connection now firmly re-established, and also the reason why my declared faulty ABS UNIT has already been sold three states over to Mr Romeo as an excellently working Refurbed Unit following a dusting.

Any ideas chaps or am I simply delaying the damn inevitable?

(By the way, one last thing; having parked my lady on the drive for a few nights this past week and my drive has a very slight incline. When I turned the engine on this morning to move the car, the lights failed the first check and remained on for the very first time. Coincidence? And where has this Dashboard problem come from all of a sudden? Is that the ECU RESET or is that me fiddling about today under the hood. If the latter, is this not indicative of what may be going on generally, as it would seem therefore that the slightest knock on this possibly temperamental wiring would have been enough to present an all new quirk to enjoy but which really should not exist?) Anyway,…

Sorry for the ridiculously long read. This is my last shot before spending too much money on something I doubt I really need but without error codes I am stumped. Logic I have and ideas I can formulate but when trying to do so lacking any subject know how at all I’m going nowhere but round a square triangle.

So any help, insights, or even your ridicule, regarding my ideas are all more than welcome because narrowing on something definitely worth trying or something definitely worth binning, results in being one more hypothetical closer to locating and solving my actual problem here.

Thanks again for your time, I presume you are now hungry and need a beer but if and when something comes to mind, or if it already jumped out at you, please do let me know. I would be extremely grateful.



Last edited by kaptabs; 08-03-13 at 15:45.
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That's one hell of a post

I'm 99% sure it's the ABS ECU. It's easy to change yourself as its fixed by 6 screws to the side of the pump.

A faulty one with show both abs and handbrake light, no speedo and no communication to engine ECU to read faults.
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do you have a diagnosis kit ? cable and multiecuscan ? check out youtube rarebear14 for a demo,
guessing won't help....
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Have you tried resetting the ECU? Apparently they don't like power cuts and surges. Also, it's a possibility that the ECU was damaged by the jolt but that is pretty unlikely.

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You say it all started when battery was changed.Are there any earth leads not fitted correctly/tightened.Or as the others have said was something damaged when jump starting.I agree with rarebear,get it diagnosed properly otherwise youll be changing parts for the sake of it.Gets expensive.
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(Post Link) post #6 of 6 Old 08-03-13 Thread Starter
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Does anyone have experience with the BRAKE PEDAL and the ABS Faults?

It came to me a few minuites ago that if the ABS light is trying so hard to go off that either the connection to the light is loose (Cant be as it is heavily illuminated when I press the break)

Or that the Brake Pedal is directly related to my problems.

It seems weird to me that the ABS light illuminates most brightly when I press the brake pedal so either the loose copnnection is fixed by depressing the Brake pedal or there is a direct correlation with the brake pedal and the actual ABS fault?

Is there a connection at all anyone? Does this seem plausible as I cannot explain it any other way when I think about it in that way?

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