A glitch in the F-150 matrix

A few days ago the parking brake switch failed on the F-150. More specifically, the release function of the switch failed; the apply function worked just fine. At almost 3 years old and 38K, this is the first thing on the truck that’s required attention beyond routine maintenance.

I had noticed Friday morning that I had to push the switch several times before it would release the parking brake when I left work. I made of mental note of needing to check that out this weekend and not setting the brake until I did. Come lunch time, I went home to grab a bite to eat and let the doggos out to play for a bit and feed them lunch. Without thinking, I set the parking brake out of habit when I parked the truck in the driveway. The release function of the parking brake switch was never to work again.

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I ended up with my truck stuck in the driveway over my lunch break. A quick disassembly of the switch revealed a printed circuit board and an 8 wire connector feeding into the parking brake module. A quick google search didn’t turn up a pinout or detailed enough description of the parking brake wiring to make feel confident enough to think I could break out the power probe to apply some power to retract the parking brake (stepper motors in each rear caliper, so no manual release at the wheels). I also don’t own a scan tool with the capability to manually command the parking brake system.

Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, as I could walk back to work (call it 25 minutes door to door) or otherwise just take the afternoon off, but I was to be on our reference desk that afternoon and few people are around on Fridays to horse trade reference shifts with. My boss ended up giving me a ride back to campus on his way back from lunch, and I walked home in the evening.

My time on the reference desk on a slow Friday afternoon gave me the oppotunity to fully disassemble the switch and find the failure point. There were two plastic posts that secure the black plastic housing that holds the release switch assembly together missing on the release switch along with loose pieces of the release switch assembly after it came apart. The wear pattern on the contacts was also completely different that on the apply switch, leading me to suspect those posts had been broken for some time (possibly broken off during assembly) and that housing was moving around with each press of the physical button until it finally came apart when lower tabs cracked. Once I got home that evening I was able to plug the switch back in and hold the release switch together with a finger and move the contacts to release the parking brake, freeing my truck from the driveway.

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The truck spent the weekend flashing all kinds of warning lights, display messages and angry chimes. It was clearly upset at not having a parking brake switch at all. The local Ford dealer got the part in on Monday for $60 and life has been good since. I also got the number to file a claim for some after-warranty support Ford. I feel like a parking switch should last more than 38K, and some reimbursement for the new switch would be a nice gesture. I’m not holding my breath, though.

I’m still a very happy camper with this truck, but this little glitch highlights why I wish Toyota would get around to updating the Tundra into a modern truck. This is the kind of shit quality control issue I expect from American vehicles built by any of the big 3...

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