Mark Giammalvo specializes in driveability diagnostics at his family business, Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales & Service, Inc. in New Bedford, MA.Mark, who has been with the business for over 20 years, is an ASE Master Technician and Parts Specialist. He also holds the ASE L1 certification, and has an associates degree in business management.
Mark is also a writer for Motor Age Magazine and is the past secretary of the Alliance of Automotive Service Professionals, (AASP).
(Printed in the Journal of The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers, AASP)
The only way to travel is Cadillac Style. I don't know if that rings a bell with you but it does for me. That line has been in Cadillac's advertising campaign for years. I have to wonder about it sometimes. This week we had a customer with a 1993 DeVille report that the SSS light came on and stayed on. I had an idea that this light was a similar warning like we see so often on Caddy's with Computer Command Ride, (CCR). You know, that system where the car has 4 electrically controlled struts. Looking in Alldata revealed nothing about the system. Time to relax for 30 min. while we wait for Alldata's fax service. After receiving the fax we realized it was CCR except that on a 1993 the light is called SSS. The Cadillac service manual data that Alldata sent was very helpful. I have diagnosed this system on Caddy's before but no one has ever returned for us to actually perform the repairs. Why? Because the diagnostic tests always point to failed struts. The struts are only made by GM and have a suggested list price of close to $500.00 each. After you figure labor and the alignment in, it gets to be a pretty scary dollar figure. Then again, I didn't build it, buy it, or break it. Usually on this system, the ECM commands a motor in the strut to turn to either firm mode or soft mode. A feed back position wire is monitored at each strut to make sure the commanded position was carried out. When a command is made and the feed back wire reports the strut never moved, a code is set in the controller.
Anyway, I looked in the trunk between the radio speakers for the control module (brain) so I could count out the led flashes for the code. Guess what? The brain is not mounted in that nice easy to get to location anymore. On this year it's mounted in a better location. Much easier to get to. (Read: Remove drivers seat, roll back rug, remove brain). I guess some engineer complained that opening the trunk and looking at the module was too easy so they wanted it mounted to the floor pan. Thanks!
On a 1993 you have to ground a pin in the ALDL connector and then the SSS light on the dash will flash. But since you can't read the letters on the ALDL connector in it's mounted location, you have to remove the lower hush panels and remove the ALDL connector so you can find the corresponding pin letter and ground that pin. The brain threw a code 25 for "L/R strut position error". Now we called Alldata again and asked them to send us the Flow Chart for code 25. After relaxing another 30 min., the fax arrived. Now you have to get to the brain under the seat and OHM test the wires from the brain to the L/R strut. I seem to remember doing that in the past very easily when the brain was in the trunk! The flow chart states that "If the Ohms resistance is between 9 and 19 to replace the strut." (I love the use of OHM's testing, it's so reliable. What ever happened to voltage drops? Shhhh... that would mean a better repair. The manufacturers can't put that in the service manual. OHM's testing and incorrect wiring diagram colors are much better). Well, the customer paid our diagnostic but he decided not to replace the strut. Well, after all, no one else has! Can't really blame him. Who wants to spend $500+ on an older car? The other caution we give to the customers on these cars comes from the first one we did several years ago. At that time our technical hotline warned us to advise the customer that at this time only one strut has failed, and at any time in the future the other struts could fail and may have to be replaced. We have always passed on that warning to the customer. Otherwise you could replace a strut one week, and the next week have the light on again with a code for another strut. You and I would know that a different code would point to another strut, but the customer seeing the same light on may get the false impression that you never cured the problem in the first place.
The only way to travel is Cadillac Style.
UPDATE: In August of 2003 I received an phone call from Dale Whiles, a Cadillac owner in Oregon. Dale used to be in the automotive repair industry and even financed an Oregon shop owner in the past. Dale wanted to thank me for posting this informative article as his Caddy also has the SSS light on. Dale even wanted to conference me with his friend and shop owner that, he claims, refuses to work on Cadillac's any more. Well, Dale could not reach the shop owner so we did not get to 3 way chat. Anyway, I told Dale that since this article was written, Cadillac has come up with a less expensive, alternative repair, for the SSS light problem. Basically, it requires installing 4 regular "passive" struts and disabling the SSS system so the control module will no longer command the strut motors and will not illuminate the SSS light. It basically eliminates the SSS feature from the car. The Cadillac bulletin # is 00-03-11-001A.