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2003 Windstar: the backup lights will not come on

Customer Question

On a 2003 Windstar, the backup lights will not come on. Recent trani work (5 mo. ago) suggests that they caused the issue, but unfortunately we did not notice the light problem until recently. The wiring in a Haynes manual for '95 to '03 'Stars does not match my 'Star. My SAE certified brother is leaning toward the Transaxle Range Sensor, but trani mech says 'not'. Getting 3.94 volts on apparent supply wire (gray/red) of both bulbs; 10-11 millivolts on other bulb wires(not grounded?). Trying to confirm if TRS is defective. Can you provide "ANY" leads for this problem?
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Ford
Expert:  Kevin replied 7 years ago.

There would be a few things to check here. The system is more complex than an older system and may require the use of a factory scan tool to diagnose this concern. You said you were getting 3.94 volts on the gry/red wire. This circuit should have battery voltage any time the key is on. The same circuit and fuse also powers the left rear turn, license plate and right rear park stop lamps. The same relay that powers that fuse, also feeds power to the courtesy lamps and other ciruits through various fuses. If these are also a concern, there is high resistence in that circuit or relay, but it doesn't appear to be the case and I wouldn't suspect just a low voltage concern to just the back up lamps and not the other circuits. Are you sure you have your neg test lead on a good ground? Since you said the right side lamp illuminates, you probably do not have a voltage concern if the lamp lit brightly.


Now to the grounding side of the circuit. The backup lamps are turned on (grounded) by the rear electronic module. It receives it's signal from the pcm over a high speed data line telling it to turn on the backup lamps. The pcm gets it's signal from the trans range sensor. It is possible for the trans range sensor to be faulty and you may be able to test this yourself.


Using your volt meter, attatch the pos side to the battery pos terminal. Attatch the neg lead of your volt meter to the lt blu with black tracer wire at the tr sensor. Set your emergency brake. Turn the key on, leave the engine off. Place the shifter in the reverse position. Your volt meter should read battery voltage. If it does, My suggestion is to have it diagnosed by a professional with a factory Ford scan tool. If you show no voltage or little voltage, place the negative lead on the gry/red wire at the tr sensor. your meter should show battery voltage. If this time you have voltage, and the first time you didn't, the tr sensor is either faulty or improperly adjusted. If you have no voltage, I'm back to recommending a professional checking your vehicle.


Also verify connector condition at the tr sensor and that all pins are clean and fully seated into the connector. You may also want to give each wire a slight tug to verify they aren't broken inside the insulation.


Good luck and have a nice day.

Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Thank you for your response - it does raise another question. You say to attach a meter lead to wires at the TRS - How do I access them? Do I pull the connector off? My visual recollection doesn't remember seeing anything exposed that I could touch with a lead.
Expert:  Kevin replied 7 years ago.

You will need to backprobe the wires at the connector. You may be able to use a small needle or pin pushed into the backside of the connector for the circuits I explained above and touch the meter leads to the pin. You need to make sure the pin is making good contact to the wire within the connector or the test will be invalid.


You will need to remove the connector to install the pin. I suggest using a couple pins at the same time, not allowing them to touch each other or anything around it, so you don't have to keep unplugging the sensor.

Kevin, ASE Certified Technician
Category: Ford
Satisfied Customers: 70
Experience: ASE Master Technician with L1 certification. 20 years auto electric, driveabilty and A/C knowledge.
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Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Thanks so much for your assistance. Interesting though...I thought I'd just save time and go to a dealer for the Scan tool diag. Well, actually I went to two dealers paying them both for the scan since I don't trust the lot of them (with all due respect, if applicable). One said it's the REM and the other said it's a wiring problem and may end up being the REM in addition. I committed to the first in the hopes that the codes they defined as being the REM will do it else they will also take me for almost $1K to fix this shit problem. After owning a Ranger for 18 years (the last few not good), this Windstar and buying an '05 Taurus last year, I'll be looking to NOT buy another Ford in the future.
Expert:  Kevin replied 7 years ago.

Good luck. I wouldn't mind knowing what the fix was when it gets done, if you don't mind.

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Experience:  ASE Master Technician with L1 certification. 20 years auto electric, driveabilty and A/C knowledge.
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