I recently drove a Fiat for the first time in my life. Despite always liking the look of the little Italian cars, I had a pretty poor impression of the brand. When I was growing up we used to call them “fall apart Fiats”.
So it turned out I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the styling, materials and driveability of the Bravo, which I had in on test a few weeks ago.
Things on my daily commute were going well, I even bonded with a fellow new-Bravo driver when he greeted me cheerily on the M11. Until the car suddenly went into limp-mode as I was rolling along in heavy traffic on the A14.
I’m not an expert driver so had no idea what was going on (someone told me afterwards about limp-mode), but managed to get myself (slowly) back to London. On the way some warning lights came on, telling me the ESP was no longer working.
The next day I told Fiat of my problems. They were great and promptly came to replace my Bravo. They also said that this was the first time they came across any problems like this with the car. I believe them, but it really does nothing to dispel the “fall apart Fiat” image!
Here is their explanation of what happened:
The problem was traced to a faulty brake light switch which was being activated at the slightest movement of the brake pedal. In some cases it wasn’t even switching off after the brake pedal had been released.
The Fiat Bravo’s ECU control unit continually gets a throttle position signal and a pedal operation signal while the car is being driven. But, if the brake light switch is sending a signal to the ECU that the brake is ‘on’ (because the brake lights are glowing) while the car is seemingly trying to accelerate, the ECU decides that it shouldn’t be allowed to do that and puts the vehicle in an ‘emergency’ setting, which reduces engine power.
This is also known as a ‘limp home’ mode which is there as a precautionary measure, fitted to the car for safety reasons.
A new brake light switch has now been fitted to the car which has an operating point much further down in its travel so there should be no further problems. This switch is a part that is used on most of the Fiat range and doesn’t usually cause any issues.