Masculine Conversations

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How to clean Ford power window switch contacts

The right rear passenger power window on our 2003 Ford Excursion up and quit working, so I decided to dig in last Saturday and see if I could find the problem. 

A lot of Googling later, I determined that there were four places the problem might be: (1) the master switch in the driver's door; (2) the wiring; (3) the passenger switch itself; or (4) the window motor. 

I had reason to believe it was not the motor, and I had already tried using a different switch in the passenger door, so it could not be that either. I took a look at the wiring going from the vehicle frame to both doors, but could not see any problem with it, although I was not certain. 

Finally, with some more Googling, I determined that it was likely a problem with dirty contacts in the drivers' master switch panel, as this seems to be a common cause of Ford truck power window failure. 

I snapped a few cell-phone pictures of the process, in case anyone else needs help getting in here. 

How to clean the contacts on the master switch:

 Start by prying up on the right end of the switch panel. There is only one clip holding this part down, and it's right at this far end

Once the clip is free, pull the panel an inch to the right, and outward

 Always take a picture of anything complicated like this, so that you can know how to put it back together if you forget. The next step is to unplug all four connections, and unsnap the clips that hold the window switch box into this panel.

The window switch box

To gain access to the inside of these switches, and the contacts that need cleaning, you have to snap all the switch caps off the top. This is a little tricky, but can be done by prying with a flathead screwdriver as shown, using the rounded top of the plastic post as a base. 

You will likely think you are about to break the caps, as this requires quite a bit of force, and they make some awful noises in the process. However, I found them to actually be very sturdy, and a replacement cap is not expensive if you do need one. (The switch pictured is from a passenger door).
Unsnap all five switches (go in lengthwise from one end on the window lock switch at the bottom), and the switch box will look like this

Now you need to unsnap the six clips (three on each side) holding the top and bottom of the box together. Do this right side up, or some pieces may fall out. The three clips one one side of the box are shown above - just use a very small flathead screwdriver to get in and pry the plastic outward around them.

Pull off the top cover of this box, and it should look like this. 

This is the switch I was primarily concerned with, since it is for the right rear window, the one that quit working. 

If you look closely, you can see that the white box-like part on top is held in place by a black piece that snaps over a pivot point on the white part. Use a screwdriver to pry this black piece outward on both sides, and remove the white part

It will look like this. There is a small separate plastic piece stuck into the bottom of the white part - make sure this comes out with it, and the two stay together.

Always keep your parts organized in a manner that allows you to quickly replace them each in the right spot. 

This next step is the hard part. In order to access the contacts at the bottom of the switch, you need to remove the black piece into which the white box was clipped. There are four clips holding this down, two on each side, but they come undone very easily. 

The difficult step is then pulling the black part out from underneath the the white frame piece holding the light-bulbs in place. I did not find a way to remove the light-bulbs or white pieces, as the light-bulb wires were soldered down to the green board.

 Fortunately, the white frame pieces and wires bent upwards sufficiently without breaking, and I managed to extricate the black parts. The picture above shows this part with the black piece removed, and the white frame pieces bent upward slightly.

The two metal pieces running vertically in the picture are not held down, and can be removed and placed with the other parts

At last, the contacts are visible!

Here's an up close look - both the squares and bumps need to be cleaned. The picture above is of the contacts after I cleaned them, but you should know the state of yours by how much black carbon build-up is on them.

To my surprise, I found that the contacts in our truck were actually quite clean already. Still, I was in this far, so I cleaned them further using sandpaper, paper-towels, and the end of a screwdriver. I would also recommend using Q-tips and rubbing alcohol.

Make sure all the contacts are very clean, and then sand the bottoms of the two metal pieces that sit on top of them. Then you can reassemble everything and give it a try!

Unfortunately, when I had finished cleaning these contacts and putting everything back together, I found that the window still didn't work! With some more trouble-shooting, however, I managed to find the real problem - a broken wire between the vehicle frame and the rear door. I have more pictures of how to fix that problem, but they will keep for another post.

- Isaac

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