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Removing and Cleaning the Door-mounted Interior Light Switch

Removing and Cleaning the Door-mounted
Interior Light Switch

John Corso

Even if you don't have ready access to parts, there's no reason to put up with interior lights that don't turn on (and, in the case of the driver's door, a key-in-ignition buzzer that doesn't sound) because the door switch has failed: just clean the switch.

I did both my front doors last night in less than an hour. They get used the most, so their switches fail first. The job might be a bit more difficult on the rear doors, because those switches don't seem to have as much slack wire, making them more difficult to pull out from the door frame. My rear switches are OK, so that's a challenge for another day.

Removing the switch is obvious: it's held to the door frame with two phillips head screws. Pull the unit out of the frame: on the front doors the wires have about 6 inches of slack. You'll see where the wires connect to the switch. jump these connections with a piece of wire. If the lights go on (and, if the key is in the switch, the buzzer sounds) you know the switch is bad. If the lights don't go on, the problem may be the bullet connectors. Here's some advice from Lew Plummer for dealing with bullet connectors:

Try moving the bullet in the rolled socket, if it moves easily you've probably found the problem source -- the current is dropping across the poor connection ... If this connection feels good then proceed to the next one, kinda like series Christmas tree lights. Also note that the bullets are usually hard to pull past the locks even when loose in the socket but pull it anyway, clean and carefully re-roll the receiving socket to tighten the connection. I like to use a small amount of electrical paste like Gold Bond or Cool Amp to inherence the connection and keep dirt out.

Assuming the lights did go on when you jumped the switch, pull its wires out from their bullet connectors and take the unit to your workbench. Notice that it is held together will four little tabs. Bend these tabs back and the unit will separate into a base plate and the switch. The switch is basically a tall tub holding a hollow plunger with a circular base. Two flat metal strips run up the sides of the tub and, at the rim, are bent at right angles to form prongs pointing in. These strips are connected to the wires. When the door is closed, it pushes the plunger to the bottom of the tub. When the door is opened, a spring inside the plunger pushes it out of the tub until the base of the plunger makes contact with the prongs, completing the circuit.

The source of the problem in my units and, I betcha, yours, is the circular base of the plunger and the ends of the metal strips. They get dirty and prevent good electrical contact.

Remove the plunger from the base unit by bending one of the prongs out of the way: the spring is inside, so take care not to let it fly away Rub a piece of emery paper around the circular base of the plunger to clean it up. Do the same with the underside of the prongs. I couldn't get the emery paper to get a good bite on the prongs, so I just scratched them up with a screwdriver bit.

Everything goes back together the way it came apart. You should get interior lights as soon as you snap the bullet connectors together. This is a pleasant and useful fix for a reasonable expense: zero.

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