Thursday, June 11, 2009

Auto Repair Adventure #21 - Suburban Multi-Switch Replacement

Ok, this one has been lingering for a while now. The right turn-signal and brake light on our 1999 Suburban keeps burning out - I've been through 4 assemblies now. Then the windshield wipers started acting up - they'd quit working in the rain (which is BAD in the NorthWest!) or work sporatically. I replaced the wiper motor but to no avail.

I next suspected it might be the multi-switch on the steering wheel column. NAPA and the other local stores all wanted $400 for just the switch (!), so this wasn't high on my priority list to fix. I found a new unit on EBAY for $65, so thought I'd give it a try. Plus, my wife said this is all she wanted for her birthday, so there was my motivation.

My first attempt was a failure - it looked like I would have to pull the airbag out, steering wheel off, and disassemble the steering column.

However, after some thought and a little NorthWest improvisation, my son and I were able to complete the job in ~1.5 hours and with just the tools shown here. Get ready... here we go!

First, use the Torx wrench and take the 2 bottom screws out of the bottom shield on the steering column. Nice and easy, right?

There are 2 MALE Torx screws holding the top of the column shield on - the first one is easy to get at, but this second one is up inside the ignition switch. I didn't have a wrench or socket for it, but some long needle-nose pliers got a bite on it. Phew!

The bad news is that I didn't want to take the Ignition Switch out, and so had to work around the top steering column shield. I was able to bend it up and out of the way without busting anything... so far so good!
Next, you need to get the 2 Torx screws out that hold the multi-switch to the column. The one on the top is tough to get at. My wrench wouldn't reach, but I was able to hold a smaller socket in a vice-grip and work the screw out. Man, its getting tough now...
The 2nd screw on the side-front of the switch was much easier to get out with our 'improvised' tool.
As hokey as this seems, it was well worth not having to remove the airbad and steering wheel!

A sidenote - my son has had a small-engine class at High School, and we've really had a good time lately working on the cars together. It is sure nice to have company, and he is a big help now, too! This was much better than all the lonely nights in the dark, with a flashlight in my mouth working on the cars alone! Thanks, boy!

With the switch loose, we popped the knee shield off the dash to get at the wiring.
The wiring harness was the toughest part of this job. It is one bugger of a harness, and tough to get at with my big fat hands.

First, detatch the harness from its mount to the dash.
Next, there is a bolt in the center of the connector on the wire-side - remove this dude and it all comes apart easier...

...beware, though, there are a bunch of plastic retainers to take off, and these are BUGGERS!
Finally, remove the old switch and install the new one, in reverse order.
The whole thing went pretty smoothly... and it was fun with my son. The bummer? IT DIDN"T FIX THE PROBLEM!!! Arrg! The wipers are still messed up, and the light still is not reaching the taillight. Dang!
At least I didn't sink $400 into this and realize it wasn't the problem... and a dealer or auto shop would have done the same replacement, too. So... on to the next debug...