Cleaning electric switches (power windows, locks, seats)

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sirrus
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Cleaning electric switches (power windows, locks, seats)

Post by sirrus » Tue May 12, 2020 11:39 am

Since I've mentioned it it my build thread I've been asked about cleaning the window/lock/seats switches couple times, so I decided to do a write up. It might look like a daunting task, but in fact it's quite simple, as long as you're careful and don't loose any of the small parts :)

Over time contacts in those switches get corroded and charred, letting less and less current through. Your windows or seats are moving slower and slower until they don't move at all. When I bought my Wagoneer none of the seats or power mirrors moved, windows were slow and locks were more of a miss than a hit. After cleaning all switches almost everything was alive - power mirrors are working but kinda wonky (thanks to evil design of that switch) and rear right window wasn't moving (but it was due to broken flex track).

When you get them out they look something like this:
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No wonder nothing worked, right?

Soon after doing switches I started adding relays for windows, locks and tailgate - no matter how good you do the switches, they will eventually get charred/corroded again. Dielectric grease helps prevent corrosion on contacts, and relays take electric load off switches and ensure that motors get full current and moving faster. For more info about relay upgrades check the link in my signature

So there are few types of switches:
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From left to right - windows/locks (difference is only chromed rocker, internally they are the same), seats (or tailgate key switch) and seats joystick

I wasn't taking pictures when working on power mirror switch, but general idea is the same as for other. It just has 4 times more small parts that are really hard to align right and is a royal PITA to work on.

First you'll need to get switches out of the Jeep. For windows, locks and mirrors it means taking door panel off, for seats it's just 2 screws on the side of the seat holding switch assembly. Tailgate is more involved as you'll need to get inside, get glass out of the way, undo regulator, lock and fish the switch out.

Then get metal plates from contacts off. Those can be gently pried off with a knife or flat screwdriver. There are few plates on every switch assembly - take notes or pictures how they were positioned and in what order before taking them off. It's possible to figure that out later from wiring diagrams, but you can save yourself a lot of time by snapping couple pictures. Ask me how I know :)

There are also paper sheets sandwiched between metal plates. Mine were too rotten to be reused and I replaced them with piece of plastic sheeting

To get switches out from metal bracket you need to compress side clips through small round holes on the side of the bracket while pushing the switch out. Small allen key or small phillips screwdriver works good for compressing pins. 3 holes can be seen on power seat bracket below

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From my experience power seat switches are the hardest to get out, they are sitting really tight in that bracket.

Once you get switches out it's time to take them apart. There are small parts inside and some of them have tiny springs inside - be careful not to loose anything and have a tray to keep all the parts in.

Windows and locks switches - pry top part with thin screwdriver or knife.

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No super small parts inside, just two copper contacts. There is a flat spring under the rocker - you don't need to remove it. Note how contacts plates are each facing the other way and how that aligns with white plastic on the top part - that's exactly how you'll need to put it back later

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Power seat (or tailgate) switches and joystick - slide side clips off. Be careful, they might fly off, especially the ones from joystick.

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There are two little springs in the rocker part of seat switches under plastic caps
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4 of those in joystick
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Contact pins are held in place by switch body, so when it's apart they can get loose and fall out. That's normal, just note that there are two sizes of them - ones are a bit thicker than others. Having pins out actually make cleaning them easier. Here is a fully disassembled seat switch
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Note that bigger pin is on the side of rivet-style contact on the plate

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Now that you have everything apart it's time to get to the actual cleaning. First we need to get all the dirt and old dielectric grease out. I used my ultrasonic cleaner (cheapest one from amazon, ~$40) and diluted simple green (1 part of simple green mixed with 1 or 2 parts of water), but it's not a requirement - you achieve same results with q-tips, toothpicks or something like that. Ultrasonic cleaner is faster and easier though. Be careful with chromed parts - too aggressive cleaning might cause it peeling off (however, mine survived 10 minutes in ultrasonic cleaner).

Everything goes in the cleaner

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10 minutes later, most of the dirt is washed away

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Next step is getting rid of oxidation on contacts. I used dremel with a wire brush, but fine grit sandpaper would work just fine. You only need to take thin oxide film off, so very light sanding is enough. Right out of ultrasonic cleaner it looks like this:

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Clean the contacts plates and pins until they are nice and shiny
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Apply dielectric grease to all contact surfaces - it will prevent corrosion.
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I also put a little dab of sil glyde on springs and pivot points. That will help make movement smoother and assembling easier as grease would hold little parts together. I think dielectric grease would work as well instead of sil glyde, but I was running out of it.

After everything is cleaned and greased it's time to put them back together. Install pins if you got them out (seat switches and joystick only)

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For joystick it's easier to put pins in the bottom half of the body and then place little board over them

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Then contact plates. Verify orientation of plates (joystick and windows/locks), if they are wrong it won't close or won't work

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For seat switches and joystick put greased springs and caps into top part. Grease should keep them in place

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Close two halves of the switch. For window/lock switch top part just snaps on - note it's orientation, it is important. Don't forget mounting clips
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With seat switches/joystick you hold two halves together and slip clips on. Tabs on the clips are always facing down

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Once the switch is assembled, there are 2 checks to do:
  • movement - rocker should stay in the neutral position by itself, move up and down with minimal force applied and you should feel slight click when it's making contact
  • continuity - check with continuity tester than switch is closing contacts when operated
If everything checks out - congratulations, you did it! Put switches back in the Jeep and enjoy :)
1988 Grand Wagoneer - bone stock (AMC 360, TF727, NP229), slowly turning into reliable and nice daily driver

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How to clean electric switches (power windows, locks, seats)


irondawg
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Re: Cleaning electric switches (power windows, locks, seats)

Post by irondawg » Tue May 12, 2020 3:08 pm

Nice write up.

I too have been using my ultrasonic cleaner for many things including the door and tailgate actuators, door handles, and switches. I use Purple Power degreaser but anything to de-grease works.
1978 Cherokee Chief WT in a thousand pieces
Previous Jeep: 2001 Grand Cherokee

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tgreese
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Re: Cleaning electric switches (power windows, locks, seats)

Post by tgreese » Tue May 12, 2020 3:15 pm

Very nice. I may need to get one of those ultrasonic cleaners. Who makes that chisel blade and holder? I recall X-acto sells similar blades for their knives.
Tim Reese
Maine beekeeper's truck: '77 J10 LWB, 258/T15/D20/3.54 bone stock, low options (delete radio), PS/PDB, hubcaps.
Browless and proud: '82 J20 360/T18/NP208/3.73, Destination A/Ts, 7600 GVWR
Copper Polly: '75 CJ-6, 304/T15, PS, BFG KM2s, soft top
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Dual Everything: '15 FCA Jeep Cherokee KL Trailhawk, ECO Green


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sirrus
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Re: Cleaning electric switches (power windows, locks, seats)

Post by sirrus » Tue May 12, 2020 3:46 pm

I originally bought for cleaning soldering flux off PCBs that I was making, but it's really useful for a lot of things. I got the cheapest one from amazon at around $40. It still working 3 years later which is more than I expected from it.

As for the chisel - it's not a holder with blades, just handle falling apart :) I think they were sold as a small chisel set for cleaning up supports on 3D prints. That's what I used them for anyway :)

Just realized that I forgot about diagrams for continuity testing - will do them soon
1988 Grand Wagoneer - bone stock (AMC 360, TF727, NP229), slowly turning into reliable and nice daily driver

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How to clean electric switches (power windows, locks, seats)


cpfeifffer
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Cleaning electric switches (power windows, locks, seats)

Post by cpfeifffer » Tue May 12, 2020 4:22 pm

Great write up!

I need a replacement terminal for one of my switches. It has the round sleeve that goes over the pin and the crimp end at a right angle. Any idea where to get these?

I found the pigtail online but I only need one terminal.


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Topic author
sirrus
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Re: Cleaning electric switches (power windows, locks, seats)

Post by sirrus » Tue May 12, 2020 6:06 pm

I know what you're talking about, but no idea how that pin/sleeve connector is called. And unfortunately without knowing that it's impossible to find something

You can try making your own sleeve from something like ferrules that are usually crimped on wires
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That would require some file soldering though and not sure how it's going to hold. Or maybe just get a pigtail and have some spare terminals for future :)
1988 Grand Wagoneer - bone stock (AMC 360, TF727, NP229), slowly turning into reliable and nice daily driver

Relay modules and other parts for sale

How to clean electric switches (power windows, locks, seats)

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tgreese
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Re: Cleaning electric switches (power windows, locks, seats)

Post by tgreese » Wed May 13, 2020 9:52 am

The old plastic surfaces are interesting. The cleaned-up parts have a patina that looks like they were eroded on the surface. Maybe that gray junk on the plastic before you cleaned is mold or lichen or something? Does not appear to affect the inner surfaces.

I would imagine the professional restorers would not put this much effort into these parts. Instead they would comb suppliers and find NOS or beautiful original parts for some ridiculous price. I could also imagine the guys at Jay Leno's garage doing something like this to save original and unobrtainable parts for a rare and valuable car.
Tim Reese
Maine beekeeper's truck: '77 J10 LWB, 258/T15/D20/3.54 bone stock, low options (delete radio), PS/PDB, hubcaps.
Browless and proud: '82 J20 360/T18/NP208/3.73, Destination A/Ts, 7600 GVWR
Copper Polly: '75 CJ-6, 304/T15, PS, BFG KM2s, soft top
GTI without the badges: '95 VW Golf Sport 2000cc 2D
Dual Everything: '15 FCA Jeep Cherokee KL Trailhawk, ECO Green


Topic author
sirrus
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Re: Cleaning electric switches (power windows, locks, seats)

Post by sirrus » Wed May 13, 2020 12:21 pm

Seat switches use different type of plastic and it has uneven surface on my spare parts which didn't have that gray stuff. That plastic looks more like rough bakelite when compared window/lock ones. As for the growth, I think you're right, it was probably some kind of lichen, given that it tends to grow on anything in PNW :)

It's not really that much effort or time once you're know what you're doing - disassembly is probably 2-3 minutes, then 10 minutes in the cleaner, quick pass with dremel (maybe 5 more minutes) and then putting them back together with grease. So it's maybe ~1 hour job for all the switches once you got them out of the jeep.

Switches are still pretty obtainable, but used ones will probably be in more or less the same condition on the inside - unless you pay lots of $$$ for NOS ones. And even those can have some oxidation inside after sitting for decades. I'd think that professional restorer would keep a supply of parts in a good condition or NOS if he's focusing on few models. If not it actually might be easier and faster to revive what you've got on the vehicle than go on a hunt for NOS. But I don't know anything about professional restoration processes, so it just theories :)
1988 Grand Wagoneer - bone stock (AMC 360, TF727, NP229), slowly turning into reliable and nice daily driver

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How to clean electric switches (power windows, locks, seats)

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sonoraed
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Re: Cleaning electric switches (power windows, locks, seats)

Post by sonoraed » Sat Jul 25, 2020 6:23 am

Really nice write with superb detail!
I see lots of blower switch's on older vehicles with factory air in need of the same, the switch is not unique but lever/housing is specific to model year.

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HowardT64
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Re: Cleaning electric switches (power windows, locks, seats)

Post by HowardT64 » Sun Aug 02, 2020 8:42 am

I need to do this to mine; regrease all the track, clean the locks...the whole shebang :) Thanks for this post!!
1990 Grand Wagoneer
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