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Sambar van power lock crusade

Discussion in 'Microvans' started by Reese Allen, May 26, 2020.

  1. Reese Allen

    Reese Allen Member

    The power locks don't work in my van. Pulling up the driver's door lock knob should cause all four other locks to unlock, and pushing it down should cause them to lock. It does nothing. Turning the key in the driver's door lock cylinder also has no effect on anything other than that door's lock mechanism, which works perfectly. It's as if the vehicle has no power locks at all. But every door has an actuator, and I know all but one of them work, so I know it had a functional power lock system at some point in the last 27 years.

    I've torn all the inner door panels off and spent a whole day probing every electrical component I could find with my multimeter and troubleshooting everything I could think of. It was a very frustrating day. Lack of proper schematics or documentation, and a total dearth of English info online about mid-90s Sambar door lock systems, makes this a serious Gordian knot.

    What I know so far:

    Driver's door "actuator" is actually a switch. It has two wires going to it. It either connects the two or doesn't. It actually has four pins, but since only two are connected, this is acting as a very basic SPST switch. Neither wire is grounded. Neither wire has voltage to ground. There is no voltage between the two wires. I'm 90% sure the problem lies in between this switch and what I can only assume would be the ECU, since there doesn't seem to be a dedicated module for the door locks. I think I should be able to detect voltage between at least one wire and ground, or that at least one wire is grounded.

    Passenger door and rear hatch actuators have three wires. One is ground. Applying 12 V to one pin makes the actuator move one way, applying 12 V to the other makes it move the other way.

    Sliding doors have two wires. Applying 12 V to one spring pin and ground to the other makes the actuator move one way; flipping the polarity makes it actuate the other way.

    I've confirmed:

    * Door lock fuse (15 A) is intact
    * Door lock fuse socket has 12 V across its terminals
    * Two wires going to the driver's door lock switch have no continuity between them and no voltage between them
    * Every actuator I've checked can be moved by applying 12 V with an external power supply, except...
    * Hatch actuator is dead, I managed to get it to actuate a couple of times but it appears to have internally disintegrated during that test and won't actuate anymore. It can be forced through its range of motion and you can feel/hear the insides grinding. It was previously stuck in the "unlocked" position.

    The problem seems to be between the driver's door lock switch and the ECU. Chasing the wires out of the door and back into the body of the vehicle is tricky, as they go through a grommet and into a cavity between the stamped steel sheet metal pieces above the accelerator pedal which is not accessible. I found what I assume is the ECU down there below the front right speaker, very close to where those wires go through a grommet and into an inaccessible cavity. So, why not remove the ECU? The wires probably go into it. Well, it appears you have to remove the whole dash, since the ECU is held on by at least 3 screws/nuts, only two of which can be easily removed, and the rest are hopelessly obscured by dash plastic. I'm not taking the whole dash apart without good reason.

    I'm apparently the only one who has any trouble with this, and at this point I'm about ready to give up hope for a realistic solution that will restore the system to the baseline functionality it had when it first left the factory. If I can't find a fix, I'll likely buy an aftermarket keyless entry kit and attempt to bypass the non-functional factory locking circuit in favor of something that actually f'ing works.
  2. Reese Allen

    Reese Allen Member

    As I alluded to in the last post, I did eventually decide to order a keyless entry kit off Amazon. Amazingly, only $34 for the control unit, four actuators, two remotes, and a bunch of wires and hardware.

    In the driver's door, I will need to remove the existing switch and replace it with the new master actuator, which not only actuates but also senses, so it has many more wires. I will try to route these through the existing grommets as best as I can to make it look stock when it's all buttoned up.

    Similar story on the passenger door. The stock actuator uses 3 wires while the aftermarket system is all 2-wire. I will replace the existing actuator but probably re-use two of the three wires going to the stock actuator to minimize how much I have to muck around with getting the wires out to the door.

    For the sliders, I've located the connectors for the slider lock actuators under the front seats and intend to simply disconnect these and run my own wires to them, and attempt to control the existing actuators with the new controller since they are also the 2-wire type. All the wiring from the disconnect point under the seats out to the actuators themselves will remain untouched.

    For the hatch, as the existing actuator is toast, I will need to install one of the new ones. It was a 3-wire type so I will re-use two of those wires like on the passenger door if possible.

    As a bonus, and I'll be totally stoked if I can get this to work, I will have a leftover actuator if all of the above goes according to plan. I'm going to try to use it to pop open the hatch. The remotes have a hatch unlock button and the controller has a dedicated wire for popping the hatch. I may be able to re-use the 3rd wire from the stock lock actuator to control this. It only needs to actuate one way so as long as the spring in the latch mechanism is strong enough to flip it back the other way, I can't think of a reason that won't work, assuming I can find a way to mount the actuator and a good place for it to push/pull on.

    Parts are supposed to show up tomorrow. Should be a fun weekend project.
  3. Reese Allen

    Reese Allen Member

    Spent the day studying the wiring and removing hardware that's being replaced. Just waiting for the kit to show up. Any time now.

    My plan of using the third wire on the rear hatch actuator as a hatch release wire was doomed from the start as the third wire is just a ground. Duh. However, I discovered that the latch itself has a two-wire connector going to it that seems to serve no useful purpose. Presumably it was to sense whether the latch was engaged or not, but I can't think of any reason why the vehicle would need to know about that. So if I do end up trying to add a hatch release actuator, I will just use its wires for that purpose. I was able to locate where all these wires connect to the rest of the vehicle harness, which is behind the right combination light, very easy to find. The only point of confusion is that there are two green wires with a black stripe. One goes to the door actuator, the other is a ground. Multimeter helped me identify which is which.

    Finding a path to route the new wires out to the front doors was trickier than I expected. The wires that deal with the lock actuators do not pass through the main vehicle-side grommet, they appear to come from behind the bumper somewhere. So I had to find alternate ways to get wires into the vehicle-side grommet hole from inside the van. The driver's side was the hardest but I ended up finding the path that the power window wires take, which goes up behind the brake fluid reservoir and then back down inside the body until it emerges from the grommet. On the passenger side, there's simply a small hole near the grommet in the footwell area. I won't be able to re-use the wires going to the passenger door lock actuator as I had planned since I don't know where they originate, but running two new wires out into that door should be no big deal.
  4. Reese Allen

    Reese Allen Member

    Spent all weekend on this. Still have a few more hours of work to go. Wiring was very time-consuming, particularly getting the new wires out into the front doors.

    Finding mounting places for the new actuators was surprisingly easy and I didn't have to make any brackets. That includes adding a trunk latch release actuator. The one sticking point was getting the new connecting rods to couple securely to the front locks. I am 3D-printing some bushings which should do the trick.

    I discovered that the trunk release signal wire seems to be intended to drive a relay. So there's a whole nother little side project of its own. I'll uncouple the actuator until I figure out how I want to handle that.

    I also won't be able to hook up the headlight blink function until I convert the headlights to positive-switched, which was on the to-do list anyway. Along with either adding a buzzer to warn me when I've left the lights on with the key out of the ignition, or a relay to turn the lights off automatically if I remove the key. More projects.
  5. Ohkei Dohkei

    Ohkei Dohkei Active Member

    Sorry I'm not much help as I don't have a van, but it sounds like its going in the intended direction!
  6. Reese Allen

    Reese Allen Member

    A lot of what I'm doing would apply to a truck, too, but there's so much van-specific stuff that I figured it made sense to keep it in this subforum.

    Assuming this all ends up working well, I'm actually planning to buy a two-actuator kit so I can add this to my 1980 Chevy too. I hate reaching across the massive bench seat to unlock the passenger door.
  7. Reese Allen

    Reese Allen Member

    Got all 5 locks working with the key fob. Hot damn.

    This weekend I'll try to get the hatch release working. Picked up the last part I needed today. Just need to make time to finish that part of the job.
  8. Ohkei Dohkei

    Ohkei Dohkei Active Member

    Woo hoo!
  9. Jigs-n-fixtures

    Jigs-n-fixtures Well-Known Member

  10. Limestone

    Limestone Well-Known Member

    Nice job Reese!
  11. Reese Allen

    Reese Allen Member

    Well, hatch release isn't gonna happen. It was a "nice to have" rather than a mandatory feature so no big deal, but still a bit of a bummer. The actuator has enough stroke to release the latch and seems to work well when the hatch is open. But it doesn't exert nearly enough force to unlatch it when it's firmly closed. I'd need to add some kind of linkage/lever arm, which would probably reduce the effective stroke by too much. Realistically, even if it could pop the latch open with the remote, I'd still have to reach under where the handle is to pull the hatch up and open it, so it wouldn't really be helpful anyway.

    On the plus side, that means I can use the trunk release button on the key fob for something else fun. Like honking the horn.

    Guess it's time to start buttoning everything back up.
  12. Jigs-n-fixtures

    Jigs-n-fixtures Well-Known Member

    Or, you could replace the hatch struts with electric actuators.
  13. Reese Allen

    Reese Allen Member

    First drive after buttoning everything back up revealed a pretty glaring problem - the front windows couldn't roll down all the way. Doh. It turns out for this specific lock kit, the actuators are pretty big, and there aren't many good options for locating them that won't interfere with the windows. I ended up re-mounting them above the latch, running parallel to the lock knob, which required a tiny bit of extra bracketry, but nothing too crazy. The kit came with some nice bracket material that I just had to bend a little bit. Everything works 100% now.
  14. Ohkei Dohkei

    Ohkei Dohkei Active Member

    Being a pioneer has its price!
    Limestone likes this.
  15. Reese Allen

    Reese Allen Member

    Dang, this kit is only available with wireless key fobs if you buy the full 4-actuator kit. At least as far as I have found so far. I mean, it's still only $34, but it seems like a waste if you just need one or two. You could easily add this functionality to a Sambar with a functional power locking system in an afternoon using just the master actuator. And I want to add it to my Chevy, which only has two doors.
  16. Adam Wheeler

    Adam Wheeler Active Member

    I just recently did this on my truck as well and the kit I got was about the same price and came with 4 actuators as well. At first I thought it would be great to have two backups in case either failed, but really its two backups for the passenger door only, since the master is necessary.
  17. Koffer

    Koffer Active Member

    Mine don’t work , not a big deal but I couldn’t physically lock the rear hatch or passenger side front door .
    I just removed the lock actuators for the time being and fixed the rear light interior switch on the rear lock mechanism
  18. Reese Allen

    Reese Allen Member

  19. Koffer

    Koffer Active Member

  20. Reese Allen

    Reese Allen Member

    Indeed, that is what it was. I had to re-solder that back together last weekend to restore that functionality since we're heading back into the darker half of the year now.

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