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When you're the mechanic in the family

Friday, March 1, 2019 - 09:00
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I think we have all been in the situation as a shop owner, mechanic, technician, handy man or whatever you like to be called where we are approached by a family member or a close friend because they know one thing. They know you can “fix things.” Ninety-nine percent of the time we are more than willing to lend a hand, or at least I am, and especially in this case. It was my one and only sister who called me. Mind you all three of her brothers are mechanics as well as her dad and we all own shops but it was my turn this time. Either they copped out or I was just the first one who answered her call.

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She called to let me know that the front wipers on her 2014 Dodge Grand Caravan with 71,870 miles on the odometer had stopped working and wondered if I could take a look at it for her. She goes on to tell me she already spoke with dad and one of my brothers who both referred her to me. So there, I got my answer as to where I fall on the call list and was voted the best “family mechanic” for the job, apparently.

That day she swung by the shop and explained, or I suppose the better word would be, hoped it was “just a fuse.” Because we all know fuses are cheap! Knowing the problem that seems to follow Chrysler around since the invention of infamous TIPM, I was pretty sure we were not going to find a “bad fuse.”

Figure 1

I pulled up a diagram (Figure 1) and grabbed a scan tool so I could see wiper inputs into the TIPM. After releasing a few fasteners on the cowl so I could gain access to the wiper motor plug I was ready for some testing. Looking back at the diagram it is a relatively simple lay out. One fuse (that was not blown), two relays and some logic to control it all. I wasn’t too concerned at the moment how the input from the wiper switch made it to the TIPM and how many modules it ran through to get there but I could see on scan data that it did make it there. Every selection on the wiper stalk was being displayed in the live data. The next obvious step was seeing if the power was being sent through the relays and up to the wiper motor. I quickly discovered at this point it was not! The wiper on/off relay appeared to be permanently latched to pin 87a which leads straight to a ground. Knowing all of the inputs were good, the testing was good and 100 percent definitive I gave her the bad news.

It's going to cost HOW much?

We can all assume what happened next when I revealed the cost of the new TIPM plus the cost of the 2-day subscription to Tech Authority so we could program and restore vehicle configuration to finish the repair. I think some call it puppy dog eyes, sob story or crying the blues. In either case I saw this as an opportunity to try and repair the failed relay on the board with nothing to lose. Besides, it was my sister, not a “real customer” right? I told her the risk involved and also exposed the fact I have little to no experience with printed circuit board repair. We agreed on the $15 fix and I ordered a new relay (Figure 2).

Figure 2
Figure 3

What did I get myself into!? The TIPM comes out of the vehicle in about five minutes however I was the better part of 45 minutes trying to get it apart to get to the good stuff (Figure 3). The smart phone came in handy during this part as every fuse and relay had to be removed. There were four stacked circuit boards that were pretty resilient and eventually I was able to get down to the green printed circuit board that had the relays soldered to it (Figure 4). The only down side was there were about six relays on the board and I had no idea which one of the 10 pin double relays was at fault.

Figure 4
Figure 5

Not knowing any better way, I decided to energize the control side of each relay and determine which one did not work. I was later told by several people that this was not a good idea and could have caused some damage. Either way, I was quickly able to determine the one at fault (Figure 5).

Figure 6

Now came the fun part. Trying to de-solder the old relay. I bought some fancy magnifying glasses that helped tremendously, I also bought a solder sucker and some solder wick. I failed miserably at both to say the least. 20 minutes into it I started to wonder how much heat and fiddling one of these boards could take (Figure 6). The answer to that question is a lot! At least it was in my case. Trial and error eventually got the old relay removed from the board. I can say I was relieved to see when I took it apart that the contact was clearly fused together (Figure 7). At the same time, I wondered if this whole mess was going to work once it was put back together.

Figure 7
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