Fixing a sliding door jam on a Toyota Lucida

Today is January 1st, 2011. It's the first day of a new year, and so I set about doing something I had never done before: car repair. James recently flattened the battery on my mum's van, and after recharging the battery the sliding door doesn't open anymore. A quick google search told me this was a common problem, so with a few helpful tips from others on the web, I got going (if you've ever posted anything about a Toyota Lucida, I probably read it... THANKS!). If you find yourself in a similar predicament with this van, here's how to fix it.

  1. Start by finding a thin cloth or piece of fabric, and run this around the door handle (on the inside). The door handle must be removed before the door panel can come off. There's a small ring that holds the door handle in place, and teasing around the door handle with some cloth will eventually catch it and pull it loose. It looks like this:

  2. Now look for a small screw inside the door lock switch, it's angled upwards so you may need to look from below. This can be unscrewed, the plastic enclosure around the lock can be gently pried off. Next, go to the back end of the door, and look for 2 snap clips (I don't know what they're really called), that hold the door panel in place. To remove these, you simply push in the center piece, and then the whole thing will slide out. There are two of them about a foot above one another.
  3. Now you can gently but firmly pull the door panel off, going slowely around and pulling at the edges. There are latches inside that will pop loose as you tug on them. The whole panel can be removed and put aside. Once that is off, you'll see a plastic sheet covering various electrical components. This sheet is for water-proofing, I'm told, and it's stuck on with a gooy adhesive that can be gently pulled off. It should remain sticky and you can just stick it back against the door after (or tape it if it looses its stick).
  4. The black tubular thing is a solenoid, a motor that powers the electrical door catch/release. This is the source of the problem, as with a power outage to the van it has gotten out of sync with the car's electrics. You need to disconnect the connector with the red + red/blue wires, this is the power source feed. Disconnecting that partially isolates the solenoid, and allows you to hit it with power, in the next step.
  5. This step requires you to have a car charger OR a spare battery OR long enough jumper cables to run from your existing car battery. Your goal here is to fire the solenoid, so you need to provide 12 volt power into the solenoid and get it to manually fire, which will then get it in sync with the car. I had a car charger, and found some wire from a broken bicycle light. I stripped back some wire, attached one wire to each of the red and black alligator clips from the charger (you can do this with any wire, and potentially with your jumper cables to the car battery), and then I taped off the exposed metal from the clips with electrical tape, just to be careful.
  6. Turn on the charger/connect the battery, and carefully connect the red cable from the battery/charger into the solenoid plug, on the red side (look at the solenoid end of the connector and you can see the cable colours). Touch the black to the other wire inside the connector, and the solenoid will activate (you'll hear the familiar mechanical noise). You'll need someone else to help you, as at the moment you activate the solenoid, the door needs to be pulled open. Don't leave the power activated on the solenoid for longer than necessary the pull the door open.The door should now be opened. Slide the door towards closing it just enough to reconnect the solenoid. Now try carefully closing the door again (carefully because you've got exposed electrical gear). The door should catch and you should hear the mechanical close noise, and then you should be able to open it again successfully. Congratulations, you've fixed the problem :) Now re-attach the plastic sheet, re-attach the door panel, the lock covering, and the door handle. The metal clip slides back around the door handle plastic and the two inward pointing parts of the clip slide into the holes in the handle, which will then clasp onto the handle pole. Well done.

It's 2011. What are you going to do this year that you've never done before? I have a goal of reading 26 books this year, which is roughly 20 pages a day. After this successful job I think I'd like to read a book on car repair, especially seeing as I bought my first car in October (a '96 Ford Escort).

Happy new year, folks.