Problem with door-is-open warning light on Forester

I own a 2000-model-year Subaru Forester. I've experienced this problem intermittently off and on for a year, and now for the past 6 months, the problem is ALWAYS present. So, I've been hoping
to be able to isolate and fix it myself. Sigh.
So, it's a 5-door...the normal 4 doors as well as the tail/swing-up door each have their own switch. The 'bad news' is that in the Subaru Forester design (unlike, say the Honda Accord) all 5 switches just have a SINGLE red-light indicator on the dash. So, sadly, when you have the door-is-ajar warning indicator lit up, you never know a priori which of the 5 doors might be the culprit.
Normally, you might not think that's any problem. You just go around and open/close each door until the red-idiot lite goes out and bingo, now you know which door.
Sigh. There's the rub. In my experience, that almost never changed the symptom...the idiot lite stayed on. I'd go around and manually inspect and push each of the 5 switches, and they alway looked fine but did not extinguish the indicator, so my working hypothesis was that it was NOT a switch-related problem.
But, when I described the problem to the 'expert' at the dealer, he always said, "No, never heard of this problem before. The circuit design is simple. There is no central computer-controller or whatever, so one of your 5 switches has to be the culprit."
So, since the problem was intermittent (i.e. the idiot light would just go out on its own after 2 to 10 days), I just ignored the problem.
But, now it's been 6 months and the foolish idiot lite is still on. (Of course, as a workaround, I have to leave the ceiling switch in the position so that the dome-lite never is allowed on based on door-ajar-indication. Otherwise, anytime the red-idiot lite was on, the dome light would ALSO not go OFF and then the battery would run down.)
And, one day, I also THOUGHT that I had an additional hint that it was the LEFT-FRONT (driver) door that was the culprit. So, I decided to work on this problem myself in earnest.
A couple of clips 180-degrees apart hold the switch in. I remove the rubber protector over the switch, depress the holding clips, and the switch can be pulled out to expose the 2 wires attached to the switch. (Just BARELY enough play. Sigh.)
Damn...the wires a SOLDERED onto each lug. Sigh, again. Found a soldering iron and DE-soldered the wires loose from the switch.
Ah, I thought. Before I even spend money on a new switch, let's just 'workaround' the issue. The idiot-light is still on. So, I attach the two leads TOGETHER (figuring the red-light will extinguish).
Nope, no such luck. About all I can conclude from all this is that the problem is NOT in the driver's door switch at all.
Clearly, my knowledge of how to trouble-shoot / fix this problem is lacking.
Ideas? What should I try? How do I even figure out whether it's a door switch problem at all?
Dave [who is clearly stumped]
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Well, one of your other 4 switches is bad. You know what you need to do...

inspect
that
Otherwise,
switch
two
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You gotta be sh*tting me! You mean I gotta rip out (i.e. UNSOLDER) each switch in turn? What sort of archaic engineering is that?
There's no provision for TESTING/TROUBLESHOOTING this setup to see which door to work on? (My fear is that after I rip out all 5 switches, I still won't have an indication...that then someone will say, ah, then it's not a switch problem at all, it's ?!?!??.)
Remind me to never buy a Subaru again. Honda does it right...separate red-lights for each door. I'll be it cost them a whole extra $2 to design it that way, and think of the trouble-shooting time saved when it fails.
Yep, I'm out of warantee period. Screw it, I'm just gonna drive the friggin' thing for another 4 years or so with the idiot light on.
(Us engineers just HATE seeing to stupid design like this get built...all probably to save them a dollar or two per vehicle when they build it. Stupid!)

always
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Actually, I vaguely remember there being something stupid with that light and the keyless entry....does yours have keyless? Do you use the remote to lock/unlock the doors? If not, start, see if it makes a difference....this was a couple years ago, I've been out of the dealership, but I thought there was something goofy with that setup....
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to
difference....this
Goofy indeed. Drove me nuts until I read the owner's manual carefully. The door open light stays on for a certain length of time if you lock up using a key. Lock with the remote and it goes out immediately. If on, the light goes out when you restart the car, so I doubt David's problem is related the the normal (and bizarre) open door light characteristics. -- Ken Lyons Inside the Beltway [Remove the first two digits to reply]
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snipped-for-privacy@comcast.HIDDEN.net says...

I'm guessing the bumper-to-bumper portion of your warranty is up?
If not, fiddle no more. ;)
--
Cam
'02 RS
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Are you sure your forester has a tailgate switch that you can reach? I've read that some other subies have a problem with a switch in the hatch handle mechanism. It may have been older models so I'm not sure it applies to you. You might do a search at the USMB though. http://usmb.ultimatesubaru.net/forum /
Carl 1 Lucky Texan
David Cook wrote:

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On Sat, 06 Sep 2003 04:19:58 GMT, Carl 1 Lucky Texan

This might not help the OP who is having trouble with a Forester, but... I have a 2003 H6-3.0 OBW. It has the dashboard indicator that gives a separate signal for each door that's open. I've noticed that sometimes when I push the rear tailgate/hatch closed, the dome light stays on and the dashboard indicator says the tailgate is still ajar. The tailgate is *not* unlatched, though--I can jiggle it and pull it and it's closed tight. I've experimented a little, and it takes way more force to make the indicator light turn off than it does to simply latch the tailgate. Usually I have to **SLAM** the hatch door to make the indicator light go off.
I haven't tested to see if I can lock the doors with the remote and arm the security system when the "tailgate ajar" light is on.
C. Brunner
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******************* On my 2003 OBW H6-3.0 I found out the same thing the hard way over the Holiday weekend (dead battery). You really have to give the gate an extra firm push when closing to get the dome light off and indicator out. I can't remember if I had locked it with the remote that time or not but I usually do.
Don T.
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My wife has an '03 OBW H6 and I am gonna experiment the next chance I get to see if I can duplicate ya'lls experience.
Carl 1 Lucky Texan
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The same behavior is shown by our two 99 Foresters. You do have to slam the rear hatch pretty firmly to be sure the light doesn't hassle you. Once we got used to that, it is second nature now to shut it with more force than required just for latching it.
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Off to ride the mountains, D H
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It is SOP for me to open the door to the garage before going to bed to see if the dome light is on and ensure the garage door is closed. My '02ForesterS must be closed firmly to turn off the dome light.
BoB
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I sympathize with you. I guess ours are not QUITE that bad. I do know, though, that even in the dead of winter, we had one Forester dome light (or two maybe, if front and rear bulbs were burning?) stay on all night long in cold weather (well, cold for here, I'm guessing 20's F). The car started right up without hesitation, much to my surprise and delight. Apparently, these don't take much amperage at all, and the battery system is a good one. Hey, at least I haven't had to immediately replace the Forester batteries when I passed 36 months as was the case with our Honda Civic battery. Actually, it died about 6 months BEFORE the 36 month warranty was out, but the ridiculous warranty prorated portion they offered (ONLY toward buying another of their poor quality batteries) made it cheaper to go to Advance Auto and buy a new 72 month battery, which I did. One Forester is 57 months old and the other is 53, and both batteries seem to be doing great. (Of course, battery technology is such today that this should be the case for everyone anyway.)
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two
I'm guessing these switches are the kind that go "open circuit" when pushed in, and all 5 of them are wired in parallel, so that when any one of them goes closed circuit (door ajar) the light goes on. As such, touching the two leads of a switch together will turn the light "on", not off.
Unfortunately, because it is a parallel circuit, you cannot simply test each switch with an ohm meter while it is still wired in, since the little electrons are always going to follow the path of least resistance; the broken switch.
So, three hints:
Firstly, find out where the wiring for each switch goes back to some common place in the dash, where they are all connected in parallel with the dash light through some connector. Since this is a parallel circuit, the switch wiring cannot be daisy-chained; each switch has to have it's own pair of wires terminating at some central place. You just need to figure out where that is.
Secondly, with an ohm meter, if it is across the leads of a working switch, you might be able to detect a _slight_ drop in resistance when you close the switch, because the dozen or so feet of wiring to the broken switch will probably have a few ohms of resistance. So you might be able to find the broken switch as the one that does not change the resistance at all when pushed.
Thirdly, a little piece of black electrical tape over the dash light will sort of solve the problem.
Otherwise take solice in the fact that statistically you'll only have to un-solder half the switches to find the broken one :-)
good luck!
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