Operations: Forgotten Labor Part III

Operations: Forgotten Labor Part III

Modules, used doors, power mirrors. It still ain't the '70s, vehicle technology has changed, and we need to get paid for it.

Welcome to Forgotten Labor Part III! In case you haven’t been reading this series of articles that started in the September 2014 issue of BodyShop Business (“It Ain’t the ’70s Anymore,” plus December 2014, “Forgotten Labor Part II”), I’ve been detailing procedures that body shops don’t normally charge for but are necessary to perform a quality repair.


All electronics in modern vehicles are run by modules, which are mini computers. Back in the 1970s, you could swap out a used door assembly and, if the power window worked, you were off to the races. Well, welcome to 2015, my industry partners.

The first step you should be doing is inspecting the used door harness, not only for damage but exactness. The connector must have the same amount of pins and be in the exact same cavities as the old harness. If the used harness had 16 pins and the one from the car had 18, guess what you’re doing next? First, you supplement to change out the harness, and then you remove the old harness from the damaged door and install it in the used door. Hopefully it’s not damaged, but if it is, that’s also an additional charge to repair the wiring.

Photo 1: Pigtail connectors I use to test motors and regulators.
Photo 1: Pigtail connectors I use to test motors and regulators.

Used Doors

Power windows are not our only concern. Other options to consider might be Bose speakers, side impact sensors and power locks. Recently, I repaired a Honda Odyssey van that had a power sliding door and a power roll up and down glass. Power sliding doors can be tricky. Not all sliding doors are power; it’s an option. We had to send this door back because not only was the harness different on a power slide, but the door was designed to accommodate a motor that controls the power slide. These doors are both different.

Don’t waste time trying to fit up a door that may be incorrect for the vehicle. Check harnesses and design at the time of part delivery. Just because it looks like the correct door doesn’t mean it is.

Another operation I like to perform on a used door is to check the operation of the window. I try and do this off the car whenever possible because it can save you a lot of time. Photo 1 shows some pigtails that I use to test the motors and regulators. You might have the door edged by your paint shop and discover upon installation that you have a bad motor, regulator or both. If you discover a bad component early in the repair, you’ll be ahead of the game. You can either have the salvage yard send a motor or regulator or install a new one. Remember, you’re dealing with a salvage door – it wasn’t exactly in a heated garage before you received it. It was most likely out in the elements.

If the motor has only two wires, it’s a no brainer – one power and the other ground. Up and down with a jumper box. If, however, there are more than two wires (not uncommon), you’ll need to refer to the wiring schematic to verify power and ground. Again, charge appropriately for this operation. Clean, lube and adjust doesn’t cut it anymore. This procedure would also apply to lift gates with movable glass as well. Some vehicles have power glass in the lift gate.

Power Mirrors

Let me address power mirrors. Back in the ’70s, the painter masked the glass and painted the mirror. Pretty simple, right? Now we have swing-away mirrors, separate mirror covers and turn signal lights in the mirror body. Most mirrors now need some disassembly so the painter can adequately refinish them.

The first step should not be taken lightly. Removal of the mirror glass without breaking the glass or the tabs that secure it to the motor is a trick in itself. OE repair information will not be of any use for this operation; you’re on your own. My best advice is to say that some mirror glasses snap in, some from the top, others from the bottom. Some utilize screw jacks in the motor. It’s trial and error, so be careful. Again, this is a not included operation. If you’re replacing a mirror, you can look at the old one to see how it comes apart. Then, after the glass is out, you should have access to the signal light and mirror cover to release them.

Photo 2: A Lexus mirror I was not able to fully disassemble. Take a photo of this and you'll probably get paid for it.
Photo 2: A Lexus mirror I was not able to fully disassemble. Take a photo of this and you’ll probably get paid for it.

Take photos of the mirror apart and you stand a good chance of getting compensated for this not included operation (see photo 2 of a Lexus mirror I was not able to fully disassemble). At the factory, the wiring is run and plugs are snapped on after the wires go through the mirror body. I would have had to disassemble the connectors in order to get the painted part of the mirror apart to paint. We opted to mask or bag the parts not to be painted to avoid breaking the connector or distorting the pins on the wire ends. This represents an extreme example and is not the norm. After the mirror is painted and assembled, you’re ready to install it on the door.


Reprogramming is another forgotten labor charge. Any time any electronic component is replaced, whether it be new or LKQ, there’s a very good chance it has to be programmed: sensing and diagnostic modules, window motors, back-up sensors, electronic steering position sensors, you name it. Sensing and diagnostic modules or SDMs are involved because the SDM has to be programmed via another module called an M.D.I. or multiple diagnostic interface (photo 3). You have to connect the M.D.I. to the OBD port, establishing communication with the M.D.I. Then, a technician can access the SDM via a laptop. You’ll also be able to see if there are any codes stored, which could be a problem later. If all the connectors aren’t fully plugged in, you’ll throw a code and the MDI will direct you to the problem area.

Photo 3: Any time an electronic component is replaced, chances are it has to be reprogrammed. The MDI pictured here will direct you to the problem.
Photo 3: Any time an electronic component is replaced, chances are it has to be reprogrammed. The MDI pictured here will direct you to the problem.

Any time an airbag or related components are replaced, normally the SDM will require replacement. Programming is a necessary and not included operation. An independent shop will need to shuttle the car to the appropriate dealership to have programming done and codes cleared. This takes time – time that an estimator is not estimating, a porter is not detailing and an owner is not dealing with day-to-day issues of his business. Everyone’s time is valuable. Remember, if you don’t ask, chances are you won’t get.

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