Mid afternoon last Friday, I was driving my downstairs neighbor to his church to pick up some folding tables for the garage sale he was having Saturday morning. Since my ride has the cargo capacity, I was only happy to help. Since we have a shared driveway, I would have to park on the street that night to avoid mucking up his garage sale but it was no problem.
We load up the tables, close the rear door and I begin to pull away. It was warm so I go to open my window when I feel a little extra resistance on the switch and then I hear a cracking noise. Uh oh. The switch was intact but very loose. More importantly, the window remained inert. Lucky for me, we only had to drive a half mile at most. We unload the tables and then I run to my computer to look up my problem on the interwebs. One good thing about the interwebs is that usually, someone has been afflicted with any given problem and is only to glad to share.
Lucky for me, my model year has plenty of enthusiasts. There is plenty of entries for my problem, which may be as simple as a broken switch or as complicated as a coolant leak on the #2 reactor. I really hoped for the former. I scan over how to remove the door panel, grab some tools and set to work. I muttered a tiny prayer asking the powers that be that I don't make things worse. With the door panel off, I pull out the window switch cluster. It has switches for all four windows plus an overall lock on the windows for child safety. Hmm. It looks like my switch is not broken but something is obviously wrong.
I pull the switch off and see that the piece that it is mounted on has broken. The switch is a black “T” shaped unit that rests on some clear plastic protrusion that in turns clicks onto something else. So I go back to the computer and find out that it is not possible to order just the one broken part. Yup, I would have to buy the whole assembly. Why was I not surprised? My initial reaction was gentle panic followed by rage. Then, as if on cue, my dad's voice gently echoed in my head: “Ve al yonke.” Suddenly I had a plan.
I call my brother Jorge and ask if he would go with me to the junkyard, just in case I got in over my head with pulling out the part I needed. He does assemble busses so if anyone can help, it is him. I can't remember the last time I went to the junkyard to find a part for any car I owned. Was it back in '86 to find a steering couple for my '76 Capri? I recalled being much more mechanically handy back then. And much more fearless about do it yourself car repair too.
We arrive and I check in with staff and inquire about the model, make and year of my car. They have only ONE and it's a '98. It was a very small gamble that a '97 and a '98 would have different switches but a larger one if they were not already harvested from the solitary junked car. As I approach' the car, I notice it is a better model than mine: V6, leather trim and a better stereo that the one I have. Then I see the interior pretty stripped down and I start to worry.
Lucky for me, the switch cluster was intact! My bro and I exchange high fives and get to work. I pry off the door panel, carefully grouping the hardware I remove in case some other poor soul makes a future pilgrimage to save their beloved Subaru. I get stuck at removing the electrical cables. Again, my aim was to take only what I needed and to not damage what remained so that there would be as many useful parts left as possible. This is were Jorge saves the day. He made quick work of it and off we go with my salvaged switch cluster. All for under $20 to boot.
I go home. I remove the door panel and lug into into the house so I can lie it on a clean, flat surface. I take apart the salvaged cluster and pull out the part I need. I figured I would practice opening the salvaged cluster before I tried opening mine and avoid any surprises. Next, I open my cluster and snap in the salvaged part before reassembling the door panel. Once it was all back together again, I turn the ignition and gave a small expression of gratitude to the universe. It works!
I was worried I would have to spend who knows how much on a new cluster from the dealership or a car parts place. Then I was also concerned about pulling up to the tollbooth on the way to work and forgetting to bring a screwdriver to open the window. Solving my problem and doing it cheaply gives me immense satisfaction. Our car can go another 200k miles and somewhere, I think my dad would be proud.