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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I wanted to share my experience with tracking down the cause of my non-functional puddle/step lights, those little things on the bottom of the front doors of some of our cars.

Today I took a trip to the junkyards to scout for engines >:) and while I was there I found some little lens things for the puddle lights on my front doors. My doors haven't had bulbs or lenses since I bought the car, so I snatched them up.

Upon getting home I tried to put in my fancy new LED bulbs and they just would not illuminate, so I flipped 'em and still no-go. I got my multimeter out and started probing the socket... Strange- passenger side, with the door jamb switch in the "door open" position, I was getting around 200mV. With the door jamb switch in the "door closed" position I was getting almost 12V from + to frame, and zero from + to -. I was getting zero with the switch in both positions on the driver's side. Naturally, this is the part where I got online, did some research, and some digging through the FSM. Here's what I found...

There's a little box under the steering column that's referred to in the FSM as an "Integrated Module". The FSM wasn't too clear on its actual location so I wound up removing my glove box & stereo to try & find it. Then I found an article referencing it over on the Forester forum. Apparently this little mini-brain controls all the interior lighting. Once I found it I pulled it and opened it up to discover a beautiful, obviously blown capacitor. I'll be grabbing one of these from the junkyard tomorrow. Attached are pictures of the exterior of the case, and a couple of shots of the blown capacitor.

If your puddle lights or step lights or whatever they're called are not working and you've ruled out the bulb, have a look at this module. It's under the steering column with one blue plug, one grey plug, and one 10mm socket holding the bracket.
 

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. . . Once I found it I pulled it and opened it up to discover a beautiful, obviously blown capacitor. I'll be grabbing one of these from the junkyard tomorrow. Attached are pictures of the exterior of the case, and a couple of shots of the blown capacitor. . .
That component appears to be labelled "D15", which would more likely make it a diode of some sort.

Have you traced the circuitry related to that component to confirm it's in the related lighting circuit? And, are you looking to try to repair the module (i.e., replace the blown component) or just going to replace it?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Just going to replace it. FSM shows a separate diode in the circuit for one of those step lights- I found one on the passenger side, tucked into the harness behind the A/C stuff. I pulled it and checked it with the multimeter, it showed about 0.52 volt one way, and zero volt the other way so I assumed it's doing its job. Not sure why I typed capacitor in the first post, I just re-read that. Yes, the weird readings I was getting prompted me to look for something between the bulbs and the door jamb switches. I figured a diode could cause strange symptoms, at least I've seen compromised diodes do strange stuff in other equipment before. Has me wondering if it isn't somehow affecting other systems- those little diodes are there to prevent voltage from going to places it shouldn't, correct?
 

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Just going to replace it. FSM shows a separate diode in the circuit for one of those step lights . . . those little diodes are there to prevent voltage from going to places it shouldn't, correct?
Yes, the diodes shown in the lighting wiring diagrams are usually intended to isolate parts of circuits. However, that doesn't necessarily mean the blown diode inside the module has the same function. That would depend on how it's connected in the module circuitry. The wiring diagram doesn't show that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Seeing that the module is different between 2000/2002 and 2003/2004 models, I was not able to procure a direct replacement. However, I did manage to find an '03 Forester that at least has the same board but with a different layout. Mostly the same components in the same locations, but several in different locations and other components that were "extra" compared to my Outback's module. This means I paid about $10 for a pack of 5 diodes :19:


I would argue that I don't even have basic soldering skills- I sort of picked up a kit a long time ago and started messing with it until I got the solder to stick where I wanted it. I've watched some videos on the topic but it seems I would have to shadow someone to really get the hang of it. I do pretty good with soldering wires together when installing stereos! Anyways, I managed to extract one of those SMD diodes from the Forester board and hack it into my Outback's board. Getting the exploded component off was a struggle and I managed to pull off a piece of the trace... Fortunately, that particular trace went directly to one of the pins on the socket so I just "fabricated a jumper wire" and soldered that to one side, and managed to get the other side to stick to some solder that was already on the board. I did NOT have much hope for this; at best, I would have wasted some money and the module would still be as functional as it was (but not any more than before). At worst, I would have shorted out something else and created even more problems for myself! Well, luck was on my side today. The module works as it's supposed to, and I finished putting my door panels back on and got my LED step lights working.


Not sure how long this board will continue to work considering it was technically not even soldered- that involves skill and technique and I possess neither :nerd: But, it's a good band-aid, perhaps the electrical equivalent of duct tape. Hopefully it will hold until I can source a module that isn't compromised. Here's a few shots of my pitiful repair, and of the LED's installed and working. Also, some shots of the actual lights in action. Passenger door was with a stock bulb, then an LED. All of this made possible by that little box under the steering column!
 

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