Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Honda Odyssey side door won't close

Background
Our 2005 Honda Odyssey has been a faithful companion since we purchased it new nearly 10 years ago.  And apart from an elective upgrade to performance brake rotors, body repairs after falling victim to a library parking lot hit-and-run, and routine maintenance, we've had no problems that weren't covered under warranty.  But with 10 years and 90k miles under her belt, it's not surprising that some bits aren't functioning quite as crisply as they once did.

Case in point - the power sliding doors on either side of the vehicle.  While being one of the coolest and most functionally beneficial features ever offered on a family vehicle, they are packed with lots of mechanical bits and electronics under regular stresses as they lug a 100-lb door open and closed.  So, after about 20,000 open-close cycles it's little surprise that this is where something finally went wrong.

Under normal operation, the side doors can be opened or closed with a button on the dash, a button on the key fob, or a quick yank on the handle that actuates the power operation.  Presumably the power operation feature can be switched off, though it's not apparent that you are ever completely independent of some degree of power assist, since even when closing the doors manually there are some internal mechanics that kick in to complete the final "seal" (one sees this if they look alongside the side of the car as the door closes.  Once the door slots into place after completing it's back-to-front sliding motion, there is a final electronic whir as the entire door appears to get "sucked" into place.  I think of it like a Rubbermaid container lid - you can rest it on top of the container and it looks generally OK, but it needs that final action to complete the seal.

One day, something finally went wrong...
In the past few years, we've had occasional problems with the sliding doors - particularly in cold weather - where that final process of latching shut doesn't complete properly.  The power operation works fine to open the doors, and will also get them most of the way closed but it looks like it's just doesn't get them closed quite far enough to get the internal latches to complete that final seal.  In the past, we tried just opening and closing them again which seemed to get it to work the second (or third) try.  Then one day, that didn't work at all.  We were stuck limping home with a partially closed side door and the "door open" buzzer blaring at us the whole way.  No fun.

The solution - "Reboot" the Door:
Fortunately, there is an easy fix to this that is doable by anyone and costs absolutely nothing.  Put simply, this involves resetting the door so that it "forgets" that you already tried to close it.  This resets the mechanism that operates the latch so they operate correctly the next time you try to close it.

Here are the six easy steps :
1.  Turn off the power to the side doors.  There is a switch on the dash next to the interior buttons that operate the sliding doors.  Switch from "ON" to "OFF".  As I mentioned before this doesn't completely shut off power to the doors but it prevents the power mechanism from taking over when you pull the handle.
2.  Open the side door as much as it will easily go.  Pull the handle out and back and the door should follow, up to a point.  Do not force it past this point.  You will want to do this on level ground (or at least not with the nose of the vehicle pointing downhill) or the door will slide back closed.
3.  Pull the fuse for the power sliding door.  Open the fuse box (on 2005-2013 models this is near the floor to the left of where the pedals are, near the gas cap and hood release).
4.  Wait 30 seconds then re-insert fuse.  This time is sort of arbitrary, but it ensures that the power system for the door completely resets.
5.  Turn on power to side doors.  Flip the dash switch from step #1 back to the "ON" position.
6.  Use button to close the doors.  Using one of the buttons on the dash or key fob, press the "Close" button.  The door should slide closed and latched completely.

Sometimes the internet does not lie.  This worked for me as well as it apparently has for others, and I hope it works as well for you.  Let me know if it did and if you learned anything more about these doors in the process, since these are one of the more confusing pieces of automotive hardware I've ever taken the effort to troubleshoot.