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Cab Power Top: electrical testing DIY

Last week I spent 3 days troubleshooting the power top on my dad’s 1986 Carrera Cabriolet. I found some great threads in this forum, and was lucky enough to get a copy of the factory test plan. I also got some great coaching over the phone. In the end, we were able to isolate and fix the problem.

While it’s fresh in my memory bank, I thought I’d write up a “plain english” test plan for the electric components in the cabriolet top.

I hope this will be helpful to others down the road, and please feel free to PM me with suggestions. If you find any errors or omissions, please PM me and I will edit.

The intent of this DIY guide is to help you identify faulty components, namely bad motors or switches, in your power cabriolet top. I worked on a 911, but this information should apply to 911,964 & 993 electric tops.

I'll only walk through the ELECTRICAL testing of the components. We didn't get into mechanical adjustments so I don't really have any knowledge of that.
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Last edited by notfarnow; 04-19-2007 at 10:05 AM..
Old 04-19-2007, 09:37 AM
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First, I think it would be helpful to have a basic understanding of the “sequence” of events when the top raises & lowers. AF Juvat wrote this, and I think it really clears a lot of things up. I hope he doesn’t mind me copying it here.

To Open:
Quote:
Originally posted by AFJuvat

1. Button is pushed to open top - IF microswitches in top are depressed AND upper OR Lower microswitch on passenger side transmission is NOT depressed, THEN rotate locking motors to open position. Microswitches Inside locking motors send signal to turn "top is up" warning light on.

2. IF Microsiwtches in top bar are open AND microswitchs on passenger side transmission are not depressed, turn on electric motors in back of car, retracting top.

3. IF bottom microswitch on passenger side transmission is depressed, AND Microswitches inside locking motor indicate latched unlocked, AND microswitches on top bar are open THEN Stop cabriolet top retracting and turn off "top is open" light
To Close:
Quote:
Originally posted by AFJuvat
Button is pushed: IF # 3 above still applies, turn transmissions the other way. Until one of the following happens.

1. Top microswitch on transmission top is depressed - top stops immeditely, regardless of top position

2. IF microswitches in top bar are depressed AND top microswitch on transmission is NOT depressed, turn locking motors to 'Lock" position until internal microswitch in locking motor indicates "lock", then turn out "top is open" light.
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Old 04-19-2007, 09:39 AM
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Testing: Getting Started

Testing the electrical components

This is a job you need to attack when you are in a good mood, and you have a few hours.

Most of the testing is done right at the cabriolet “brain”. In 911s, this is located under the passenger floorboard. Pull the carpets, undo the 10mm nut and flip the board around. The control unit (AKA “brain”) has 4 plugs leading into it. They are identified below. Also, take note of the first 3 digits of the part number on the “brain”. Many have been replaced by later versions. In dad’s 86 911, we had a 993 brain and some additional wiring.

If your problem lies with either the motors or the transmission, you will also want to take off the side covers by the rear seats in order to expose the transmissions. The right side has 2 limit switches that you’ll want to test, and it’s a good idea to look at both sides to make sure they are in synch.

To do the electrical testing, you are going to want a 12V test light, a circuit indicator, and some positive and negative jump leads. Pull all the plugs from the “brain”, so that you don’t accidentally send “bad news” back to the brain and cook it while you are testing.



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Last edited by notfarnow; 07-27-2007 at 06:44 PM.. Reason: updated images
Old 04-19-2007, 09:40 AM
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Testing 12V sources & negative ground (plug #1 )



30 – Run a test lamp from terminal 30 to a ground on the body. I used a screw under the dash. If the test lamp lights up, you have 12V. If it doesn’t, double check the fuse. If that’s no good you probably have a bad connection at the fuse panel or a bad wire.

31 – Assuming you have 12V at terminal 30, run the test lamp between terminals 30 & 31. If your light doesn’t go on, you have a bad ground. Go find it.

L –Switch the ignition to the “radio” position (or ignition “on” in cars with the 993 “brain”) on and run a jump wire between terminals 31 (ground) & L. Red dash light should go ON.

15–Switch the ignition to the “radio” (#1) position and run the test lamp between terminals 31 & 15. If the test lamp doesn’t light, you’re not getting your 12V “radio” feed.

I - With the rear wheels turning, use an oscilloscope to verify a square-wave voltage from the speedometer signal.
  • Note: I won’t pretend to actually know what that means; I skipped this step. I don’t have an oscilloscope, and I found that if the rear wheels are moving round and round, the car tends to go forward or reverse, spilling my beer. Not ideal.

    If you can’t find an oscilloscope, go check the junk drawer in your kitchen… betcha that’s where it is. Your wife probably used it as a hammer to hang a picture, and then didn’t put it back in its proper place.

Moving on…
At this point, everything should have checked out (well, maybe except for the speedometer signal). Now we can move on to checking the individual components & switches. In order to do this, you’ll need a positive and negative “jump” wire. You can use terminals 30 & 31 from plug #1. Terminal 30 runs off fuse #3, so if you accidentally cross your wires you’ll blow that fuse. Probably not a bad idea to have some spares.

You’ll need a test lamp and a circuit indicator that “beeps” when a circuit is completed. Most multimeters have this function.
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Last edited by notfarnow; 07-27-2007 at 06:45 PM..
Old 04-19-2007, 09:43 AM
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Testing the Locking Motors
It helps here to have a basic understanding of how the locking motor works.

Before the roof will open or close, the “brain” checks to make sure the locking motor is fully locked or unlocked.

There is a microswitch inside the motor’s “gearbox” that grounds when the latching motor is between locked & unlocked. In either locked or unlocked positions, there is no ground.

So, you need to test for BOTH:
-Ground when the motor is in between “locked & unlocked” positions
-NO Ground when fully locked or unlocked.

The motor itself has two main wires that get positive and negative from the “brain”. The negative and positive are reversed to either lock or unlock the motor. You should hear the motor STOP when it reaches either position.

NOTE: If it sounds like it’s “skipping” or straining, it probably broke the brass gear inside its little gearbox , and it’s slipping on its splines. This will also cause the trigger for the microswitch to get out of position. That will prevent the WHOLE roof sequence from starting, because the first thing the “brain” looks for is fully locked or unlocked positions in the locking motors… ie “no ground” on the latching motor microswitches. Make sense?
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Last edited by notfarnow; 04-19-2007 at 10:29 AM..
Old 04-19-2007, 09:45 AM
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Testing the Left Locking Motor (plug #2 )



MEL & MVL: These are the wires that power the locking motor
  • -With positive to MEL, negative to MVL: motor should unlock and STOP

    -With negative to MVL, positive to MEL: motor should lock and STOP


SL: It’s time to check the microswitch inside the motor’s “gearbox”.
Run a test lamp between terminal SL and your positive jump wire (or terminal 30 on plug #1). Use your positive and negative jump wires on MEL & MVL to rotate the locking motor.
  • -In all positions IN BETWEEN locked & unlocked: The test lamp between SL and + should light up

    -In fully locked position. The test lamp between SL and + should NOT light up

    -In fully unlocked position. The test lamp between SL and + should NOT light up


NOTE: For those of you who have a 993 “brain”. Addition leads need to be tested on Plug #2:
Hd: Run your test lamp between + and terminal Hd. With the emergency brake pulled, the test lamp should be ON.
P: Run a test lamp between + and P. With the ignition “on”, the test lamp should be ON.
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Last edited by notfarnow; 07-27-2007 at 06:48 PM..
Old 04-19-2007, 09:47 AM
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Testing the Right Locking Motor & Dash Switch (plug #3 )



MER & MVR: These are the wires that power the locking motor
  • -With positive to MER, negative to MVR: motor should unlock and STOP

    -With negative to MVR, positive to MER: motor should lock and STOP

SR : It’s time to check the microswitch inside the motor’s “gearbox”. Run a test lamp between terminal SR and your positive jump wire (or terminal 30 on plug #1). Use your positive and negative jump wires on MER & MVR to rotate the locking motor.
  • -In all positions IN BETWEEN locked & unlocked: The test lamp between SR and + should light up

    -In fully locked position. The test lamp between SR and + should NOT light up

    -In fully unlocked position. The test lamp between SR and + should NOT light up

Dash Switch
Plug #3 has terminals for the operating switch on the dashboard. The “roof up” circuit is interrupted by the upper switch on the right side raising & lowering transmission (located under the cover in the right rear of the car). This is a safety switch that is triggered when the roof is extending too far. It generally doesn’t get triggered unless something is really out of whack and the roof is extending past the windows.

A : Run test lamp between negative jump lead and terminal A. With the ignition in the Radio position (or ignition “on” if you have a 993 “brain”), use the dashboard cabriolet button to “open” the roof (roof “down”)
  • -Test lamp should be ON

Z : Run test lamp between negative jump lead and terminal Z. With the ignition in the Radio position (or ignition “on” if you have a 993 “brain”), use the dashboard cabriolet button to “close” the roof (roof “up”)
  • -Test lamp should be ON

    -Repeat the test, but have someone trigger the upper switch on the right side transmission, light should go OFF
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Last edited by notfarnow; 07-27-2007 at 06:48 PM..
Old 04-19-2007, 09:56 AM
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Testing the Raising & Lowering Motors & Limit Switches (plug #4 )



Plug 4 has the power leads for the raising & lowering motors, as well as the three switches that stop the motor during its basic operation. MS & M0 are the power leads going to the motors; positive and negative are reversed to either raise or lower the roof.

When the roof is being raised, there are two microswitches (ZL & ZR) in the top bar that signal that the roof is fully “up”. When the roof is being lowered, the lower switch (“0”) on the right side transmission signals that the roof is fully “down”

Raising & lowering motors

M0 & MS: These are the wires that power the raising & lowering motors
  • -With negative to M0, positive to MS: motor should RAISE the roof

    -With positive to M0, negative to MS: the motors should LOWER the roof

IMPORTANT! If your roof is already fully down (and with the cover off!), begin by RAISING it.
If your roof is already fully up (and unlatched!!) begin by lowering it

A helper is recommended here to watch the roof as you raise & lower it. You DO NOT want to raise or lower the roof past its normal stops. By jumping the wires, none of the normal safety switches are going to be triggered, so you can easily bring the roof down too tow or too high. If you do this alone, make sure you KNOW which way the roof is going to go, and make very small movements.

Check to make sure both sides are moving in synch. If they aren’t, either a cable is broken, a motor is dead (each side has its own) or there is a problem with the (expensive) transmission. You’ll want to listen for horrific noises, like metal bars tearing through canvas.

If both sides are moving but seem to be out of synch, you can disconnect a cable from one of the motors, and raise/lower that side using a cordless drill on the square cable end.

Limit switches:
You’ll need that “beeping” circuit indicator we talked about earlier. I really think you could use a test lamp to + for these tests, but the factory test plan calls for a circuit indicator, so that’s what I used. Maybe there are some sensitive circuits, or maybe they specified a “beeping” circuit indicator so you could get out and trigger the switches without having to look for the test light.

ZL: Run circuit indicator between terminal ZL and your negative jump lead (or terminal 31 on plug #1).
-Have someone depress the left microswitch on the top bar. Circuit indicator should BEEP when the switch is depressed.

ZR: Run circuit indicator between terminal ZR and your negative jump lead (or terminal 31 on plug #1).
-Have someone depress the left microswitch on the top bar. Circuit indicator should BEEP when the switch is depressed.

O: Run circuit indicator between terminal O and your negative jump lead (or terminal 31 on plug #1).
-Have someone depress the lower microswitch on passenger transmission. Circuit indicator should beep UNLESS the switch is depressed.
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Last edited by notfarnow; 07-27-2007 at 06:49 PM..
Old 04-19-2007, 10:00 AM
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Question for convertible top. 30 amp fuse for convertible top was blow. Put in a brand new one, got in the car, hit the switch for the top and nothing. Checked the fuse and it was blown again. Could this problem be the actual switch has gone bad or something else? Appreciate your thoughts. Thanks
Old 05-05-2007, 10:39 AM
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Jake

Thanks for taking the time to write the DIY. I don't have an electric top, but for those that do, this thread will be very helpful.

Ian
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Old 05-05-2007, 01:50 PM
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Modification

Hello - Thanks for all the great info on the electrical side of the top! I have a question and it's something that I know a few others have had. I would like to change my top so I can operate it with the car running. I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer but I know not to try to operate the top while doing 100mph!

From what I had read before, you can do it by messing with the electrical side of it and someone had mentioned that a post exists for the procedure but I have not been able to find it.

If anyone has any insights on this, I would greatly appreciate it! I would also appreciate information on how to adjust the top. I have a 964 and have found some information, not exactly what I'm looking for, but if anyone has a link or can share knowledge, it would help me out! It just seems like the left and right side are not in sync.

Thanks!
David
Old 05-31-2008, 02:44 PM
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Geez, I'm glad my top is a manual.....
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Old 05-31-2008, 03:36 PM
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Narrowing down issue

Actually I got the top adjusted tonight - that part was actually easy. Here is my latest issue and I've spent a decent amount of time on this now so I have figured much out, just not the root of the problem. Actually I may have narrowed things down enough that my problem is in the brains of the top.

So my driver's side latching motor works sporadically. Sometimes it works perfect, other times it will not activate at all. When it does not work, I go out a day or two later and all of the sudden, it would work as normal again. I determined that the switch at the motor is working and the motor works. One thing I did is that if I reverse the connectors and connect the right to the left and vice versa, same issue, just other side. Now if all that I have learned is correct, it can only be one of two things now - either I have a bad connection or the brain is not working, not sending power to the motor.

So does anyone have any thoughts on this?

Thanks!
David
Old 05-31-2008, 06:52 PM
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Try this:
If you take off the header cover, you can swap the connections for the two motors. Then you can isolate whether it's a problem with the motor, or a problem with the "brain".

The brass gear in the latching motor may be cracked, causing it to move a bit on the splined shaft:



If that happens, the microswitch in the motor housing won't be triggered. Maybe after the top sits for a little while, it settles into place.

Is the red light on the dash for the top staying lit?

another possibility: in a thread a while ago, someone mentioned that the wires going to the latching motor were chafed, causing it to work intermittently. May want to check that... I think it was along the header
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Last edited by notfarnow; 06-03-2008 at 05:57 PM..
Old 06-03-2008, 05:55 PM
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Hi Jake - I thought about swapping those wires and it appears that the motors are fine. You swap them and the left side motor works great, the right does not so then it's a wiring or brain problem I'm thinking. Here is my big question right now though, where is the brain? I looked under the carpet on the passenger side and found the security box but then I see several things up under the seat. Is it one of those and basically I have to remove the seat???

So once I get to the brain, I know there is a lot of info in the thread on this, but I haven't worked out the testing procedure for this particular issue yet but I'm thinking the first thing to do would be to either wire direct to the unit, or just swapping the left and right side wires so I can further isolate if it's wiring vs. brain. Then I guess if I eliminate wiring, there is not much else other than the brain???

For the light, when the top is down it goes off and then usually when I get it all latched in properly it goes off. It's stayed on a couple of times but I think one of the motors may not have been fully 'in position'. It was fairly inconclusive but again, I think we can eliminate the motors as being the issue based on swapping the wires.

Any other thoughts? A big question I had is related to how reliable the tops are in general? I was thinking it could be fairly easy to eliminate that brain and wire one switch the raise lower the top and a second switch the lock and release. I don't like straying from original but I also don't like looking silly driving down the road with one side of the top sticking up because it's not latched down (I had to do it once or twice but no highway travels). Actually I really don't like not being able to put the top down when it's stuck up mainly!

Thanks!
David
Old 06-04-2008, 04:06 AM
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Just to make sure I understand... did you swap the connections for the left & right motors? Or just reverse the wires on the indivisual motors (ie, reverse polarity)

The reason I ask: running jump wires to the motors, they will always latch/unlatch. The big question is whether or not the microswitch inside the motor housing is being triggered. It really sounds like it isn't. Those are the SL and SR pins on the locking motor plugs, down at the brain.

The brain is under the passenger footwell. Remove all the carpet, and then there's a 10mm nut down at the bottom that removes the masonite footwell "plate". The cab top brain is under that.

Once you expose that, go back through the testing sequence for the locking/latching motors. Pay special attention to the SR & SR pins.

Quote:
Originally Posted by notfarnow View Post
It’s time to check the microswitch inside the motor’s “gearbox”. Run a test lamp between terminal SR/SL and your positive jump wire (or terminal 30 on plug #1). Use your positive and negative jump wires on MER & MVR to rotate the locking motor.
-In all positions IN BETWEEN locked & unlocked: The test lamp between SR/SL and + should light up

-In fully locked position. The test lamp between SR/SL and + should NOT light up

-In fully unlocked position. The test lamp between SR/SL and + should NOT light up
I'll bet $20 that's where your problem is. At either end, fully closed or fully open, you don't have a ground from that switch.
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Last edited by notfarnow; 06-04-2008 at 04:53 AM..
Old 06-04-2008, 04:48 AM
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Hi Jake and thanks for the attention!

I took the wire/connector from the right motor and hooked it to the left and vice verson. I was going to try to start jumpering things until that seemed way too easy to just swap those!

So since that plug has four wires and there are four wires coming out of the motor, I assumed two were for the the switch and two were to power the motor. Then since both motors function using the right side connector, it appears that the brain was receiving the proper 'status' from the motor. I'll also add that when using the right side 'feed', the left motor ALWAYS operated - there was nothing 'sporatic' about it - hit open, it unlatched, closed, locked down as it should have....

I'm also not sure if I mentioned it but the motors really are not that old. They have been replaced on the car and it only has 83k miles and I think they were replaced around 20k ago. Maybe I shouldn't say 'old' but instead that they should not be worn out - kind of like me!

Thanks for that location, that's helps tremendously because I can't do too much at this point without that info!
Old 06-04-2008, 05:10 AM
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On dad's car, they had been replaced 2 years previously. He had exactly the same symptoms as you, and we found the brass gear in the latching motor was cracked.

I think it's got more to do with how much use they get and how well adjusted the top is. If it's not adjusted properly, the raising/lowing motors can start moving the top before the motor is completely unlatched. Hard on the latching motors.

So, when you are operating top, sometimes it won't latch down all the way, right? When that happens, is the red light on?

I'd be tempted to open & close the roof until it misbehaves, and then test the SR/SL pin for ground:
- if it's NOT showing a ground when it's still unlatched, that means the microswitch in the motor is being triggerd too early.

Are you getting any funny sounds from that corner, like skipping or groaning?
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Old 06-04-2008, 05:42 AM
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I'm going to go out and take a look in a little while. I do hear you on the motor but it doesn't make any sense that it's a motor if you hook the right motor up to the left connector and the left motor to the right connector, that the problem then reverses to the other motor. This tells me it is a wiring or brain issue because if it was a motor, the same motor would experience the same problem no matter which connector was used correct?

Anyways, I'm going to check out the wires and brain and see what I find. Now I'm just very curious to be honest with you!!! I'll let you know what I find as hopefully all this info will help others.

Thanks again!
David
Old 06-04-2008, 07:52 AM
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Update - So the first thing I learned is to ensure that when utilizing these forums, which are truly invaluable, but ensure that what you read and 'hear' applies to your vehicle. I'm taking a break to put the whole passenger side of my 964 back together when it ends up that the brain is under the dash. After I checked the floorboard, I pulled the seat because there's several 'brains' under there but this is not a total loss though, under the passenger seat it is pretty dirty so while it is out I'll clean all of that out.

So for 964 owners, the brain for the convertible top is under the dash on the drivers side and it is connected to the Central Indicator 'box'. It is really up under there and really just back behind the ignition switch for reference, so do your stretches or plan on pulling the dash apart. If you get the bolts off and disconnect and pull out the Indicator box, you can pull the top unit down enough to mess with it. It's tight but.... Obviously if you want to bench test it, just unplug everything and pull it out. For pulling out the connectors, I learned real quick to not be overly gentle, grab the bar thing on the plug, wiggle it back and forth fairly aggressively and then the plug should come right out.

So I did a bunch of tests and I still think it is the brain but here's the real kicker which may indicate something else. I would not say that any determinations were made that were 100% but when I put everything back together, both motors worked and this is after that one motor (the side that that motor is on I should say since the motor works when connected to the other side), but it went from working sporadically to never working recently. This may well be another piece to the puzzle though as I may have an issue in the wiring because I had to tug and really manuever it around so maybe a wire is chaffed and I repositioned it. The next time I get some patience, and it stops working again, I'll get back in there though.

I will say though that while Jake has a different model with the brain in a different location, the wiring info is right on and will be very very helpful when I dive back in!
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