Showing posts with label Electrical. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Electrical. Show all posts

Rancilio Silvia PID Temperature Controller Installation

This isn't a post about coffee brewing technique - there's lots of great sites and posts dedicated to this on the interweb. I love my Rancilio Siliva - I look at it as a simple, rugged, reliable machine for making coffee. It has it's limitations however, and one of them is the ability to manage brewing water temperature. There is no temperature indication on the stock Silvia, and the brew water thermostat on the boiler has just two setpoints - water heating lower limit, and upper limit.

Auber PID Temperature Controller - White LED version
The installation of a PID (proportional–integral–derivative) temperature controller is designed to resolve these limitations by providing temperature display, and automated brewing and steaming functions with the ability to customize key settings - such as brew water temperature, brewing time, and so on.

Completed PID installation on the Rancilio Silvia - note the box to the right of the group head with the white LED temperature display. 

PID Installation

The Auber installation manual is clear and self explanatory. I don't intend to reproduce a manual here, just provide some photos and tips / observations from my installation experience. 

Installation of the SSR (solid state relay) is fairly straightforward. It installs next to the pump on the main chassis of the machine. The Auber kit comes with one nut, bolt and washer for installation through the bottom vent holes. I drilled a second hole and added a second fastener to help hold the SSR a bit more securely, and ensure the bottom surface and heat transfer silicone is as tight as possible for best possible heat transfer and component reliability. 

Hole drilled in chassis for second fasterner

Note the heat transfer silicone - I cleaned this up for a neater final installation. 

Top view. Note the scale on the black chassis to
 the right of the SSR from a leaking high pressure hose fitting. 
One other tip - this installation places the SSR almost directly below the high pressure stainless braided hose. I made sure to correct a leak in the 90 degree elbow fitting using some pipe dope. I also added a small plastic sheet to deflect any water from the SSR in the case of a future leak.

Wiring the controller was straighforward, again, the instructions were quite clear. Just one tip - I inverted the machine for performing the wiring and prep for adhesive tape installation. This made it very easy to access the connections, and apply pressure to the PID when applying the adhesive tape. 

I temporarily taped the PID enclosure to the steam wand to keep it out of the way during wiring termination.
PID Controller Wiring Complete
Note - when I cleaned the surfaces for installation of the PID - most of the ink came off the UL certification label. I ended up removing the certification label to ensure a clean surface for intallation of the PID. I don't recommend removing the certification label. One other thing I did was to use a heat gun to heat the metal sheet where the PID was to be installed, and gently heating the adhesive also. This allows the adhesive tape to completely adapt to the surface inconsistencies for the best possible bond.

Cleaning the PID Controller installation surface
Certification Label
PID Controller installed. Working with the machine inverted makes it easy to apply pressure to improve adhesion.
One other thing to consider when installing these kits - the Rancilio Silvia has PVC electrical wiring insulation - which becomes brittle with heat and time. My machine is 12 years old - and I was very careful to avoid cracking the wiring insulation and terminal insulators. Some of the terminal insulation broke anyway. When I insulated the boiler using fibreglass insulation - I was careful to reorganize the wires, zip tie them together to avoid having any wires or connectors too close to the heating elements. See photo below. This should enhance reliability of the connections. I can see that if I expect to get 20 years out of the this machine - I may end up having to replace the wiring.

Wiring organization using zip ties


How does the new PID temperature controller work? Simply fantastic - it's great to have fine control over brew water temperature, and a much better understanding of what's happening with the critical brew variables. Result - better tasting coffee (although I still have a long way to go). I wish I had got this upgrade done years ago. 

Sources and Links

I hope you found this post useful. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section below. I answer all questions. If you're interested, you can help support this site by using the following links to in the United States. I purchased my PID kit directly from Auber Instruments: My go-to place for genuine Rancilio Silvia parts in Canada is


Heat Gun with 2 Heat Settings, Which is High and Low?

I've got a decent Black and Decker 120V heat gun, with two heat settings marked "1" and "2" on the switch. However, there is no clear mention of which setting is high heat, and which setting is low heat. I don't use the heat gun regularly, so if I had to use it on low heat to avoid melting something, I would flick the switch back and forth to try to figure out which setting was the low heat setting.

I finally got tired of this routine, and took 5 minutes to figure this out and label the heat gun for clarity.
500W setting - Measured using the Kill-a-Watt
 I have a Kill a Watt energy meter, so it was quite simple to connect the heat gun, switch the Kill a Watt meter display to instantaneous power (Watts), and flick the switch back and forth to determine that switch position 1 is 500W, and switch position 2 is 1000W.
1000W setting - Measured using the Kill-a-Watt
I have a Brother TZ label maker in my garage toolbox, 30 seconds later I had the heat gun labelled for clarity. No more uncertainty as to what switch position is low, and what switch position is high. Nice.

Sources and Links

I hope you found this post useful. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section below. I answer all questions. If you're interested, you can help support this site by using the following links to in the United States.


Adding Trailer Light Harness to the BMW 5 Series E60 E61 Touring

I've had my 1 1/2" trailer hitch installed for three years now, I use it regularly with my receiver mount bike rack, but everytime I needed to tow - I needed to use the Subaru Outback because I never got around to installing the wiring. So - camping trip with the kids planned for this summer, so I was forced to get on the lighting controller installation.
Vehicle connections are on the left side - black - 12V, green - right turn, red - stop, yellow - left turn, brown - tail, white - ground.

Curt Powered, Circuit Protected Taillight Converter, Trailer connections right side, vehicle connections left side.
I thought I'd post a few tips to help anyone out with selecting tapping points for the lighting controller.

Green lead on the Curt adapter - right turn - I found the blue / brown wire to the right signal light right at the connector to the right side signal light connector, just above the trunk battery. 
Stop light (red wire) connected to White / Brown and Running Lights (Brown Wire) connected to Black / Brown at the right rear signal light connector

Ensuring a good ground - scuffing the paint around the ground lead connection to bare metal

Reverse lights (not needed for the Curt adapter, but used in the 7 pin plug connection) in the wiring harness above the battery, right rear of the trunk, white / yellow wire. This is also useful for tying in a reverse light camera. 

Use a bit of aluminum foil to deflect heat from the heat gun when shrinking the butt crimp connectors, to protect trim and other wiring. 

Following installation - neaten up the installation with some black PVC wire wrap. 
And that's all there is to it. Once installed, make sure you test to make sure all is working correctly. You can purchase these inexpensive testing plugs online, this one is made by Curt as well.

Light testing adapter. Running lights / stop and turn signal combination lights. 

2 Year Update

Still working perfectly. Did a cross country tent trailer camping trip with the kids - everything worked great. Good quality parts. 

Sources and Links

I hope you found this post useful. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section below. I answer all questions. If you're interested, you can help support this site by using the following links to in the United States.


Installing the Tekonsha P3 Brake Controller in the 5 Series BMW E60 E61 Touring

Let's get the first question out of the way... Why? I've had my 2010 BMW 535xiT for almost 5 years now, and there is no sign that BMW will be importing the next generation 5 series wagon to North America - so I've decided to keep the BMW and run it into the ground. I purchased it at 78,000km, I'm at 175,000km now - averaging about 20,000km per year, so I figure I'll take it to at least 300,000km and really get my money's worth out of it. So - I already had the 1 1/2" receiver hitch installed and get routine service out of it with the bike rack, and I decided to properly set up the car for towing. There's going to be the guys out there that will say you should go out and get yourself an F150 or the like - and I've thought about this quite a bit. The 535xiT weighs 4100 pounds, has 300HP, and most importantly, 300 torques all the way from 1500 to 5000 rpm. Plenty for towing up to 3000lbs with the correct hitch. Oh - and the 535 touring is also equipped with airbag rear suspension, on board air compressor and self levelling suspension control.

The completed Tekonsha P3 Brake Controller Installation, Console Mounted, Passenger side of the Shifter
So - on we go.

Locating the controller - you want the controller within sight and reach of the driver, to be able to actuate the manual brake lever on the bottom of the unit for testing and calibration. One limitation of this controller is that it has to be aligned with the travelling direction of the vehicle (display perpendicular to the direction of travel) so that the inertial sensors work properly. The unit can be rotated up or down a full 360 degrees as long as the unit is aligned along the travelling axis. I originally thought I would install the unit under the drivers side dashboard (below the steering wheel) and there were a few nice options to do so - however - there is almost no clearance below the wheel between the drivers legs. You could easily avoid the unit installed under the steering wheel, but if you ever got in an accident, the placement of the control unit under the steering wheel could really mess up your knees - so - I looked for a better alternative.

I did a quick search on cell phone mounts for the E60 / E61 and found a nice placement to the right (passenger side) of the shifter - so I decided to fabricate a bracket out of aluminum sheet.

First step in bracket fabrication - hook over the leather border on the console, fit into the gap between the wood trim and the console edge. 
Final shape of the bracket, with a small hook to fit under the carpet trim on passenger side of the cabin. 

I glued a baseplate to the top of my bracket to take the screws from the Tekonsha mounting bracket, using isocyanate glue
You can see where the second Neodymium magnet will be fastened to the bracket - make sure you mark the rotation of the magnet with the correct field orientation - so when you mound the magnet on the back side of the bracket, it will engage with the hidden magnet with full force (N to S, S to N). 
 Now - onto wiring. The brake controller needs a battery connect, a ground connection, a brake signal from the brake light switch, and a switched line back to the back of the car, the brake connection on the trailer connector. I first tackled the brake light signal. This took a whole lot longer than what I expected, because the brake pedal switch on the BMW E60 / E61 is not connected directly to the brake lights. It's a double pole switch which switches to ground on one pole, and switches a signal between two control boxes - comfort access and lighting control module. So - I decided against tapping into the brake light switch wiring and tap into the brake light wiring instead.

There are four brake light bulbs on the 5 series BMW, and a single high mount brake light. Since the BMW has a light bulb failure detection feature, each individual light bulb has it's own feeder wire. That means that five separate brake light wires go from the lighting control module located up front to the left of the brake pedal, all the way to the back of the car. I decided to tap into the larger of the two brake light wires feeding the left rear brake light bulbs, this wire is 0.75mm diameter, gray wire with green stripe. I found this wire on the way out of the lighting control module.
Gray wire, green stripe, leaving connector to lighting control module. I've cut the wire and tapping the signal wire which will run to the Tekonsha P3 stop signal (red wire). 
By the way - there are two gray wires with green stripes in this section of harness, one is larger than the other, you need to tap into the thicker wire (0.75mm diameter). Don't ask me how I found this out.
Heat shrink butt crimp connectors - I use two layers of aluminum foil to protect the rest of the wires in the harness from overheating. 
 Now - I needed 20A feed, and a good ground. Just to the right of the center console, on the passenger side of the car, there is a conventional 12V power outlet up underneath the dashboard. Instead of tapping a new fuse on the fuse box behind the glove box, I simply crimped two space connectors on the Tekonsha harness and tapped into the connector for the 12V power outlet. Brown wire on the car harness is ground - connect to the white wire of the Tekonsha harness, and the other wire is the battery feed (12V) to the black wire on the Tekonsha harness. SIMPLE AND QUICK!!

12V power and ground - I just removed the connector from the passenger side 12V power outlet, and tapped into the connector using standard crimp on spade connectors. 
 Next - you have to run a minimum 14gauge wire back to the trailer connector. I ran this wire along the passenger side of the car. Pelican parts has some nice tutorials on how to remove the door sill trim - really useful - just google them - and I ran the wire along underneath all the door sill trim.
Use a coat hanger to help run the wires through B pillar trim without removing the trim piece

Tape the wire you're pulling to a section of coat hanger wire - to help feed the wire under the luggage compartment side wall trim.

Installation of the 7 pin connector underneath the car, to the right of the hitch receiver. I decided to trim the bracket to make the installation a bit easier. 

The completed 7 pin connector installation - bracketed to the underbody cover which hides the battery box and air suspension air compressor. 
 So - with all the wiring completed, back to the final bracket installation. I decided to have the aluminum bracket held in place using two neodymium magnets, one underneath the console side carpet trim, one underneath the Tekonsha mounting bracket.
I used my mythbusters / Adam Savage trick of mixing baking soda with Isocyanate glue to thicken the glue, and provide gusseting for the magnet. This is the backside of the thin carpet trim piece which runs along the passenger side footwell. 


With the brake controller installed and powered up, here's what it looks like in the 5 series. 
Powered up and tested, brake controller head unit conveniently located to the right of the shifter.

The Tekonsha P3 has a nice voltage troubleshooting screen under the help menu - will tell you your battery voltage, and stop light voltage. 
I also installed a Curt lighting adapter to provide the turn signals to the trailer adapter, I'll write a separate post on that installation, and one on the operation of the brake controller.

Sources and Links

I hope you found this post useful. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section below. I answer all questions. If you're interested, you can help support this site by using the following links to in the United States.


Workbench Task Lighting using Armacost LED Strip Lighting

It's been a busy summer - I haven't had much time for posting - so I figured I would get back into the game with a pretty simple one. I wrote earlier about my garage organization project using Ikea kitchen cabinets - full height wall cabinets, combined with upper wall cabinets above my table saw, mini fridge and mini freezer. You can check out that post here. 

Completed Installation - LED Strip Lights underneath wall cabinets, lighting work surface / freezer
The table saw and freezer make a pretty handy worktable when I'm not using the table saw. I thought I would add some task lighting over the table saw, and decided to try out Lee Valley Tools new LED strip lighting kits. They have all kinds of options - white or mulicoloured LEDs with various LED spacing for different intensities, and transformers of various capacities to match the current requirements of the installed LEDs. They also have some dimmers, switches to round out the installation. I made my lighting plan, decided to go with white LEDs with a one LED every 1/2 inch spacing (high intensity) and the appropriate transformer.

Power Supply Mounted in the Wall Cabinet - with all my tool chargers
The LED light strips are high quality - you can select between two different white colors - warm or natural white - and the light strips come with a 3M adhesive backing to apply directly to the application surface. I decided to go with the natural white in the garage, and the light is bright and clear - perfect for task lighting. Prior to application of the light strips, I used a bit of brake cleaner on a rag to clean off the melamine lower surface of the Ikea cabinets - just to ensure I would get good adhesion. This worked fine - 18 months following installation the LED strips haven't moved or delaminated.

The Lee Valley Kit comes with connectors to allow you to cut the strips to custom length
I decided to control the light strip 30W transformer with an Insteon switch for automation control, and installed the switch and a two plug outlet in a 4" junction box using a twin outlet cover plate. This way, I got 2 electrical outlets above the table saw. I mounted the transformer inside the Ikea cabinet on the plywood board I installed for all my cordless tool chargers.

Surface Mount Junction Box with Switch Adapter Cover Plate, Insteon Control Switch, and Power Outlet


The Lee Valley LED light kits are top quality, very versatile with many options. I have above average confidence that if I need to repair or modify this installation, I'll be able to get parts or components from Lee Valley in the future. The finished installation is neat and professional looking, the light quality is very good and suited for the application. All in all - very satisfied with this product.

Light thrown from completed installation.

Sources and Links

I hope you found this post useful. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section below. I answer all questions. The Armacost lighting components were sources from Lee Valley Tools.


Installing the Rain Machine Internet Connected Smart Irrigation Controller

I finally got around to replacing my 25 year old analog Toro irrigation controller. I have to say - this Toro controller was built like a tank - still functioning perfectly after 25 years - but limited by the functionality developed at the time.

Rain Machine - Completed Installation
Here's a photo of the Toro that I replaced:

Toro Analog Irrigation Controller
The rationale for replacing the Toro controller was to have multiple watering programs for different phases of lawn care during the year - for example - a soaking program following fertilizer or nemotode treatments, programs to water under the large shade trees which don't receive a lot of rain water when the leaves are on the tree, spring and summer watering programs, etc. The advantage of the Rain Machine is that you can create these programs, and enable, disable or schedule them as required, all from your smart phone or tablet. You can also have multiple programs enabled concurrently - which is useful for watering flowerbeds on a different schedule than watering your lawn.

The Rain Machine was quite simple to install. I began by labelling all the wires attached to the Toro controller prior to removing the Toro. There was a few peculiar wiring characteristics worth mentioning. The rain sensor in my system was simply an interrupt switch on the common circuit - so I had to identify the two wires going to the rain sensor which wouldn't be used with the Rain Machine - the Rain Machine uses weather forecasting and rainfall data to modify watering based on internet weather data. The rain sensor is not required (and in my case, was not functioning anyway). 

Once I began installation of the Rain Machine - I immediately ran into a problem. The wiring connections on the Rain Machine are TINY - the manual specifies it will take wire from 14 to 22 gauge - but it was impossible to install the wiring from my system directly to the Rain Machine connections - my wiring was stranded 12 or 14 guage wire - and it wasn't possible to get them installed security. So - I ended up crimping on short pigtails of 18 gauge stranded wire to be able to make the connections securely. 

Installation of 18 gauge pigtails to my irrigation cabling, to permit secure connections to the connection blocks

18 gauge pigtails to facilitate connections to the tight terminal blocks on the Rain Machine
Once the wiring was completed - there was a second problem - it looked horrible, and there was no way to install cable relief to prevent the wires from being pulled out of the connection blocks. If you compare this to the Toro irrigation controller, which had a large cavity for making the connections, complete with a cable grommet to secure the field wiring and prevent it from being pulled out of the connection blocks. 

Not a pretty installation - no place to hide the cables inside the Rain Machine. 
In order to neaten the installation - I used a short length of plastic cable channel used in automation panel cabling - to tuck the wires and help prevent them from physical damage / snagging / pulling from the connection blocks.

Plastic cable channel for hiding field wiring
Once this was done - I also tucked the power cable from the power brick into the cable channel, and covered the channel to completely hide the wiring. 

Cover on the cable channel
What would be my constructive criticism to Rain Machine to facilitate installation? Larger cable termination block, wider spaced terminals to accept larger gauge field wiring, and some form of cable management for neater field installations. You can see that they've put an emphasis on the industrial design of this unit, and made it as small as possible. This seems to sacrifice the practicality of installation, however.


How does the Rain Machine work in practice? Quite well - the smartphone / tablet app works very well, intuitive - quick to run individual zones, easy to set programs, run multiple programs at a time, disable programs without deleting them so that you can keep them from season to season, and nice to see the watering history and weather history, and the adaptation of watering times based on the weather and rainfall history. I haven't had a chance to check on Alexa integration yet, will update the post when I get the chance.

Sources and Links

I hope you found this post useful. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section below. I answer all questions.


BMW 535xi Touring E61 Tailgate Wiring Harness - SenCom Repair Kit Installation

My BMW 535xi Touring is a 2010 model manufactured in March, 2009. Almost 6 years old with 120,000km. Last summer my remote locking failed – and it wasn’t the diversity antenna module under the rear spoiler, so I suspected wiring issues. I took it to the dealer to have them check it out – and they charged me about $500 to re-splice about 6 broken wires on the right side hinge harness. Since they didn’t insert a repair section – I was sure that this problem was going to reappear, and from what I’ve learned on the forums, I decided to try out the Sencom repair harness kits – with silicone insulated wire for better protection from repeated flexing, particularly at low temperatures.

Melted rear window defroster ground wire (far left) and cracked tailgate lights / locks ground (far right)
This fall – at the onset of winter – I noticed my rear window defroster wasn’t working. I suspected a broken wire in the defroster circuit, so I knew it was time to get at the harness repairs.

I ordered the kits through – very quick and easy and the DHL shipping they quoted included all the taxes, duties and brokerage charges. It took about a week to receive the kits. I ordered 3 to be able to do a complete harness replacement – left and right. There is the kit for the right side harness, and 2 kits for the left side harness – one for the electrical wiring, and one for the antenna cable and windshield wiper fluid tubing.

Left side SenCom Kits Antenna Cable and Washer Tubing - P/N ANT0612 (left) and Tailgate Harness P/N 2016062 (Right)
The kits came with everything required for installation – all the butt crimp connectors, heat shrink tubing where required, new terminals for the defrost attachments on the rear window, terminals and terminal housings for the antenna cable splice and diversity antenna amplifier attachments, washer fluid tubing and barbed tubing splice fitting, and the rubber boots for the tailgate wiring pass through on the left and right sides of the rear window – pre-installed on the wiring loom.

Crimps, Antenna Connectors and Shells, Heat Shrink, Tubing Connector supplied by SenCom with the Left side kits
In preparation for the job – I only had one tool which I needed to add – a crimper for the very small insulated crimp connections. I picked this up at an electronics supply store. Otherwise, for tools, I used a Klein stranded wire stripper (red handled) for all the wire stripping, and an insulated channel lock multipurpose crimper for the standard red, blue and yellow insulated butt crimp connectors.

Crimper for very small gauge crimps (Top left), Klein Wire Stripper (Top right), Channel Lock Crimper for standard Red, Blue, Yellow Crimps (Bottom)
 I heat shrunk all the connections under the rear spoiler around the diversity antenna amplifier to ensure no moisture would get at any of the connections, so the heat gun came in handy there. When doing both sides – you’ll have about 120 wires to strip over the job – so make sure your stripping tool is sharp and in good condition.

I followed the Sencom video on Youtube to guide me through the process – very thorough. Here's a good tip - when the instructions come up in the Youtube video in german text - use your iPhone or Android Google Translate App to translate this text immediately - I was really surprised at how well this worked. The translation was never perfect, but you could get the idea fairly quickly.

Google Translate App is your friend with the German language text in the SenCom video
Start by opening the tailgate and opening the window glass first, then by disconnecting the battery negative post. I waited for the car to go to sleep mode prior to disconnecting the battery – about 10 or 15 minutes. I placed some small rags in the catch for both the tailgate and the window to prevent them from latching during the job.

Rags under the window and tailgate latches will help keep you moving - so you don't have to manually unlatch these if you accidently let them close. You'll be opening and closing the glass and tailgate many times during this repair, especially if you're doing both sides.
I started on the right side – removing all the trim panels per the Sencom video exposing the harness between the tailgate and the windows. I also made sure to let the car warm up in the garage overnight - so that the plastic and wiring wouldn't be cold and brittle.

A trim removal tool will help keep you from breaking the plastic.
When it came time to remove the curved black wiring supports in the hinge – I used a piece of wire coat hanger to push the pins out of the plastic clips retaining the wiring supports – makes removing these clips much easier.

Mini screwdriver worked on the outside hinges to remove the locking pin of the clip holding the black wiring guides
A short piece of wire coat hanger was flexible enough to get at the inside hinge pins - where the screwdriver couldn't access
The trim removal tool was perfect for removing the clips once the locking pin was pushed out
Removing the wiring guides was a bit tricky - using a rag to help protect the paint was a good idea when coaxing the wiring guides out from inbetween the tailgate and glass hinges. It can be done without loosening the bolts on the metal hinges.
Removing the black wiring harness guides - protect paint with a shop rag
Plastic storage container for keeping trim hardware in the order of removal - makes replacing the hardware much easier as you put everything back together in reverse order
Cut the old harness, splice in the new harness on the right side at the tailgate – then remove the speaker in the roof just ahead of the window hinges to access the harness on the inside of the car.
Carefully separate the OEM cable boot from the cable wrapping, and slide up and out of the way
Cut the harness - 10cm / 4" of free cable gives you lots of space to perform the splices
I upgraded the larger gauge splices (blue size) with heat shrinkable crimp connecters that I had on hand
All cables crimped on the right side talegate harness - and waiting to test. Note the number labels on some of the wires to uniquely identify the conductors in the SenCom harness that have the same gauge and color
Pull the old harness through the hinge area, cut the old harness out leaving at least 6” of the old harness to give you space to make connections in the speaker area. Pull the new harness through the wire boot underneath the speaker area, and make all the splices in the speaker area.
Both right side SenCom harnesses pulled through the body cable boot up from behind the inside rear speaker - I used electrical tape on the SenCom harness to make pulling the harness through the boot go easier. Then I removed the electrical tape to perform the splicing
Then go on to do the same for the harness running under the rear spoiler in the diversity antenna amplifier area. The connections under the spoiler are where I ran into a slight issue – one of the wires is brown with a very thin blue line – I mistook it as a ground wire and didn’t track it in my splicing. I had to go back, cut the splice I had done inside the car to identify this wire to the other end of the harness in the diversity antenna area.
Right hand side cable splicing in the speaker opening.
Harness Splicing Complete on the Right Side
A good trick for working with the factory harnesses after you've removed the adhesive tape wrap - is to remove all the residual gum from the wires with Goo Gone before starting the splicing. This will help keep your hands clean during the crimping.
All the ground wires – straight brown with no stripes in the factory harness – can connect to any other brown wire of the same gauge in the harnesses – you don’t need to match them to the same ground wire exactly. Otherwise – obviously – all the colored wires need to be connected correctly. The Sencom harness has a series of wires of the correct gauges but some wires are duplicates and you’ll need to track the duplicate colored wires with a continuity meter – so that you can identify them individually and track the connections. To get this straight – for each harness I cut and spliced – I wrote out a list of every wire – primary color and stripe color, and matched it with a particular color in the Sencom repair kit – e.g. Red wire no. 1, Red wire no. 2., White wire no. 1., White wire no. 2. Then when I made the matching connections at the other end of the harness – it was simple to get everything matched up correctly.

With the 2 harnesses completed on the right side – I moved over to the left side and followed the same method for the tailgate wiring harness, then did the diversity antenna cable / washer fluid circuit / defroster ground wire harness. This is where I found that my defroster ground wire had completely melted through.

To splice the antenna cable – Sencom provides you with a matching pair of male and female OEM style RF connectors – which were fairly straightforward to install. You have to strip the antenna cable in three stages – the outer cable insulation, the inner shield wire, and then the signal conductor insulation. I judged the strips and cuts based on the old connector – and on the female conductor, you need to crimp on a special, tiny, female signal conductor pin. A bit tricky. I managed to get this right – eventually proven by good radio reception and lots of channels when I got everything back together and tested.
Preparing the OEM side Antenna cable for crimping the RF connector
Female terminal crimped to the center core signal wire
Shield Body Crimped over the female terminal / ready for the plastic terminal housing
Female RF Connector with Female Signal Conductor - Gold Color
Once everything was reconnected – and prior to reinstalling any wire guides or trim panels, I reconnected the battery and tested everything. Signals, brake lights, parking lights, reverse lights, license plate lights, defroster function, radio, central locking, cargo cover release, tailgate release, window release. Everything worked perfectly the first try. No fuses blown.
Test all functions prior to re-installing the rear spoiler, or replacing any of the harnesses or trims.
So then – I disconnected the battery again just to avoid any possibility of a short circuit while replacing wires, and tucked away the wires and reinstalled the trim. The wire guides next to the hinges were a bit tricky to get back together, but I got everything clipped together and tightened the guides with a set of pliers so they would hold together firmly. I touched up any small scratches on these guides with a black Sharpie, so I looked like new when it was all back together.

I pulled the new harness through the boots in the roof just forward of the hinges so that there would not be too much slack in the harnesses ahead of the hinge wire guides – so the harness would not be able to be pinched in the hinges. Then I double checked the opening and closing of the tailgate, window and made sure the harnesses were moving freely without pinching. Then – tucked the splices up underneath the speaker openings, replace the speakers and trims, and reconnected the battery.
So – with the repair completed, I noticed that my remote locking / unlocking range became much better. I was down to being able to lock or unlock the car within only about 10’ of the tailgate. If I was at the front of the car, I couldn’t even unlock it. The broken ground connection for the defroster circuit may have been the cause of the lack of range of the remote locking circuit.


Radio reception was excellent, with lots of channels and maybe more channels than I had before (better reception?). It also seemed like comfort access was working a little bit better as well.
Repair time – about 12 hours total. 4 hours the first day, and 8 hours straight the second day from start to finish. Hopefully I won’t have to go back into this for the entire time that I own this car. This is clearly a design deficiency, hopefully BMW corrects this in future variants it builds with tailgates. 12 hours is a lot of time to spend on this – but I love the car and hope to keep it for a while (hopefully until BMW imports a future 5 series touring to North America….)
SenCom Wiring Harness Kits
Right and Left Side Wiring Harness Part Numbers
Left Side Antenna Cable Part Number

4 Year Update

I've been running this repair for just over 4 years now - and it's been solid. No futher issues, no problems with any of the tailgate lighting or functions. Rear window release and defrost still working great. All good. Impressed with the quality of these kits. 

Sources and Links

The Sencom kits were a bit expensive to have shipped from Germany with duties, taxes, brokerage, etc. but the kits are excellent quality. I can confirm the kits work fine with North American vehicles (535xi Touring LCI e61) with one spare conductor on the right hand side, and one spare antenna cable on the left hand side. Thanks to Sencom for supporting us with a quality repair kit and an excellent instruction video. Thanks to everyone on the various BMW forums for your support, I've gotten lots of good feedback on this post and I appreciate it.

Sencom 2016061 on eBay
Sencom 2016062 on eBay
Sencom Ant0612 on eBay.