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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The 1st gen Nissan Leaf has a few potential failures that often tend to the cars being disposed of. It gets parted out, but one often quite good vehicle disappears from our roads if just one expensive or difficult to get to part fails. Norwegian media have reported on it, with strong indignation towards the idea of "environmental friendly" cars having a life span of 8-9 years, when good care or a battery swap really makes them candidates for eternal life.

The onboard charger of the ZE0 Leaf is such an issue. Just the model year 2012 had eight different versions of chargers, and it's tiny components inside that seem to burn out completely at random. No professional shop repairs anything in Norway anymore, people just swap parts. The estimate at our local Nissan dealer was 42000 NOK (~3500 GBP), about 70% of the car's value. So we found a used part, traded at 2-10000 NOK (we paid 7000, delivered), and changed it ourselves. A new charger costs about 1500 USD, Muxsan offers upgraded, but wildly expensive chargers. As I am a hapless academic with ten thumbs, this process was hard for me and took its time. But it's very much doable, and I believe one should try to save the car even if a professional estimate throws it into clunker territory. If my experience can help just one guy fix this, I'd be very happy.

Here we go.

Symptoms of onboard charger failure: Plugging the car in, all lights blink three times, the car starts charging, but instantly turns off all systems when the cooling fan gets activated. Turning the car on will show the yellow car and exclamation mark symbol in the dashboard. Quick charging works fine, as this is a different unit. A broken EVSE can show similar symptoms, so check this out, too.

Error Code (Leafspy): "P3173 00C4 EV/HEV On Board Charger Sys EVC-236" or similar is the sucker you don't want to see. Condolences if that's yours, too! This video has more on diagnosis.

Tools, literature, parts: You'll need wrenches or pipes size 10, 13 and 16mm. Both flat and star screwdriver as well as pliers capable of opening to 17-18mm. Maybe a plug for the coolant hoses, inner diameter 15mm, so you don't spill all the coolant. As for parts, you'll need a new or used on-board charger, possibly a handful of bodywork clips and 10 mm hex screws. A new coolant hose, 15mm inner diameter, might come in handy, as well as fillup or replacement coolant, blue type or Nissan original 999MP-L25500P. Insulating/electrician's tape is good to have. The Nissan Leaf workshop manual, part "VC", vehicle charging section, pages 105-109 is relevant. The Nissan Leaf dismantling guide, pages 21-22+38 is of assistance for correct dismantling procedures.

Procedure:

After garaging or lifting the car, wait five minutes before you start working, as disconnecting electricity too early will cause the car's OBD to pop an error message. Follow the dismantling guide to remove the service plug in front of the rear seats - it will disconnect your main battery from the car's electric systems. This job requires appropriate PPE; like gloves capable of insulating 1000V. Local electricians shops didn't have that, so I went for leather gloves inside rubber gloves - but that is no expert advice, I hardly know what I am doing. Remove minus from the 12V battery after that. One thing to keep in mind before disabling the car is that the rear hatch has no mechanical opener, it is just an electrical switch. If you want rear access, be smarter than me and open it before the power is gone.

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A digression, yet useful tip is greasing the hood hinges, as the oddly opening Leaf hood otherwise will ruin the fenders.

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Under the car, remove the cover in front of the battery (behind the front wheels), and the rearmost cover. The clips are easy, lift them in the middle and pop them out. The 10mm hex screws are worse: Probably rusty, and Nissan placed some of them were bodywork drains should be. Expect them to break. Unless you're going for a Pebble Beach Leaf, these suckers can be replaced by drilling tree screws right through the lower bodywork and covers later.

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Ten minutes after removing the service plug, remaining electricity from the main battery is supposed to have dispersed. The main plug is under the car in front of the battery. Follow the three step procedure in the "VC" service manual to remove it, then put a plastic bag over it and use insulating tape to cover the battery side.

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The onboard charger sits inside the "hump" between rear seats and trunk. The hump's plastic cover is secured with three star screw clips, a bunch of hex screws, and integrated clips. An aluminium shield needs to be losened, too, but it is enough to just gently put it in the trunk, without removing the cable attached to it. You will also have to remove the rear seats: Pull the bench straight up, held down by two clips just about between where rear passenger's legs would be. If you have heated rear seats, be careful to unplug that before removing the bench. The seatbacks are secured with six screws, two 13mm hex on each side under a plastic lid close to the hinge, which you can pop out with a flat screwdriver. Two 16mm hex screws secure it to the floor. Lift the seatback forward by the headrests, lift it differently and it will fold in an ungainly manner. If you pull out the middle seatbelt, the seatback can be stored in the rear footwell without removing the belt.

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Now you see the pesky charger.



The next step is to go back under the car and remove the coolant hoses from the charger. Just as the screws, the clamps are of embarrassing quality, and are probably rusty. I fought them for a while, then cut off the hoses to replace them anyway. In theory, twisting them off with large pliers should do the trick. After that, I plugged the coolant hoses with two cone-shaped twigs, really, fitting the 15mm inner diameter. The charger itself will leak about half a litre of fluid, too.









With the hoses removed, you can unscrew the charger: Three 16mm hex screws on the floor, two black 13mm hex on the top beam. The two orange high voltage cables need to come off with a special procedure again, see the "dismantling guide". Especially the one to the right was a bit unwilling, I had to draw the green disk towards me with a screwdriver. Three ordinary electric connectors need to come off, too. Pull up the charger firmly. The old broken charger might find a new home at someone who is willing to repair it; off to Craiglist with that one.











From there on, it's the same procedure in reverse order. Many screws go straight through the floor and some protective grease will be welcome. A heartfelt: Good luck!





A few words at the end: As you, dear Leaf owner, are already aware of, your car is a textbook example of planned obsolescence. It's a shame, really, because it was the first EV that was "good enough", and it could be just that for decades to come. Used onboard chargers are a scarce item in Norway now, where the Leaf was the most sold car for a brief period of time. It seems that they will fail on all cars, eventually, but very much at random. My 85k km 2012 model is now being charged through a 170k km 2011 charger. I honestly believe that if we help each other out with tips to simple, but time-consuming work routines like this, everyone benefits from these cars lasting just a little bit longer. That's why I consider it worthwhile to give away or sell for pennies the old, broken charger. In my experience, there's always someone more competent willing to go one level up in keeping these appliances on the street.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the kind and positive feedback!

I'm not sure about the stronger charger. Muxsan seems to be selling both, looks like just a price difference. Maybe someone with better insight can provide a definitive yes or no? The parts nr. of mine was 296A0-3NA8A and it appears to be backwards compatible, at least.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
...what I forgot to mention: Some people seem to be pulling the charger up into the car, without removing stuff underneath it. Given how stuck the piping was, and how short with almost zero maneuvrability, I decided I wasn't Mr. Nimblehands enough for that. But that could be a time-saving alternative for some.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Mr. @Leafnor above here is kind of the Norwegian nestor of DIY Leaf. He helped me out a lot when my issue occured and the info I compelled here was in large part provided by him. Very happy for that!

Somebody else on the Norwegian EV forum opened my old charger and it was another part that had burned. They keep it as a spare.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
@Barfly, sorry, whenever I experience a capacitor go poof, I have to rely on others to guide me. Just experienced the same on an electric wood splitter... @Leafnor might have the specs from his unit.

@idiotzoo, that's exactly the thing! With access and repair being kind of labour-intensive, we're seeing perfectly adequate cars being wrecked. It's unspeakable and I hope we can avoid this as much as possible. Hoping for the Google algorhithms to hark up guides likes this to people in need of them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
OK that is a standard mains filtering cap. Normally used in the first stages of a Power Supply--which is exactly where it is in this unit. They do give trouble, but is not that common, they and the coil in the picture are in the first line of defence of the psu when the mains is applied to smooth the starting inrush.

The usual suspects are the electrolytics that dry out over time, they are much further up the chain normally on the output side of the inverter circuits to smooth the outputs. What happens is as the caps dry out, the output rail becomes more "choppy" and the waveform gets very ragged. This affects the units the power supply is feeding and they shut down/fail to operate with a dodgy power supply.

Tony.
When you put it like that, is there any way to prevent this kind of damage? Why is it so erratic, happening seemingly independent of mileage or charging patterns?
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Thank you for taking your time to explain this. I am baffled to understand that cars get wrecked over a dried out paste. No clear boundaries between planned obsolescence and technological boundaries here, but it's about pennies worth of material, indeed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #21 ·
Well, excellent and very reasonable replies, and I agree very much on the need for skilled aftermarket ideas and tinkering. As I said for starters, the shops that would even attempt repairing such a unit are few and far between, while Nissan itself only replaces parts at high cost. If AliExpress offered me a simple replacement unit for 300£, I'd be tempted to buy it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #23 ·
Again, I agree. Traditionally, I've always had a collector's car, too . The one I have now is a very rare V6, and I can only imagine how the car would be improved by an EV conversion, while I spend a fortune maintaining this V6. So I have followed the market a bit and watched videos of EV Landrovers and such, with engines bolted straight onto existing transmissions. For now, conversions remain very expensive, especially because people choose components from the top shelf (while I'd honestly be happy with dead-Leaf-parts). But I am yearning for a future of gasless classics.
 

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Discussion Starter · #28 ·
I can hear the coolant circulate on my ZE0 when charging, too. We almost exclusively charge at night - not for the temperature, but for lower electricity prices.

It is my understanding that a capacitor does not go out gradually, more with a poof!. That is my experience from several appliances, without much deep knowledge. I hope you find the cause for your issues, @whereswally606!
 

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Discussion Starter · #32 ·
Unless there's physical movement in the capacitor, allowing for contact/no contact, doesn't that mean they fail abruptly, indeed? I always appreciate your feedback and I'm happy you got away from that exploding one!

The last capacitor I saw fail was on my log splitter. That one certainly let go of life abruptly, smoking a fair bit in the process. Which reminds me; I ought to get a new one before tree felling season arrives.

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Discussion Starter · #37 ·
$22 taxed and shipped, thanks for your help! I have been an AliExpress customer for the better part of a decade, close to 800 orders with uplevelled customer benefits. If you live out in the middle of nowhere, in a country with crazy prices, and have a bit of patience...Alibaba is a godsend.
 

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Discussion Starter · #39 ·
Makes sense - we live very rurally, and will often just open the windows on these very hot days. Our charger failed on a cold autumn day though.

How was it "misbehaving"? We haven't experienced temporary issues...yet.
 
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