Thank you so much for your time to post on suggestions. Here is an update on this troubleshooting effort:
1) With some trouble, got the front control panel removed. Never as easy (for us) as they show in the youtube videos. Only the top (Qty 4) T15 screws are required to be removed but the plastic posts and the slots on the front cover are in real nice and tight. Anyways, my 2 top posts snapped off so now I knew I was in deep to replace this panel but kept going.
2) After the front cover was removed, you can see the multiconductor green flex ribbon cable mating with the control board (single sided PCB with through hole jumper wires). The cable looked new without any heat burn marks from the heater in the unit. Also mating solid with the controller board on the door. Low and behold you will see at the bottom right of the large (40 pin?) through hole (PDIP) microcontroller by Motorola which is house marked - a 8 pin PDIP (through hole) I2C memory EEprom IC. This is p/n 2401 and is very common and under $1 USD in single piece qty. Free shipping these days from Arrow Electronics.
It is THIS non-volatile memory IC that is holding the status of the CHILD LOCK ON / OFF. This also explains why the dishwasher is able to retain the last setting even with the POWER OFF. We killed the dishwasher circuit breaker overnight with hopes we could reset the CHILD LOCK flag. No such luck.
3) Next, attempted to "fix" the keypad which we found out quickly is only about 1 mm thick. That is the black front overlay + dome switch push buttons are glued together (like parts from MKS in Taiwan, etc.) and is a membrane type of a front panel. It is hopeless to fix one of these. Kind of sad that the duty cycle of the dishwasher use was perhaps every other day for the past 12 years (yeah I guess it is relatively old but a nice unit to date). Anyways, for sure our next unit will not have moving control panel parts but rather a capacitive touch panel (no mechanical pushbuttons to wear out). Would have thought that such control panels can last longer than they have.
So, how this works (from observation) is that the front control panel is a multiplexed passive unit of parts with LEDs and dome switches that has simply worn out and supplying false values back to the controller board. When it was working correctly, the control panel was being scanned for a keypress (and debounced to detect the single button press) by the Motorola CPU (6802?) and the status was stored (in case of a power failure) inside the 2401 EEprom. We have all the tools to monitor the bus traffic on this I2C EEprom but to "hack" the protocol would easily consume another estimated 3 hours along with having my wife pacing back and forth while wearing out the tiled floor in anticipation of a working dishwasher. Using Beagle / Aardvark I2C bus tools, it is very possible to monitor the I2C_SDA, I2C_SCL (with a common ground) to review WHICH BIT or WHICH BYTE is changed during the CHILD LOCK ON / OFF configuration. This is the high level idea.
Plan A was to fix the keypad which is impossible. Maybe someone sells the plastic black replacement panel (only) for the Superba series?
Plan B was to make a copy of the current EEprom and then monitor the bus traffic with hopes to isolate which bit / byte inside the 2401 memory device is responsible for this CHILD LOCK setting. Do not believe there are any serial numbers from Kitchenaid inside the controller board since you can swap out with another. Doubt there is a CRC (mathematical operation) check to see if the EEprom has been tampered with but that is only a guess. This is the reason to make a copy of the EEprom.
In theory, once this is known, using a few dollars of parts, an external I2C bus master circuit could RESET the CHILD LOCK setting using the controller board approach. Also, could just replace the controller board which would be fresh with this setting reset. For us, we do not need the CHILD LOCK but in theory, after the EEprom is reset, as long as no other keypress is at fault, the unit could be fixed. If there is a demand, we can build such a tool (wife permission pending). Basically the idea here is a clip on portable tool to clamp onto the 8 pin memory device -> press a button and reset the CHILD LOCK value. In theory, that is the concept.
But, after much review and with regret, my staff just preached to pay the long dollar and replace the front panel if we love this unit so much. Not to sound dated BUT they just do not buld these units like they used to so for now, want this old puppy working. Moving forward, will have to consider to invest $1k-$2k into a solid replacement. So many models but the failures posted on websites are depressing to hear on units that are 1-2 years old. As an engineer, why? Greed? Make a unit that is solid and clients will line up to buy your product with pride. End of this preaching...
Ordered the replacement from Repairclinic.com in Canton, MI on Friday (our cross border neighbours). Should be here Monday or Tuesday. Chose them because they claim to offer a 1 year refund policy for any reason, they DO ship to Canada (99% of the folks we contacted did not have the control panel or would not ship to Canada). Our local supplier wanted a special 2-3 week lead time to order AND "we own" the panel if the plastic wrap was removed. Very confident the control panel replacement will fix this unit but either way, will post back next week after this trial.
If this unit can be repaired with the above new panel and service us for another year, will be pleased.
Bye for now !!