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1941 Buick Special series 40 light switch


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I am in need of a new light switch. The thermal vibrator does not work any more and I am not getting any current through the switch. The two major parts suppliers do not have the a reproduction switch. The off make reproduction ones are not designed to incorporate the instrument panel light switch. Ebay has nothing and have tried several places. Any suggestions on how to adapt a new reproduction one to incorporate the instrument panel light switch, or where I may purchase new old stock, or whatever.



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I found more of the instrument light switch and not the head light light switch. Thank you.

So, now please let me entertain you with my light switch problem. There is not power coming from the switch. I read up on the thermal circuit breaker (vibrating set of points) in the switch from the shop manual.

There is  no vibration heard or felt in the light switch. I went to drive it and the parking lights came on and not the head light. I closed the switch and pulled to the parking lights and the lights came on for a second and quit. I did this with the engine not running so I heard nor felt any vibration.

Second symptom is that the detentes in the switch are not a prominent feeling as the switch is pulled into its different positions.

I have checked the parking, dome, tail, license plate, and directional lights to see if any were burned out and none were. The head lights show no blackening in the lens indicating a blown head lamp.

I feel that the switch may burned out or some mechanical part in the switch is worn out after all of these years.

How do I remove the switch handle or do I take apart more of the dash to get to it? Is a special tool needed as in the instrument lights?

Thanks for your help-Paul

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If you do get it out.  I would check to see if it looks corroded inside.  Very likely corrosion is the biggest problem.  If you are thinking about replacing it because it looks corroded and have some evaporust sitting around,  throw it in the evaporust for a night.   Rinse it well dry it completely  with a hair dryer and squirt some wd40 in it,  work it a few times then dry it again as it will dry the wd40 to an oily finish inside to help prevent future corrosion.  You can check it with a continuity tester or ohm meter to see if it's working then.   This will only work if the switch is not burned out of course.   I've had it work well with a few switches I have done.  Usually corrosion is the biggest culprit, especially if you said they flickered for a second.  Burned would be burned and usually never light again.  You could also just try pulling the switch in and out several times,  which will help clean the contacts enough to diagnose. Some contact cleaner sprayed inside if you didn't want to remove it, (if accessible) might work for a while as well so you could take it out over the winter.  The switches aren't sealed well,  so you should be able to get some to spray inside it. 

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OK, I believe we're talking about the headlight switch. I think you might have it confused with the voltage regulator, which does use vibrating points, but the headlight switch does not and will not buzz or vibrate in operation. It does, however, have a heat sink on top, kind of like a resistor, and those can dry out and crumble. If you have a wiring diagram for your vehicle (there should be one in the shop manual, but otherwise you can get one online or by downloading the 1942 Shop Manual here: http://oldcarblog.com/manuals/1942/Buick shop manual/index.html) you will note that almost all the power for interior accessories, including the radio, passes through the headlight switch for some reason. Not a big deal, but probably why it's important to have a healthy headlight switch.


I also have to apologize, it looks like two of the links on eBay showing headlight switches are actually instrument light switches. There are a lot of wiring connections on the headlight switch, so make sure you get the right one. There are often instrument light switches that are mis-labeled as headlight switches--instrument light switches only have two terminals. Headlight switches will have many terminals:



There should be two clear detents plus the OFF position on the headlight switch; if not, the switch is definitely broken. Parking lights go off when headlights are turned on; that is normal operation don't worry. Instrument lights are on a separate switch, but pull power from the headlight switch as well, so they are only operational when the headlights or parking lights are on. Taillights also pull power from the headlight switch, as do the radio and interior lights.


It's a bit of a job to get the headlight switch out. You can do it with your head and arms under the dash, but you'll need to keep track of the wires so mark them carefully somehow. If they're old, original wires, they might very well crumble as you work and then you'll need to replace them, which can be done but is a bit of a task as well. You could also sleeve them with shrink tubing or wrap them in electrical tape, but that's kind of hack work and eliminates color markings for future service (and owners!).


It might be easier to access the headlight switch by removing the radio, which is relatively easy to remove and will free up all the space you need to work on the switch. It's heavy and uses big brackets on the sides, but a fellow board member with a '41 Super just removed his for cleaning and service so hopefully he'll chime in with his experience there.


Once you have the headlight wires disconnected and marked, you can remove the knob. Pull the switch all the way out and look underneath--you'll see a tiny allen-head set screw holding the knob to the shaft. Loosen that and the knob will slide off the shaft. Then there's a retaining nut that holds the switch in the dash panel, which looks like this:




You'll have to make yourself a tool to remove that nut--I just used a small piece of 1/4-inch pipe and ground off everything but two tabs that fit into the slots on the nut. Something like this:




Then the headlight switch will slide out from behind the dash. Installation is the opposite of removal. Careful hooking up all the wires, make sure they're on the right terminals since there are several (including a big one that powers the radio). You might have some additional troubleshooting if your car has deteriorated wiring--the headlight/parking light/hi-beam/turn signal junction blocks under the hood often crumble, the high-beam switch often causes mischief, and the brake light switch near the master cylinder on the frame goes bad (in fact, I just replaced mine last week).


I recently did a bunch of wiring work on my '41 Buick Limited, including installing some fog lights with an OEM switch, plus some headlight work, so you can sort-of see what it looks like behind the dash. It's chaos. You will have to work very carefully. Here's a link to my Limited work posts:


Good luck. If you get in a jam, we can help. Just be careful, mark your wires, try not to break anything with your hands jammed way up in there, and take your time.

Edited by Matt Harwood (see edit history)
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20190624_093045.thumb.jpg.8150345853891da8a003b2ac898a31b8.jpgHey Paul

            Confirmed the ID on the switch. 1941 Buick all models #1995016. The clean one is nos the other is a used switch I pulled out of a 1941 Super I parted. Sorry it took awhile, but I like 2 B sure! Thanx 4 UR patience! Greg20190624_211111.thumb.jpg.04d3477cc2db75bb580001ccf8323286.jpg

Edited by Guest (see edit history)
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Ok Y'all,

First off is that I may not be the brightest light bulb in the 6 pack, but I would like to share with you what I learned over the last two days. I had to use a mirror to find the allen head hex screw that holds on the light switch.

I am a hands on person and I got a lead from Ebay.com on a light switch that was flipped over to show the allen head hex screw. ( I try to use everything available when searching for information and ebay is one of them.)

I was able to remove the light handle.

Next, was the nut that hold everything together.

I reread Matt's email and bought a 1/4 inch pipe  6 inches long and hand ground it with a file to fit the nut. I had to try a few times to grind to the correct width and finally got the two tits to fit in the slots.  It worked, but first I sprayed it down with penetrating oil. Thank you Matt of the pipe  to make into a spanner wrench. And, just to let everyone know if it comes off hard, the threads are  not left hand threads!


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