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64 Riviera Rear brake light


Carguy1964
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I’m struggling with getting both rear brake lights to work at the same time when I step on the brakes.  Seems like it is tied to the switch on the bottom of the steering wheel.  Is there any place that sells these switches?  I’ve tried lubing it with electrical grease but still very sensitive.  Is there anything advice you can give me?

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Hi don't remember if my 64 Riv was like my 61 Electra. But it had a sending unit on the master cylinder. Two leads came from that. If they are to route to each brake light look there for an open in that run.

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Here's one on eBay. 

 

https://www.ebay.com/itm/1964-65-Buick-Riviera-Wildcat-Electra-LeSabre-Brake-Light-Switch-Retainer-Clip-/332410619768?_trksid=p2349624.m46890.l49292

 

The other thing to check is your grounds on the tailights.  Make sure they are clean and contacting bare metal. Also make sure your bulbs have no surface rust and the contacts are clean.  The fact that one light is working leafs me away from the brake switch and more towards a ground or loose connection issue. Good luck. 

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3 minutes ago, Dales90 said:

Hi don't remember if my 64 Riv was like my 61 Electra. But it had a sending unit on the master cylinder. Two leads came from that. If they are to route to each brake light look there for an open in that run.

The last year for the sending unit on the master cylinder was 1963.

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IF you have a tilt wheel this is a VERY COMMON problem.  Could ALSO be the signal light switch as the brake light circuit ALSO goes between the barke light switch AND the signal lights.

 

Do a search on this forum & I'm sure you'll come away with more intelligence on the matter.

 

Tom T.

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Tom is 100 % correct. Bernie Daly suggested I ground the bulb socket to the frame of the car. I did that by soldering a pigtail to the bulb socket. I checked my fuses and replaced the ones that did not test out. Took off the turn signal switch and cleaned all the contacts. Placed the switch back on the steering mast and moved it up and down with the cable wire attached until it engaged the left and right signals. Make sure when you attach your wires to the bulb socket you don’t get your wires crossed. The dual filament bulb 1157 won’t work right. Test the bulb before you mount the whole damn assembly and find out your wires are crossed. It took more hours then I want to say I have invested to get the brakes lights and signal lights to work, BUT they do work good.

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  Assuming you have covered the basics like good grounds, etc...your problem is likely in the turn signal switch at the base of the steering column, as you suggested. The signal switch must be in a neutral position for both brake lights to work simultaneously. If the switch is off center, that is much like partially actuating the turn signal, which interrupts the brake light circuit and substitutes the flashing turn signal circuit on the side which the switch is commanded to affect. Your switch is likely off center/neutral just enough to interrupt the brake light circuit on one side or the other but not enough to actuate the turn signal/flasher on that side.

  There are several possibilities which can cause the turn signal switch to come to rest in an off center position. Possibilities are that the original grease in the switch is preventing good contact and operation, the outer sheathing of the cable which actuates the pin on the signal switch could be separated from the cable anchor enabling the cable to move the position of the switch off neutral when operating the tilt wheel, or the switch mounting position may need to be adjusted so that the switch rests in a neutral position.

  Check to see if both brake lights operate simultaneously when the tilt wheel is in any one particular position. If both brake lights work simultaneously in one or two positions (usually one) and not simultaneously in the other positions that is an indication the turn signal cable is moving the switch position in response to tilt actuation and the cable is your problem. Various solutions have been presented here on the forum including substituting a signal actuating cable from a Chevrolet so do a search. One can temporarily obtain simultaneous operation of the brake lights by placing the tilt wheel in the position which the primary driver typically uses and adjusting the turn signal switch to a neutral position in that tilt wheel position.

  When you manually operate the pin which the cable connects to on the turn signal switch, you should feel the pin "notch" into the neutral position. Again, if the switch is filled with grease that is over 50 years old that characteristic of operation may not be evident.

  If you disassemble the switch, do so over a pan or tray to catch the small ball bearings and parts which are contained in the switch body. You will likely find the contact bars in the switch are grooved with wear as a result of the contact movement. You can eliminate those grooves to a small degree with a grinding stone attachment like something one would chuck up in a Dremel tool or some other flat abrasive tool...but there is not much material thickness in the contact bars so this "fix" will only go so far to eliminate the wear in the switch.

  Hope this helps,

Tom Mooney

Edited by 1965rivgs (see edit history)
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I think the key part of your problem is getting them to "work at the same time".  To me that sounds like the signal is probably fine at the switch, but there is a problem with the bulb, socket or wiring in your trunk area. 

 

If I recall correctly, there is only one wire going to the rear tailights for the brake light and it goes to the driver side first and then snakes off to the passenger side.  Because of this, if the drivers side doesn't work, then the passenger side will definitely not work. 

 

I would be almost willing to bet you have a grounding issue or a bad connection between the socket and bulb. 

 

I'd disconnect the ground going to the body, definitely make sure the metal is rust free and clean, reconnect it and see what happens.  You can also use a multimeter to see if the wires themselves are getting a voltage, but maybe the bulb isn't, which would mean its the socket.  I really hate these old school sockets - they tend to be super finicky. 

 

While you are at it, I would also recommend you replace the regular old school taillight bulbs with LEDs. 

 

If you still think it is the switch itself, you can fairly readily find replacements.  I think I bought mine at OReilly's.  It was a simple plastic one that probably was around $5.  I replaced it a few years ago.  The process would have been fairly simply if not for the cramped quarters under the dashboard.  Just fitting in that area was the only real hard part to all this.

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I agree testing the signal to each rear signal wire with a multimeter is likely the best place to start. Will pretty quickly lead you to where to look next. I am also going to led bulbs when I work on my lighting next. 

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There is a single wire for the taillights but a separate wire for each signal/brake light.  IF you have a tilt wheel, turn on the ignition switch so your signals will (should work.)  Turn on one of the signals if it comes on fine, if not, move the tilt wheel through its range of motion.  Does the signal continue to blink or come on if it wasn't on?  Then try the other signal and repeat with the tilt wheel.  

 

The spring on the switch on the column is over engineering, just take it off and relieve that pressure.  That switch has sliding contacts in it. When centered, you have brake lights, move it one way and the circuit to one brake light is replaced by a circuit going through the blinker.  If all of those contacts do not line up when the signals are activated, you won't have a signal.  There is a wire that runs through a sheath in the column. If that sheath is broken, the wire will not move the switch into the proper alignment. This is a common problem in these cars.  If you have brake lights but no taillights, your harness is grounded so that will not be your problem.

Edited by RivNut (see edit history)
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I was able to get my brake lights to work again thanks to all your help.  I had put on new taillight sockets and the connections needed to be redone with a wire nut.  After I repositioned the switch at bottom of steering wheel to center position it worked. I still think I need to go through it since it’s  so sensitive it’s not always consistent.    Another problem I’m having is I can’t seem to figure out how to get the steering wheel cap off-the chrome 3 inch piece that houses the turn signal actuator.  I need to replace it and lube some of the parts inside so they move smoother.  Any ideas?

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1 hour ago, Carguy1964 said:

Any ideas?

When you positioned the switch on the mast did you notice screws can be tightened to hold in place?

My screws were broken inside the mast. I removed the broken screws and replaced the screws.

I still found the switch han to anchored in the right place. The best I could do was lash the switch in place with zip ties.( get ‘er done) the signals still work!

Turbinator

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9 hours ago, Carguy1964 said:

I was able to get my brake lights to work again thanks to all your help.  I had put on new taillight sockets and the connections needed to be redone with a wire nut.  After I repositioned the switch at bottom of steering wheel to center position it worked. I still think I need to go through it since it’s  so sensitive it’s not always consistent.    Another problem I’m having is I can’t seem to figure out how to get the steering wheel cap off-the chrome 3 inch piece that houses the turn signal actuator.  I need to replace it and lube some of the parts inside so they move smoother.  Any ideas?

  If the brake lights are not illuminating simultaneously depending on tilt wheel position that is an indication the position of the tilt wheel is changing the position/adjustment of the turn signal switch and that is an indication the sheath which surrounds the cable/wire is broken/ separated from its anchor at the turn signal switch. A temporary repair is to place the tilt wheel in the position which you normally use it and adjust the switch to a neutral position.

  I assume you are referring to the chrome decorative collar immediately under the steering wheel? That piece is a very mild press fit. If you have a right angle prying tool that places upward force on the inside upper lip of the collar that works well. Use the tool a little at a time and work your way around the perimeter of the collar and it should pop off in no time. There really is no right or wrong way to accomplish this task, it depends more on what tools are available to you and the need to use a little ingenuity. Sometimes I use a large angled pry bar/screw driver wedged under the inside lip of the collar and the steering shaft (with nut installed to protect the threads) as a fulcrum point because that`s fewer steps away compared to any other tool/method. As I stated, its a very mild press fit.

Tom Mooney

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Yes I did notice that the switch can be tightened down.  I think once I can get the chrome collar off(the one that houses the turn signal switch and tilt switch I can clean and lube things properly so there is less friction.  I just didn’t want to break anything if I tried to pry it up.

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Your car is over 50 years old and you're not the only one who has driven it. Chances are good that some previous owner did the "no-no" and would pull back on the tilt lever and let the wheel slam into its upright position.  That is what causes the sheath to break and or loosen.  Not much you can do about that except replace the cable/sheath.  If you search, you can find a thread that makes reference to a cable/sheath from an Impala that will work.

 

In the future hold on to the wheel when putting it into its uppermost position. 😁

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  • 3 weeks later...

Follow up.  I have been successful at getting all lights working again, even the blinkers.  Wow!  The break light had a bad connection to the new socket I put on.  The left blinker was not working due to bad connection at fire wall.  Thanks for all your help and info-invaluable!!

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