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65 Brake Light Saga


kdml
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I have been dealing with a sporadic issue with the brake lights on my '65.  Periodically, my drivers side brake light doesn't work.  There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to when it works and when it doesn't.  It will work when I leave the garage and won't be working when I get back.  Today I took the car for a ride and when I came back the passenger brake light wasn't working, but the drivers side was.  

 

I studied the wiring diagram and believe I saw the wires for the brake lights run independently from the back of the car (dark green and yellow) and come together at the turn signal switch on the steering column.  From there one wire runs from the turn signal switch to the brake light switch. 

 

Since the problem usually impacts one brake light or the other, but never both at the same time, I am thinking my issue is with the turn signal switch.  My plan is to remove the switch, disassemble it and clean it.  Before I do this, does this sound like a reasonable approach?  Any other suggestions or tests before I start to remove parts?

 

Thanks

Doug

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99 times out of 100 on cars this age that are depending on diecast as part of the ground circuit, you’re going to have problems.  Splice some sockets into the wiring harness that have a dedicated ground wire (3rd wire) and tie that ground wire into some solid metal on the body.   I’ve seen them in the HELP section at places like Autozone, Advance Auto, O’Reillys, and NAPA.

 

 

 

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7 hours ago, RivNut said:


 

like this

 

6F23D977-39AC-40D5-B176-12C49F07DAFF.jpeg.e9d829477969f88b7ec710c29309aee6.jpeg

Ed. These are very good. I believe the ground wire from the METAL bulb socket saved the day. I actually got the wires crossed when I made the connection. During testing the filaments were strangely lighting in an odd fashion. I rearranged the attached wiring and uncrossed my wires and “I Saw The Light”. 
Turbinator

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1 hour ago, kdml said:

Yes, the car has a tilt wheel

Then the problem is a broken turn signal actuator cable that runs down from the top of the tilt column to the switch down on the column.

 

Very common on a 1st gen. Riv with tilt wheel.

 

 

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9 hours ago, kdml said:

I have been dealing with a sporadic issue with the brake lights on my '65.  Periodically, my drivers side brake light doesn't work.  There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to when it works and when it doesn't.  It will work when I leave the garage and won't be working when I get back.  Today I took the car for a ride and when I came back the passenger brake light wasn't working, but the drivers side was.  

 

I studied the wiring diagram and believe I saw the wires for the brake lights run independently from the back of the car (dark green and yellow) and come together at the turn signal switch on the steering column.  From there one wire runs from the turn signal switch to the brake light switch. 

 

Since the problem usually impacts one brake light or the other, but never both at the same time, I am thinking my issue is with the turn signal switch.  My plan is to remove the switch, disassemble it and clean it.  Before I do this, does this sound like a reasonable approach?  Any other suggestions or tests before I start to remove parts?

 

Thanks

Doug

  Barring any basic problems like ground or a bad connection, the problem is most likely as you suspect and in the switch. If the turn signal switch does not return to a center, or neutral, position both internal brake light contacts will not align properly to illuminate both brake lights simultaneously. You can test this by positioning the tilt wheel in various positions from full up to full down and observe the brake lights in each position. If both brake lights illuminate in some positions of the tilt wheel and not others, chances are, as Jim has suggested, your turn signal actuating cable is no longer properly anchored and is moving the turn signal switch off center in certain tilt wheel positions.

Tom

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Turn signals cancel in both directions, which is why I was focused on the switch and not the cable.  I will play around with the tilt to see if anything changes.  Does the cable usually break in a certain spot, that I can inspect?

 

Thanks

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Jim has also stated the Buick over-engineered the switch.  It will work without the assist of the spring on the switch.

if it is the cable, do a search of this forum for a Chevy cable that can be made to work.  

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I made this a few, almost 3 now, decades ago to get to the source of ground problems without much speculation.

IMG_0774.JPG.b647f8ee1001318df6e5a1056aeec1fe.JPG

IMG_0775.JPG.8727741fe5f81db846d2e36ae435d4a7.JPG

 

The big end goes on the - battery cable and the alligator clip goes to the ground side of the load device. The wire is about 25' long and has always reached the point for me.

Takes the guess work out of ground problems.

It's a "GoTo" tool.

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23 hours ago, kdml said:

Turn signals cancel in both directions, which is why I was focused on the switch and not the cable.  I will play around with the tilt to see if anything changes.  Does the cable usually break in a certain spot, that I can inspect?

 

Thanks

I have always found the cable sheath (not the center wire core) of the cable broken up at the top where it connects to the tilt wheel "head" (see 4th photo). It is a big job to get in to inspect it, so you should be prepared with a Plan B (like repair yours or have a replacement on hand to install).

 

I can offer a temporary fix to keep your turn signals and brake lights working: 

1. Remove the trim from under the steering column so that you can see the cable (1st picture - not the green horn wire but the other thing that looks like a wire is the cable).

 

2. Play with different wheel positions until both brake lights come on. You can also slide the cable housing up toward the wheel with your fingers. That will help.

 

3. When you have it where it works, gently tighten a large stainless steel hose clamp around the column and the cable (but not the horn wire) to keep the cable from sliding up and down the column when you actuate the turn signals (2nd picture).

 

4. Test the signals and the brakes in various turn signal positions. Make sure both brake lights come on when no turn signal is on.

 

5. Once you clamp the cable down, DO NOT change the tilt wheel position. In fact, you should remove the lever and go put it someplace safe until you replace the cable. If you tilt the wheel with this cable clamped down, you are really going to break something bad!

 

6. Put trim piece back on and start planning your repair/replace strategy.

 

I tried the cable that is sold by Echler's for a Chevy:

 

Chevelle Turn Signal Cable Assembly, For Cars With Tilt Steering Column, 1964-1966

Part #:: 50-211279-1.  $57.99

 

I was able to make it work, but it is really too long.  I had to drill holes in my steering column and remount the turn signal switch down the column about 1.5 inches.  I do not recommend.  The metal end that goes inside the column is also larger than the Riviera one, so I had to grind it down and also enlarge the opening (behind the trim piece - no one can see it) so that this larger metal piece would actually go up inside the column head.

 

There are other cables from Hubbard's Impala Parts that I did not try (more $$$), so I don't know if they will work:

 

https://www.impalaparts.com/6364TSSCF/

 

and this one:

 

https://www.impalaparts.com/6364TSSCC/

 

You need to get measurements from them and see if they can be made to work.

 

The center wire cable part of the one from Eckler's was too long. I had to rebend the wire shorter (and larger diameter) by bending it around a drill bit (3rd picture). Not that hard with some pliers. That's the end that slips over the post on the turn signal switch end. 

 

You will note that I had both metal ends of the old and new cable firmly attached to each other with a small screw/nut.  The length of the center wire is critical when measured relative to the metal ENDS that fasten down to the column head and switch. You cannot see, but I had the metal clips at the other end of the cable locked together with a clamp and the wire loops locked together with a screw/nut. This is the only way the new cable will work like the old.  

 

Let us know how it goes, especially if you use one of the Impala cables.

 

DSC_0170.JPG

Hose clamp holding turn signal cable casing.JPG

IMG_4406.jpeg

Broken cable end - steering column head end.JPG

Edited by Jim Cannon (see edit history)
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Hi Doug,

  When I encounter a broken turn signal actuating cable, as a temporary repair to ensure both brake lights work simultaneously, I place the tilt wheel in the position that the owner most often uses and I adjust the turn signal switch in that position so it is in a neutral/centered  position. This enables the owner to continue to manipulate the tilt and safely operate the vehicle as long as he/she returns the tilt to the typical position.

  If you find your tilt cable is OK, chances are very likely you will find the contacts in the switch either covered with "stale" lubricant and/or worn excessively.

  Tom

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