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Old 02-05-2004, 02:40 PM
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Red face older headlight switch smoking!

Hi all,
maybe someone on here can help me diagnose this little problem I'm having...
Some background:
The car is a '64 caddy, the headlight switch is the standard GM 2 position pull switch. When you rotate it, it controls the intensity of the dash lights.
The problem:
My original switch just started stinking and smoking one day. I pulled it out and replaced it with a new switch. There was nothing obviously burnt on the old switch. The replacement switch is now starting to stink also. I haven't seen it smoke yet, but I think it's only a matter of time.
Here is the real kicker it smells with the switch in the off position (the car must be on.. of course).

My research so far has told me that the switch has a built in circuit breaker for the headlight switch. That and the fact that it doesn't smell until the car has been on for a while tell me that it's probably not a headlight switch problem.
I suspect the parking lamp or instrument light circuits...
Does anyone out there have any experience with something like this?
Thanks
-alfie

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Old 02-05-2004, 03:18 PM
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Are you sure its coming from that circuit?

Like you said, there is a built in circuit breaker. If there was a problem in that circuit, it would keep tripping. I would look elsewhere.
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Old 02-05-2004, 05:41 PM
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Wink

Hi Poncho,
BTW, dig your truck. I've got a '50 chevy 1/2 ton (camero clip/350/400) as one of my dailys! What have you done to your truck?

To answer your question, yes, i'm certain it is the headlight switch, I removed my dash pad and watched smoke comming out of it... All my problems would be solved if I could just get that smoke back in

The switch controls headlights, marker lights, and interrior/dash lights. Only the headlight portion has the circuit break, so I think I can rule that out.

I'm suspecting the dash lights... simply because the smokey, stinky situation does not occur unless the car is on. Maybe it's some other circuit trying to ground through the switch???
I really don't have any idea why the switch would smoke.

Thanks in advance for any input.
-alfie
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Old 02-05-2004, 09:11 PM
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If I remember right those switches used a circular spring in a ceramic housing (something like you'd find in an electric heater) with power at one end and a conductor slide that moved along the spring. They used it as a resistor for the dash lites. The closer the two contacts the brighter and the farther away the resistance of the wire dropped the voltage and dimmed the lites. If you had a minor short or a bad ground at one of the dash lites it would pull more amperage thru the resistor. Years back Iv'e seen them light up like a heater element. I believe this is your problem. If your switch has a section that is ceramic material (like a ballast resistor) check to see if it gets really Hot. If so check all your dash lites. If any other interior lite are on the dimmer circuit check those out also. Good hunting.
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Old 02-06-2004, 11:45 AM
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Pony,
Yes, your description of the switch is dead on. I'll check out that ceramic to see if it's getting hot.
Thanks.
-alfie
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Old 02-06-2004, 09:25 PM
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Bigfred, another thing to think about is, in GM products, a lot of other electrical systems get their power from the hot lead to your headlight switch. If one of these circuits is shorting, then the overload could be occurring when the "car is on" ( switched power items) Look at your switch and see if there are two or more wires on the hot lead post, and if so, disconnect them and see if you still get the "smoking". Might save you some trouble shooting.

Trees
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Old 02-07-2004, 01:17 AM
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trees, Thanks for the advice.
i'll verify this with the wiring schematic.
I won't get a chance to work on it for a while.. It's been real cold up here lately.
Thanks
-alfredo
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Old 02-09-2004, 12:45 PM
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maybe check the wires themselves? old wires tend to build up resistance too... just a shot in the dark, my electrical experience is marginal at best
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Old 02-10-2004, 07:22 AM
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Did you check the plug, usually they melt a bit and the female connectors are not lined up perfectly, causing a poor connection?
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Old 02-15-2004, 09:31 PM
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Smokin!

I agree with checking them connections and making danged sure they are clean, as well as the overall condition of the wiring.

Also, someone may have stumbled on to something in a previous post about wiring down the line. Is there any chance that someone has spliced into the original wiring and adding more things on that draw current from the switch?

One last thing, Is there any chance you upgraded the headlights to halogen from the old standard lights? Added any additional lights?

Steve
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