By on December 11, 2010


When we last saw the A100 Hell Project, I’d junkyard-engineered a new gas pedal as part of my “get this thing on the road as quickly and cheaply as possible” initiative. The lack of headlights, due to a corroded-by-12-idle-years switch, was the next big annoyance I needed to tackle.

It appears that Chrysler used the same headlight switch for damn near every motor vehicle they built from the time of the Bay Of Pigs to the time of the Iranian Hostage Crisis. The knob changed over the years, but the low-bidder, 11-cent guts remained the same. You can buy new replacement switches pretty cheaply, but I shudder at the certain horribleness of a Chinese-made knockoff of a component that started out as a hammered-together-by-drunks piece of crap. Fortunately, the late-70s camper van that provided the donor gas pedal was still at my local self-service junkyard, so I headed over there. This intriguing business is a block away, so I’ll be paying them a visit soon.

Before I grabbed the switch from this van, I decided to snag the driver’s seat as well; it’s the correct size for the A100 and will serve as a functional butt-rest until I can get the factory seats recovered in red metalflake Naugahyde with maroon piping. You think I don’t have that much style? Think again, sucka!

The original 1966 A100 switch looks like this. No touchy-feely European-style graphic symbols for those who don’t know English here! This one is frozen completely solid; even in Denver’s bone-dry climate, 12 years of inactivity don’t do low-end electrical components any good.

Here’s the switch from the ’78 van. The big “L” has been replaced by a tiny-font “Lights,” but otherwise not much had changed during the preceding 12 years.

Back at my garage, I contemplated just swapping the switches straight across, but I really wanted the headlight switch to match the “W” wiper switch. Knowing Chrysler, there’s probably a Neanderthal method that allowed the Imperial assembly line to swipe switches from over on the Valiant line.

Hmmm… what’s that little button for?

Yep, pushing the button makes it possible to remove the knob and shaft, though not without a lot of persuading and cursing.

And here we go! The quality of the components makes even 60s GM stuff look sophisticated (though, to their credit, Chrysler didn’t use cardboard gloveboxes in their vans), but who cares?

Ever wonder where the term “Mopar” came from? Yeah, we all know, but it’s still cool to see it as two words.

The new switch works just fine. Next step, now that winter is here: fix the heater!

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22 Comments on “Entire Universe of Chrysler Products Available For Replacement Headlight Switch On A100 Hell Project...”


  • avatar
    65corvair

    My 95 Neon (neon) had that switch.  Had to replace it,  it would get too hot to touch.  My 65 Corvair has a simular (same?) unit.  That one works fine.  Had it out to refinish the dash.  The part that seems strange is the triangle shaped rod that the knob is on.

    • 0 avatar
      tiredoldmechanic

      The reason the shaft was triangle shaped was because the switch also served as a rheostat to dim or brighten the dash lights. A circuliar shaft would not engage the rheostat and a square one would cost an extra $1.00 per 100,000 switches. As pointed out above these were not high quality items. GM and Ford were no better, if the switch didn’t melt you could expect the dimmer switch on the floor to rot out. This could usually be expected at midnight on a freezing night far from the nearest town.
       Ah the joys of vintage electrical components. Have fun with the heater Murllee, I’ll bet that core will be fun to find a replacement for. Cool project. (sorry, bad pun).

  • avatar
    slow kills

    I have to imagine you already knew how to remove the knob in order to remove the unit.
    Interchangeable parts and consistency of design do have their benefits.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    That reminds me of the time I decided to find out why half the instruments and dash lights didn’t work on my ’69 Valiant. It turned out that there’s a big plug that has about seventeen or eighteen prongs at the back of the instrument module, and something like half of them were loose on my car. A quick trip to the local wrecking yard later, the first old A-body car I looked at had a good one.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Same goes for Mopar’s window cranks. They used the same design from the late 60’s thru the 80’s

  • avatar
    Fritz

    That switch looks like a Ford part from a 60s Falcon. Next time you are in a wrecking yard, pull one and take a look.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    I changed one of these on a 97′ Ram yesterday. Behind all the glamour of the faceplate lies this same switch. After all these years, they still knew how to make a light switch that will flame it’s connector  with enough frequency that the parts guy keeps many in stock and gives 1st-hand knowledge of it’s replacement procedure.
    I went with the China one BTW.

    • 0 avatar
      confused1096

      True. I was just thinking that this switch looked identical to the early ’90s Jeep XJ switch I replaced last year.

      I also went with the Chinese knock off component. About as likely to work as the junkyard switch, but returning it is a lot less hassle.

    • 0 avatar
      segfault

      Yeah, after reading the above, I think the Chinese duplicate stands a decent chance of being better than an original.

    • 0 avatar
      Mike66Chryslers

      The switch pictured looks to be the same as 65-66 Chryslers.  They changed the design for 67-72 Chryslers — electrically the same but the knob stick out from the dash if used in a 66.  (Guess how I know!)  Then for 73 they returned to the same design from 66.  Wouldn’t surprise me if Ford used the same part in some of their cars.  Ford hi/lo beam stomp switches are interchangeable, and my Chryslers use the same windshield washer pump as a 65 Mustang.
       
      I’ve never had to change the headlight switch mechanism in my 94 RAM but I’ve looked at it and thought it’s probably the same switch.  There was a TSB about the dashboard behind the headlight knob getting warm if the high beams are on for a long time, and that this is “normal”.  I’m surprised that they didn’t bother to use relays on the headlights.  I changed one of my 66’s over to halogen headlights and wired-in headlight relays at the same time, so the switch wouldn’t get overloaded.

  • avatar
    windswords

    As a former LeBaron owner I can testify that their convertible top motors have remained the same since the 60’s as well. I saw a catalog for resto parts that featured a top motor for 60’s and up Mopars and it looked just like the one in my 1990 car. They are well built units. I didn’t replace mine until after 150,000 miles.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    I got tired of replacing headlight switches and looked for a more permanent fix. A relay from a fog light kit, triggered by the parking lights (and wired at the parking lights) and powered directly from the battery to the low beam headlights, permanently fixes the problem instead of just replacing the switch over and over. Just leave the high beam wiring as-is. You wouldn’t wire-up fog lights without a relay, so why run headlights without one. I’ve done it as a preventative measure on many cars. Bi-passing the factory headlight wiring will save the switch for the parking lights. Plus a melted turn signal/hi-low headlight switch can run into the hundreds. The only down side is the parking and headlights no longer work independently although you’ll never get stopped for just running your parking lights.

  • avatar
    EyeMWing

    My ’91 Dakota has the same switch. Oddly enough, it’s the only control in the whole truck that isn’t lunched.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    No news, the Japanese have been using the same style or design for the door striker for eons.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    Before they went to that horrible cluster of rocker panel switches, Chrysler’s minivans added one final feature to the multifunction pull/twist light switch. Everyone knows you pull to the first detent to activate running lights, pull to the second detent for headlights, twist the knob for dashboard light brightness and twist until it locks to turn on all the interior lights, but the final bit of ergonomic magic happened when you twisted the knob to its other locking position in the opposite direction: a complete disabling of the interior lights, should you be parking for a long while and leaving the doors or hatch open (tailgate parties/picnics/camping/etc) to either prevent running down the battery or, as I suspect, to prevent those tiny incandescent bulbs from eventually melting the thin plastic diffuser/covers.

    What incenses me now is the multiplicity of light controls in a modern automobile; you have at least 2 and sometimes 3 locations to memorize to activate headlights/running lights along with dimming the dashboard lights. The industry has clearly moved backwards in terms of providing an ergonomically simple, useful and easy to decipher vehicle light system interface. Bring back the damn all-in-one multifunction knob.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Heck bring back the floor mounted dimmer switch.  I always thought they were kinda cool.  Anybody know the last US Vehicle to have one in it?  (And if the answer is a truck, could you name the last car to have a floor mounted dimmer?)

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      I recall my dad cursing at those floor-mounted high-beam switches back when he still drove ’70’s American cars. Enter the car with snowy, salty boots often enough and that switch either freezes solid or rusts solid. No thanks; I’ll take the modern turn-signal-stalk high-beam switch any day.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    My 92 Ford Ranger uses the pull switch as well and also powers the driving lights, when on. There is a separate rocker switch for those, however, Ford wired them to ONLY work with the low beams.
     
    That said, Ford now uses a rotary switch in roughly the same position and GM has used and may still rely on push button style switches for their lights. Most others use the turn signal stalk.
     
    Now I’ve never understood why Ford thought it was cool to put the horn on the turn signal stalk on the old Fairmonts, what a stupid idea.
     

    • 0 avatar
      MarcKyle64

      I think the horn on the turnstalk was a cost cutting measure of the aborted late 70s airbag adventure at Ford when they first decided NOT to install horn buttons on the steering wheel airbag. THEN they decided not to go with airbags yet.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    “the quality of the components makes even 60’s gm stuff look sophisticated.”  The shaft looks almost exactly like the headlight switch shafts that gm and ford used.  It’s not at all unusual that a switch from a 70’s van fit your 66.  GM, ford and chrysler used lots of parts from the 60’s clear into the 80’s. Gm and ford even used parts from the 60’s that were outwardly visible into the 80’s, like window cranks.  I owned an 86 F 150 and 89 econloine, both used the same brake pedal pads from early 60’s ford trucks and econlines.
    GM used the same ignition switches from 69 until at least 88 , ford and chrysler did the same. the list goes on. It makes for great parts availability when needed such as in your case.


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