The Truth About Cars » Wiring The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 15 Jul 2014 20:01:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Wiring Piston Slap: Affalterbach’s A-faltering Headlight! (Part II) Fri, 25 Oct 2013 12:00:44 +0000

Martin writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I just wanted to follow up the post with the resolution.  I’m not sure if this is important to you all, but I see that it’s an issue with Bimmers sometimes as well.  I switched the bulbs from right to left.  My passenger side light had been flickering off.  When I switched the bulbs, the issue went to the driver’s side, which seemed to narrow down the issue to a bulb problem.  

Both lights would sometimes flicker as a pre courser to the bulb shutting down.  I replaced the Xenon bulbs with new ones, and so far, the problem is gone. I’m not sure why both bulbs flickered simultaneously as a pre courser to the bulb going out, but it did.  This issue is also gone. I hope it helps someone because initially when I took the problem to mechanics I received estimates including the replacement of the entire light, which is around 1200-1300 bucks, or replacing the ballast which is a 400-600 dollar part, and one indy mechanic even told me they had to drop the bumper cover JUST to get to the light, which is really untrue.

Instead the resolution cost me 150 bucks.


Sajeev answers:

Good to hear Martin, sometimes the easiest answer is the right one! And sadly, if one lacks the time and knowledge to seek that easy automotive solution, they’re gonna get hosed.  Hosed for a normal wear item?  How sad.  So let’s consider more wear items that people tend to neglect:

  1. Fuses: they go bad over time, even when they look good at a casual glance.  Even when tested with a voltmeter/continuity tester! Here’s one from my (LH high beam circuit) Sierra that looked okay at first…but when I shined light behind it…a new fuse and freshly cleaned ground wiring fixed a multitude of problems.
  2. Headlights: they are wear items.  They can flicker (as you know well!) and dim over time. The dimming is so gradual that you’d never know, until you replace them.  I’ve seen 2 year old vehicles need new headlights!
  3. Vacuum lines in particular, rubber parts in general:  Anything that uses engine vacuum (less of a concern today) relies on tubing that gets cracked, brittle, gooey, leaky…so replace it.  Lines connected to PCV systems can get gooey/leaky in just a few years…not decades.
  4. Tires: if they are dry rotted, their performance (especially in the wet) is kinda horrible.  Depending on where you live/park, your tires could be history after 5 years, even with fantastic tread depth.
  5. Brake lines: after a decade, especially if you live in the rust belt, look at your brake lines to ensure they won’t go explodey from rusting.
  6. Wiring: lines get brittle-cracked-shorted, connectors get broken/loose and “Ghosts in the Machine” that are seemingly impossible to trace have a very simple solution: replacement.
  7. Weatherstripping (again rubber): however your car’s doors seal to the body, that stuff will shrink, split, etc. no longer making an air (or water!) tight seal.  And don’t forget leaky sunroofs/moonroofs!
  8. Hinges and Latches:  bushings (often brass?) inside door hinges can wear to the point that doors sag, especially on convertibles.  Similarly, door latches wear, become misaligned, and make horrible squeaking sounds sometimes.
  9. Springs and Shocks: sounds logical, but how many people pony up the cash for these new parts after years of metal fatigue on coils and leaky/coagulated cartridges? Not nearly enough.
  10. Copper connections: similar to #6, if there’s an exposed connection on a printed circuit (probably less of a concern today) that can become oxidized…well, it will. I’ve repaired many a flaky module with a pink eraser (not white, they lack the “tooth” to make a clean cut) from the top of a pencil.  It’s funny the things you learn from people on the Internet.
  11. Batteries, Alternators, Terminals+Cables : as cars get more complex, their thirst for fresh batteries shortens the lifespan of these wear items.  Alternators age, even more so when trying to support a weak battery.  And everything can go bad because your battery’s termainals+cables are crusty and corroded.  The moment you hear your car “chugs” and labors at start up compared to a car with a new battery OR the moment the dashboard electrics goes bonkers for no apparent reason…well, that’s the moment you are officially warned of a simple but important charging problem.

Best and Brightest: fill in the gaps I left.  And have a great weekend.

Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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Piston Slap: Affalterbach’s A-faltering Headlight! Thu, 01 Aug 2013 12:00:40 +0000 SLK32AMG_front1

Martin writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I’m writing you because I’ve searched and asked model-specific forums, and mechanics, to no avail. I have the last of the 1st Gen SLK AMGs. I love this car, and I’ve loved it since the first non-AMG launched in the late 90s. Overall, it’s well maintained – a trend which I continue – and I’ve had it for a few years. I have one major issue.

The Xenon headlights will blink out randomly – the issue is solved by flicking the lights completely off, and then back on…it almost always happens on my passenger side headlight, but I’ve seen it happen on the driver’s side as well though this is rare. It usually happens on a bump, or on impact of some kind, like a speed bump, braking, or closing the hood, and can occur every few minutes (usually in wet weather – thought doesn’t ALWAYS happen in wet weather) or not at all for several months (usually dry weather).

Mechanics have diagnosed it as anything ranging from a bad ballast (doesn’t make sense to me as ballasts either work or the don’t) to a faulty bulb. One mechanic put some kind of lubrication on the contacts with the bulb and the problem went away for several months – even in wet weather, but I’m not sure if this was a solution or coincidence. Due to two factors – higher incidence of occurrence in wet weather – and the presence of condensation in the passenger’s side bulb (the worst offender) – I think there’s a short somewhere. I’ve checked the wiring and it seems ok. No one can give me a convincing reason as to why I should just replace the whole headlight assembly (an expensive proposal) – and although I realize AMG cars are pricier to maintain and I don’t mind spending, I also don’t want to do it unnecessarily just to discover that it’s a short in some kind of control module or peripheral piece.

Have you ever heard of this? Looking forward to your input.

Sajeev answers:

Not an easy question, but luckily you want what’s best for the car. Which isn’t cheap for a German car of this era. I still have nightmares about attempting to fix anything on my Father’s former 1996 BMW 750iL…beautiful, glorious nightmares I tell you!

Proper Mercedes-Benz shop manuals for this car are a must…but first…give this a shot:

A problem this intermittent, normally happening on one side means there’s an easy diagnostic route: switch headlights (first) and ballasts (second, assuming there are two, so RTFM) between left and right headlights and see if the flickering pattern changes.  If so great…you probably found your offender.

If not…well…

I am somewhat confident that voltage irregularities in failing ballasts can cause this, but the bulbs themselves aren’t free from guilt.  I worry because you flick’d them off/on: hot re-strikes on many older HID bulbs is a big no-no.  BIIIIIG no-no, as I learned when converting the horrible headlights on my 1995 Mark VIII to the HIDs of the 1996 model: this shortens HID lifespan significantly.

If the HID bulbs are original, perhaps they need replacement after the hot re-striking and from age. Or maybe the ballasts are no longer up to par internally, perhaps a lighting specialist can load test them to verify. I doubt you have wiring problems, but who knows…I haven’t checked myself!

Who really knows how to arm-chair this query? What say you, Best and Brightest?


Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.


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Entire Universe of Chrysler Products Available For Replacement Headlight Switch On A100 Hell Project Sat, 11 Dec 2010 16:00:15 +0000
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!

A100_LightSwitch-10 A100_LightSwitch-01 A100_LightSwitch-02 A100_LightSwitch-03 A100_LightSwitch-04 A100_LightSwitch-05 A100_LightSwitch-06 A100_LightSwitch-07 A100_LightSwitch-08 A100_LightSwitch-09 A100_LightSwitch-11 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 22