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View Full Version : Car turn signals suddenly fail to work ... expensive fix?


bordelond
08-06-2003, 03:16 PM
The turn signals on my 1998 Ford Crown Victoria stopped working all of a sudden yesterday. When I flip the turn-signal lever, I don't hear the familiar "clicka-clicka-clicka" sound, nor do I get the usual blinking-arrow display on the instrumental panel that shows the signal is engaged. Instead, nothing at all happens.

I parked the car, turned on the signal lever, then got out to look at the signal lights at the rear of the car. I was hoping that the signal lights were still working, and just that the feedback to the instrument panel was screwed up -- but no dice.

All other electrical elements of the car work fine (headlights, power windows, radio, power locks, etc.)

Well, at this point, I'm hoping it's just a fuse, and that maybe I can fix the turn signal problem myself (if I knew where the fuses were on this car). Also, I am somewhat certain that there's no issue with the signal lights' bulbs, but not 100% certain.

If I have to bring this to the dealership, what kind of a bill am I looking at? Intuitively, this would seem to be a cheap, quick fix -- but when dealing with auto repair, who knows?

BMalion
08-06-2003, 03:19 PM
Um... how much does a new bulb cost?

Boobka
08-06-2003, 03:20 PM
Most likely a fuse .10, a worse case a relay $4-5 (maybe). Maybe the switch, but not likely. The fuse box should be under the hood, or under the dash or both places.

MizGrand
08-06-2003, 03:24 PM
I'd say check your owner's manual and find the location of the FLASHER. Part is fairly inexpensive and most are accessible so you could do it yourself. Good luck.:)

bordelond
08-06-2003, 04:06 PM
Originally posted by BMalion
Um... how much does a new bulb cost?

The reason I'm thinking it's not the bulb is because I'm assuming that:

1) All four signal bulbs on all four corners of the car wouldn't go out simultaneously, and

2) even if the bulbs were out, that shouldn't prevent the instrument-panel turn display from coming on and making that clicking noise.

...

Thanks for the replies!

Zenster
08-06-2003, 04:32 PM
MizGrand has identified the most likely failure mode. If the detents of the indicator lever on your steering column still seem to be mechanically sound (not loose or failing to click into place), my money's on the flasher control unit.

Here's a quick and simple test. Cycle your four-way flashers. Do they function and provide the clicking sound? If not, it's your flasher circuit. If your four-ways work, then you may be looking at the fuse (cheap) or the column lever microswitch (expensive).

bordelond
08-06-2003, 04:41 PM
Originally posted by Zenster
Here's a quick and simple test. Cycle your four-way flashers. Do they function and provide the clicking sound? If not, it's your flasher circuit. If your four-ways work, then you may be looking at the fuse (cheap) or the column lever microswitch (expensive).

In fact, the four-way flashers don't work. Thanks for the tip!

handy
08-06-2003, 04:54 PM
Well, some cars have it so that you have to have all bulbs working.

Try visiting an auto parts store & ask them if they have anything.

DaveX
08-06-2003, 05:34 PM
Or you could move to Utah...

Since no one uses them, you wouldn't even notice.

pool
08-06-2003, 05:40 PM
im no mechanic but that has happened to my car before and I just opened the trunk and pulled back the covering and found the wire that went to the bulb that is the turn signal and I just wiggled the wires around and the position of the bulb and it started working again...might be worth a try

Shoeless
08-06-2003, 05:52 PM
Originally posted by bordelond
The reason I'm thinking it's not the bulb is because I'm assuming that:

1) All four signal bulbs on all four corners of the car wouldn't go out simultaneously, and

2) even if the bulbs were out, that shouldn't prevent the instrument-panel turn display from coming on and making that clicking noise.

Regarding point #2, I was always under the impression that when a bulb went out, it DID prevent your dashboard display from working. I had a car where the dashboard light just stayed on steady instead of blinking. That was the clue that a bulb was out somewhere.

Gary T
08-06-2003, 06:15 PM
In many cars, if a bulb goes out it will keep the turn signal on that side of the car from flashing. The other signal light on that side and the dash indicator will still come on, but not flash, and it does not affect the turn signal on the other side of the car.

I parked the car, turned on the signal lever, then got out to look at the signal lights at the rear of the car. I was hoping that the signal lights were still working, and just that the feedback to the instrument panel was screwed up -- but no dice.

If this means none of the four signal lights came on at all, then the fuse is the prime suspect. The flasher and the turn signal switch are also possibilities. If the above means the lights came on but didn't flash, then the flasher is the main suspect. On some designs, a problem with the hazard light switch could also be the problem.

Some cars use one flasher for both the turn signal and the hazard lights, some use two separate flashers for those. If the turn signals and hazard lights went out at the same time, it's most likely a single flasher that failed.

Really Not All That Bright
08-06-2003, 06:38 PM
I've found a couple times that when one bulb goes the rest all fail soon afterward... I'm guessing the missing bulb blows the fuse, as often happened to old christmas tree lights.

Try locating the blown bulb and replacing and see if that doesn't fix the problem before you replace the microswitch.

Nanoda
08-06-2003, 06:51 PM
Man! Doctors are told: "If you hear hoofbeats, don't think of zebras!" ;)

bordelond: Get a new flasher relay.

bordelond
08-07-2003, 10:49 AM
Originally posted by Gary T
<<I parked the car, turned on the signal lever, then got out to look at the signal lights at the rear of the car. I was hoping that the signal lights were still working, and just that the feedback to the instrument panel was screwed up -- but no dice.>>

If this means none of the four signal lights came on at all, then the fuse is the prime suspect. The flasher and the turn signal switch are also possibilities. If the above means the lights came on but didn't flash, then the flasher is the main suspect. On some designs, a problem with the hazard light switch could also be the problem.

Sorry I was so vague ... your first surmision was correct. None of the signal lights work at all. They don't light up, and they certainly don't flash.

Thanks for the advice, all!

MovieMogul
08-07-2003, 11:30 AM
If you don't want to shell out any money, you could just stick your arm out the window to signal...

Edward The Head
08-07-2003, 11:47 AM
If your fuse is blown then you probably have bigger problems then just the fuse. Typically fuses don't go unless there is a problem with the wiring. Also I have never seen a car, though there are way to many, that if one bulb is gone that they don't just flash faster. I know my Ford Escort does this as well as my motorcycles. I would suspect that a switch has gone bad or a relay.

bordelond
08-07-2003, 12:56 PM
OK, after reviewing figures 7 and 8 on this site (http://www2.autozone.com/servlet/UiBroker?ForwardPage=az/cds/en_us/0900823d/80/19/31/35/0900823d80193135.jsp), it appears that there is no flasher relay on my Crown Vic.

Rather, there is a fuse in the interior fuse box that is the overwhelmingly likely culprit. Figure 8 indicates that it is fuse #5.

After the advice I've gotten here, that seems weird, but OK. Perhaps figure 7 is marked incorrectly -- four relays are indicated in the engine fuse box, but none are marked as controlling the flashers.

...

Edward the Head, you're scaring me a little. The car has had two other electrical problems within the last 6-7 months:

a) the steering lock would not disengage upon starting, whcih the dealership said was an electrical problem (over the phone). There was an available work-around to start the car in neutral, so I never took the car in, and the problem "fixed itself" within hours. This problem has never reoccured for me, but had occured a few years ealier for the car's previous owner.

b) the rear driver's side power window does not go up easily, only down. The only way it goes back up is if the window is already going down, and you quickly toggle the switch back up to make the window go up. If you lower the window and pause, you cannot get the window back up. I've just been keeping this window closed at all times. Oddly enough, the other three power windows work flawlessly.

Gary T
08-07-2003, 01:09 PM
According to my manual, the flasher is built into the lighting control module. Ain't progress wonderful?

Check fuses #4, 5, & 8. Fuses sometimes go from old age. If a fuse is out, and the replacement doesn't blow, that's likely what happened. If the replacement goes out (which might not happen right away), then there's a further problem.

Make sure the hazard switch is not in the "on" position.

If all the above are OK, it's pretty much got to be the lighting control module or the turn signal switch (actually part of a multifunction switch, it appears). Time for electrical testing.

bordelond
08-07-2003, 01:33 PM
Originally posted by Gary T
Time for electrical testing.

Sounds like something time-consuming that would leave my car at the shop for a day or three. Sounds expensive, too.

:(

Gary T
08-07-2003, 01:40 PM
Barring a problem in the wiring itself, the testing is of the components of the system and the connections among them, not usually extremely time-consuming, and not usually extremely expensive. Nevertheless, the repair as a whole, including testing and replacement of faulty parts, probably won't be cheap. Bummer.

bordelond
08-14-2003, 01:11 PM
Wanna hear something strange?

The turn signals started working again yesterday afternoon. The signals coming back on coincided with the low-fuel light coming on, but I don't know if that means anything.

Then this morning, the signals DIDN'T work for a few minutes, but kicked back in for the ride in to work. Strange.

I had changed the #4, 5, and 8 fuses late last week, with no effect. Wonder what made the signals start working again?

Zenster
08-14-2003, 03:11 PM
Are you in an area with high humidity? Do they salt the roads during the winter?

What you are describing is similar to sticking contacts on a relay module somewhere. Your power window probably has nothing to do with this, although it my be suffering from the same sort of corrosion attack of its components as well.

You need to inspect your wiring harness and especially some of the major connectors. See if you can unplug them and examine the pins and receptacles on the connector. Are they bright and shiny? Do they show the least sign of corrosion or attack? Are the pins bent or flattened?

Things that suddenly "heal" themselves are not an encouraging sign. These are known as intermittent or "soft failures" and are among the most difficult to track down. You need to start budgeting money for a thorough examination of your car's electrical system. The number of "rollover" failures to your gas tank indicator, steering lock and other electrical devices all indicate a strong possibility of computer malfunction, wiring harness problems or random corrosion attack of certain components. All of this could lead to catastrophic failure which could strand your tuckas at the least desirable moment (i.e., an emergency). Get this looked into sooner than later.

bordelond
08-14-2003, 03:21 PM
Originally posted by Zenster
Are you in an area with high humidity?

Very high humidity here. No salt on the roads in winter, though.

handy
08-14-2003, 06:16 PM
"I had changed the #4, 5, and 8 fuses late last week, with no effect. Wonder what made the signals start working again?"

One time I took the cigaret lighter out & thing worked again.

Titan2
08-14-2003, 06:28 PM
Bordelond-One thing you might check is the turnsignal handle/lever/whatever they call it that goes into the steering column.According to a Ford mechanic those years are notorious for those problems.That off again on again comment is what made me think of it.

His solution- install a new lever/handle/whatever it's called.He was also employed at a taxi company so he had many occurences of quick fix type problems to get the cars back on the road.

Other symptoms could include headlights flicker or don't work.This could be kinda bad if you're traveling on a dark road at night and they suddenly go out.
If you can google for a Ford message board I'll bet you come up with some responses by mechanics (shadetree or otherwise) that have encountered this before.
You Are Not Alone

Max_Castle
08-14-2003, 06:34 PM
Originally posted by bordelond
The reason I'm thinking it's not the bulb is because I'm assuming that:

1) All four signal bulbs on all four corners of the car wouldn't go out simultaneously, and

2) even if the bulbs were out, that shouldn't prevent the instrument-panel turn display from coming on and making that clicking noise.

...

Thanks for the replies! Others have addressed this already, but I'll add my own experience: This is exactally what happened with my 1991 Tercel. They all stopped working, and after I replaced one bulb, they all started working again.

Either a bulb or a flasher relay is your prime suspect.

Gary T
08-14-2003, 10:45 PM
Originally posted by bordelond
Wonder what made the signals start working again?
Anything electrical can go back and forth between working and not working. Of the two prime suspects, I would consider the lighting control module more likely than the turn signal switch, but unfortunately, the fact that the problem is intermittent doesn't really help narrow it down.

Originally posted by Titan2
One thing you might check is the turnsignal handle/lever/whatever they call it that goes into the steering column.According to a Ford mechanic those years are notorious for those problems.That off again on again comment is what made me think of it.
If this is referring to the turn signal switch, with the lever being part of the switch, it's certainly worth looking into. (If, however, the lever is separable from the switch assembly, and ONLY the lever is being referred to, it doesn't make sense to me.)

Originally posted by tjblack
They all stopped working, and after I replaced one bulb, they all started working again.
"Working" isn't useful here. I'm sure they all stopped FLASHING. I'm also sure that one bulb didn't stop them all from COMING ON, which is the situation in this case.

JXJohns
08-15-2003, 12:21 AM
On my 1998 Ford Taurus SHO , my signals quit working the same way. I had to replace the turn signal stick. It wasn't hard, and was not that expensive to do it myself.

Titan2
08-15-2003, 02:16 AM
To JX Johns and Gary T.I'm referring to the whole lever/handle stick that contains,besides the turn signals the windshield wiper/washer and high/ low beam control.

If you replaced the handle/lever stick I'm assuming that's what it was-ALL THE COMPONENTS on one part that attaches inside the steering column.To do it you have to take off the cowl housing.
that's as mechanical as I can get.

From what I've been lead to believe that handle/lever/stick has contacts on the steering column side that make these things operate,and sometimes they either don't make good contact because of a design flaw,or erode/pit early because of this same flaw.
I have a Ranger and every now and then( once or twice a year) the wipers will just turn on automatically.I've also had my turn signals malfunction a couple times.
Each time it's ever happened I'd just turn the car off,restart it,and things were back to normal.