In the winter everything’s flashing again in old cars. Not just the indicators. Autumn is rolling in with a bang – and not only the way we know it, but with topics that we report on every autumn: darkness, leaves and wild animals. With its cold, damp and dreariness, autumn also brings the problems of the car’s electrical system (that have been ignored all summer) to … no, not to light. Rather to dark. You can probably relate, can’t you? You just want to indicate quickly and the indicator goes way too fast or very slowly or not at all. This is not just a familiar problem for drivers of ancient cars of southern European origin. Sometimes it’s quite easy to fix.
The click clack indicating sound is quite nice. If your car is on the older side, you can hear a relay, an electromagnetic switch, hard at work. Because we so got used to this sound, a small sound module makes the clacking noise in modern cars. There’s no relay anymore. The electronic indicator circuits don’t actually make a sound, but people are creatures of habit. If the click clack sound is very fast, a lamp has failed; because of the loss of a load, the relay then gets more power than usual and the switching times are therefore faster. Locate the faulty lamp. You can replace it with a new one from Osram (best to do it on both sides of the car), that’ll solve the problem. If you get the lamp to work again by jiggling it, the socket of the relevant lampholder is slowly corroding. And the consequences can be quite dangerous.
The disadvantage of metal is that it corrodes. It rusts basically. That also applies to corrosion-resistant metals if electricity flows through them. So if the contacts, especially in the rarely inspected rear lights, are no longer entirely shiny, electricity will find another way through the housing – at the latest with increased humidity or when it rains. And then it’ll also go past other lamps. Especially if the earthing for the rear lights, in other words the negative pole and the connection to the chassis, has only poor contact or none at all. In that case you’d see the indicator and rear lights flash alternately, or the reversing lights come on instead of the indicator, or even the whole lampholder. Most of the time this produces a dim light, doesn’t make the click clack sound as per usual, and will (hopefully) make the fuse blow at some point. Don’t let it get that far.
In most vehicles, rear lights including their housings can be removed quickly. At the back are the carrier plate for the lamps and the pins that go into the plug of the cable harness. If you’re a remotely talented do-it-yourselfer, you can sand down the contacts using fine sandpaper or a Dremel, clean them and spray them with contact spray. Best to replace all lamps with new products from Osram and you’ll have peace of mind for a long time. Check all connections from the lamps directly to the chassis (mostly with brown or black cables), make sure all seals are intact and reinstall the cleaned lights. Then you won’t have to worry about autumn any longer. And above all, indicating will not be super embarrassing. Let’s roll.