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Old July 25th, 2012, 12:46 AM   #1
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Dimming of dashboard lights

Living in the Netherlands, I have an Oldsmobile Super 88 Convertible from 1953. The light of the speedometer (and all other lights of the dashboard, like the clock, ashtrays etc.) is much to low to see in in the dark. I mounted the speedometer out of the car completely to look what's wrong, cleaned everything and tested all lamps. If I connect the lamps direct to the battery they give a lot of light..... After mounting the speedometer back in the car, all lamps are giving light for less then about 30 %....???? And I don't know why this is. Can someone tell me if there is some sort of dimmer on the dashboard light ? If yes, where can I find it ? If no, who knows what's wrong...??

Kind regards, Jur Raatjes, Netherlands.
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Old July 25th, 2012, 04:31 AM   #2
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The light of the speedometer (and all other lights of the dashboard, like the clock, ashtrays etc.) is much to low to see in in the dark.
Aside from a possible dimmer switch.....
Check your systems voltage to see if the alternator is not putting out enough juice.
I would take the liberty of installing LED bulbs wherever you can.

I also took all my gauges apart and repainted the interior of them.
Most were not able to reflect the light very well with the 40 year old aged and watermarked paint.
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Old July 25th, 2012, 05:46 AM   #3
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...Can someone tell me if there is some sort of dimmer on the dashboard light ? If yes, where can I find it ?....

Try turning the headlight switch ****.

Also if you turn it all the way to one end it should turn on the courtesy lights. Many batteries have been accidentally drained because someone left the courtesy lights on.
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Old July 25th, 2012, 06:15 AM   #4
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Aside from a possible dimmer switch.....
Check your systems voltage to see if the alternator is not putting out enough juice.
I would take the liberty of installing LED bulbs wherever you can.

I also took all my gauges apart and repainted the interior of them.
Most were not able to reflect the light very well with the 40 year old aged and watermarked paint.
Thanks for your quick reply. I will check the alternator. I already put silver paper inside the gauges to reflect the light in the best way but even that didn't help.
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Old July 25th, 2012, 06:17 AM   #5
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Try turning the headlight switch ****.

Also if you turn it all the way to one end it should turn on the courtesy lights. Many batteries have been accidentally drained because someone left the courtesy lights on.
Thanks Highwayman, but I already tried that, the switch **** keeps on turning, has no end and also doesn't switch on the courtesy lights. I guess my switch **** is older than the one you have in mind...
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Old July 25th, 2012, 06:19 AM   #6
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What I meant was, check the battery measurement with a Voltmeter.
See if your alternator is giving it the proper juice flow.

Then check one of the gauge 12V+ terminals to see if there's a huge difference.
It could be a major drop in voltage due to corroded wires or a bad ground too.

60 year old wiring harnesses tend to have seen alot better days.
Corrosion builds up over half a century causes resistance and less juice flows through.
This is why I rewired both of my classics.

Corrosion = resistance,
Resistance = heat,
heat = failure or fire risk.
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Old July 25th, 2012, 06:24 AM   #7
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What I meant was, check the battery measurement with a Voltmeter.
See if your alternator is giving it the proper juice flow.

Then check one of the gauge 12V+ terminals to see if there's a huge difference.
It could be a major drop in voltage due to corroded wires or a bad ground too.

60 year old wiring harnesses tend to have seen alot better days.
Corrosion builds up over half a century causes resistance and less juice flows through.
This is why I rewired both of my classics.

Corrosion = resistance,
Resistance = heat,
heat = failure or fire risk.
Then I think the alternator is OK, as my battery is doing fine, even after a long start (getting gasoline from the tank after some days standing). But what I have to check indeed is your tip about the voltage at the end of the wires. Thanks !
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Old July 25th, 2012, 06:52 AM   #8
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I don't think that **** should keep turning, so it would lead me to believe that your dimmer switch is no good. Has your car been converted to an alternator or do you still have a generator on it? Do the lights get brighter if you raise the idle?
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Old July 25th, 2012, 07:21 AM   #9
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IF the lights work fine when connected right to the battery, then the issue is the circuit between the battery and the gauge lights. The dimmer switch on the headlight switch is probably bad, since it turns with no end. Check the wiring in between though for corrosion or burning at the terminals.
Are all the interior bulbs the correct size? Does the headlight switch get hot when you drive with the lights on?
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Old July 25th, 2012, 11:42 PM   #10
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I don't think that **** should keep turning, so it would lead me to believe that your dimmer switch is no good. Has your car been converted to an alternator or do you still have a generator on it? Do the lights get brighter if you raise the idle?
To explain the ****: to turn on the lights I have to PULL the ****, not turning (upper left **** in enclosed picture). But someone suggested that maybe by turning I could find out if it would dimm the dashboard lights. But that's not the case, as it keeps on turning, that's what I meant. So turning the **** has no function at all, is what I found out. As English is not my native language I actually don't know the exact difference between an alternator and a generator, sorry.... It has been renewed a couple of years ago and no, the headlights are not getting brighter if I give extra revs. So to my opnion my electric cirucit is OK as far as it charges the battery etc. But I think the problem is the wires and that's quit a job to renew. They all have the same color.... So I know what I have to do coming winter. Thanks for your help !
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Old July 25th, 2012, 11:47 PM   #11
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IF the lights work fine when connected right to the battery, then the issue is the circuit between the battery and the gauge lights. The dimmer switch on the headlight switch is probably bad, since it turns with no end. Check the wiring in between though for corrosion or burning at the terminals.
Are all the interior bulbs the correct size? Does the headlight switch get hot when you drive with the lights on?
In addition to what I wrote to oldcutlass, see above, I can tell you that all the gauge lights are having the right watts (is that English...?), they are all 4W, the maximum for these kind of lights. And as I wrote before: they are bright and shiny when directly connected to a 12V battery. The headlight switch doesn't get hot while in use. So it must be the wiring of the whole electric circuit to the dashboard that I have to renew, I'm afraid.... Thanks for your help !
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Old July 25th, 2012, 11:56 PM   #12
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Wait, that's a '53...is that car still a 6 Volt car or is it converted to 12 Volts?
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Old July 26th, 2012, 12:11 AM   #13
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Wait, that's a '53...is that car still a 6 Volt car or is it converted to 12 Volts?
12 Volt, much better
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Old July 26th, 2012, 02:13 AM   #14
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Gorgeous 88!

Old wiring builds up resistance. The resistance causes voltage drop on a given circuit. That means dimmer or possibly flickering lights.

Change the headlight switch and/or dimmer switch. Test your generator and regulator. Check battery connections and terminals.

While you are waiting for parts, do what's cheap to free. Clean grounds you can find under the dash, hood, or anywhere else. Replace deteriorated/broken ground straps.
You'd be surprised how clean, shiny connections help.

I wholeheartedly agree with replacing whatever you can with LEDs. Very easy for you to go back to original later.
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Old July 26th, 2012, 06:25 AM   #15
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I do not see the reason to replace all the wiring. Just trace the one supply wire for the dash lights back to its source with a volt meter and see where the voltage is being lost.
Find the grounds and make sure there is no voltage between them and battery ground.
Unfortunately I do not know much about the 53 year, so I cannot tell you exactly where to look. Maybe that year does not use a dimmer switch??
Hey, just fly me up there and i will find the problem for ya for free!
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Old July 26th, 2012, 06:37 AM   #16
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I know nothing about 1953 Oldsmobiles, specifically, but I do know that F_rds of that era had a separate small rheostat **** on the bottom edge of the dash to dim the lights, and did NOT use the headlight switch for it.

If he has a dimmer **** that he has not found yet, it may simply be a matter of turning it up, or cleaning the coils and wiper.

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Old July 26th, 2012, 10:41 PM   #17
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Before you start replacing wires I suggest you take a second look at the headlight switch. Just because you can turn the **** without finding a stop does not mean there is no dimmer control there. It could mean the dimmer control is stripped. Here are some things to try.

Follow the wires from the dash lights to the source. The source should be the dimmer control.

Inspect the headlight switch. In the picture below of a typical headlight switch, on the left end inside the inclosed area is a round, white ceramic looking part. That is an example of what a dimmer control will look like.

Click the image to open in full size.

http://www.fusick.com/new_items.htm
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Old July 27th, 2012, 12:36 AM   #18
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I do not see the reason to replace all the wiring. Just trace the one supply wire for the dash lights back to its source with a volt meter and see where the voltage is being lost.
Find the grounds and make sure there is no voltage between them and battery ground.
Unfortunately I do not know much about the 53 year, so I cannot tell you exactly where to look. Maybe that year does not use a dimmer switch??
Hey, just fly me up there and i will find the problem for ya for free!
Nice idea to come over to NL, Rob, but unfortunatley my Olds cost me so much I haven't any spare money for an airticket...., ha, ha. Thanks anyway for your tips. I think I got so many tips now that I can find the problem.
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Old July 27th, 2012, 12:42 AM   #19
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Before you start replacing wires I suggest you take a second look at the headlight switch. Just because you can turn the **** without finding a stop does not mean there is no dimmer control there. It could mean the dimmer control is stripped. Here are some things to try.

Follow the wires from the dash lights to the source. The source should be the dimmer control.

Inspect the headlight switch. In the picture below of a typical headlight switch, on the left end inside the inclosed area is a round, white ceramic looking part. That is an example of what a dimmer control will look like.

Click the image to open in full size.

http://www.fusick.com/new_items.htm
Thanks a lot, Highwayman !! This is what I'm looking for. I will order it right away. In fact, I order a lot at Fusick, very easy to work with (via internet from the Netherlands), great and accurate service and they have a lot of stuff for my car. Although we also have a company in NL near Rotterdam that has a lot, but mainly the real heavy things like carburators, generators, suspension parts, some body parts, etc.
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Old July 27th, 2012, 03:50 AM   #20
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And, if Highwayman didn't make it clear, the photo he posted IS of a 1953 headlight switch, which clearly DOES have a dimmer rheostat in the exact same location as newer switches.

The screw that powers your instrument lights should be the one I circled in red.

You may be ab;e to clean the rheostat coils and the wiper with some contact cleaner, and / or some emery cloth on a popsicle stick, but you may not.

Click the image to open in full size.

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Old July 27th, 2012, 07:38 AM   #21
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And, if Highwayman didn't make it clear, the photo he posted IS of a 1953 headlight switch, which clearly DOES have a dimmer rheostat in the exact same location as newer switches.

The screw that powers your instrument lights should be the one I circled in red.

You may be ab;e to clean the rheostat coils and the wiper with some contact cleaner, and / or some emery cloth on a popsicle stick, but you may not.

- Eric
Thanks, Eric !! Even more clear now. Just to be sure I ordered a new one at Fusick this morning.
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Old July 31st, 2012, 05:42 AM   #22
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While you are waiting for parts you can also trace the wires before and after the dimmer , if you bypass them you should get a full 12 volts and bright dash lights all the time ....just a thought ... Good luck

PS> just make sure it is from a switched source with the headlights so they will only come on when your headlights are on ....
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Old July 31st, 2012, 06:27 AM   #23
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Hey, just fly me up there and i will find the problem for ya for free!
Nice try Rob!!
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Old July 31st, 2012, 06:27 AM
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