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non-functioning dash / shifter back lights


fordrodsteven

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fordrodsteven

Hi All, Just letting you know I'm still here and I still have the Reatta. It just wants to continue to be my retirement project nemesis. (I have been trying to get deeper into my 1955 Thunderbird project but this Reatta keeps pulling me away) Anyway, I hope I don't ramble on too much here.

By the way, the car is running pretty good since re-installing the transmission and not throwing any codes so I'm happy about that!

 

So I was driving the car the other night (I don't usually drive it after dark) and noticed no backlighting at all on the dash buttons or at the shifter. It reminded me that about a year ago I started to research the issue using the troubleshooting guide here at this web site. I got the lights to work using the touch screen and adjusting something. I think it proved the inverter was good and the photocell is bad. I researched further and found something (don't remember if it was here or at the AACA site) that gave a specification of a photocell that I bought at Radio Shack. (per KDirk or Daves89?) I have the photocell but never put it in. Now I was just reading about how the slider (dimmer) functions. My slider just goes back and forth and does nothing so I'll probably pull the headlight switch and send it to Jim Finn for rebuild / repair.

 

I may also be on the hunt for a tan 1988/89 steering column. My ignition key is still needing to be turned extra hard to get to crank the engine then I have to click it back to get to the run position. A classic symptom of a broken rack inside the column. I also found that the high beams do not switch on. I was going to order a new multi switch but Jim Finn told me that the multi switch pushes a rod which hits a switch down lower on the column and it just may need adjustment. I ordered an ignition rack kit and have decided to pull the column and tear into it.

 

I guess the Reatta has decided it wants to stay with me! LOL! Wife still says she wants me to sell it. I don't have the heart to tell her I will be working on it some more because I think the non-functioning lights (dash, shifter and high beams) could be a deal breaker.

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I wouldn't do too much investigating until you get a known working headlight switch. There are two inverters in our cars, one for the headlight/wiper switches and one for the console and the likelyhood that both failed are slight. I am betting on the switch.

I gave up on the console back lighting long ago and installed a LED light strip for the shifter. Much better lighting and other then the loss of what "shift point" I am in no real down side. It is bright enough to help illuminate the mirror/window switches. The "How to" is covered in Ronnie's tutorial on this website.

Just for grins turn on your fog light button and see if anything changes. The other night my headlight/wiper backlights weren't working and for some reason my fog light button was off [i always drive with the fog light/running lights on]. When I pressed the switch all the back lights came back on.

Kdirk rebuilds the mirror and window switches to like new condition. He also told me how to "daisy chain" the two switches so the BCM reads the circuit as complete and the back light works. I can't remember how anymore but mine now work. I wasn't too impressed by the factory back light as I expected better illumination and was still glad I did the LED conversion.

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I may also be on the hunt for a tan 1988/89 steering column. My ignition key is still needing to be turned extra hard to get to crank the engine then I have to click it back to get to the run position. A classic symptom of a broken rack inside the column. I also found that the high beams do not switch on. I was going to order a new multi switch but Jim Finn told me that the multi switch pushes a rod which hits a switch down lower on the column and it just may need adjustment. I ordered an ignition rack kit and have decided to pull the column and tear into it.

 

Is it possible that you misunderstood Jim? The ignition switch is operated by a rod that goes down to the bottom of the steering column but I don't believe that is the case with the turn signal switch.

 

I'm pretty sure the multi-function  switch is at the top under the steering wheel. Make sure the hi-low beam relay is good before changing the multi-function switch.

ignition_switch_location.jpg.fdf4c47cb617eeb166dfcc19cae37d36.jpg

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fordrodsteven

I wouldn't do too much investigating until you get a known working headlight switch. There are two inverters in our cars, one for the headlight/wiper switches and one for the console and the likelyhood that both failed are slight. I am betting on the switch.

I gave up on the console back lighting long ago and installed a LED light strip for the shifter. Much better lighting and other then the loss of what "shift point" I am in no real down side. It is bright enough to help illuminate the mirror/window switches. The "How to" is covered in Ronnie's tutorial on this website.

Just for grins turn on your fog light button and see if anything changes. The other night my headlight/wiper backlights weren't working and for some reason my fog light button was off [i always drive with the fog light/running lights on]. When I pressed the switch all the back lights came back on.

Kdirk rebuilds the mirror and window switches to like new condition. He also told me how to "daisy chain" the two switches so the BCM reads the circuit as complete and the back light works. I can't remember how anymore but mine now work. I wasn't too impressed by the factory back light as I expected better illumination and was still glad I did the LED conversion.

I did the fog light thing to check that because I saw you had mentioned it in another thread. There was no change. I agree that I need to get the light switch panel working correctly first.

Is it possible that you misunderstood Jim? The ignition switch is operated by a rod that goes down to the bottom of the steering column but I don't believe that is the case with the turn signal switch.

 

I'm pretty sure the multi-function  switch is at the top under the steering wheel. Make sure the hi-low beam relay is good before changing the multi-function switch.

When I pull on the multi switch handle to try to switch on high beams there is no click or detent type of "feel". I thought maybe something broke inside my switch so it wouldn't turn on the high beams.

I also thought it would be up at the multi function switch but here is what he wrote....

"The actual switch for the high/low beams is on the base of the steering column and operated by a rod from the multi-lever so this can usually be fixed by an adjustment at the switch end however your key problems are typical of broken parts inside the column and it is far easier to replace a column than try and fix one."

 

Now I have another question. When I turn on the headlights is the brightness of the speed / clock / fuel gage supposed to dim or be adjustable?

Something else Jim wrote to me was that I must use a Reatta steering column. He said Riviera from 86 - 89 used a similar column BUT the cruise control wiring is different. He said the Reata cruise control is in the multi-lever stalk and on the Riviera's it is on the steering wheel. I would have to change out the wiring and multi- switch for it to work on the Reatta. Therefore it is do-able but requires tearing into the column .

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It would be foolish of me to contradict what Jim Finn says. He has literally owned more Reattas than I have ever seen. He knows more about the Buick Reatta than I will ever know.

 

I can tell you what I see when I look at the FSM in relation to the way the Reatta's lights are switched from dim to bright....

 

There is a set of contacts  in the multi-function lever switch assembly (wherever that may be) that sends a ground signal to the BCM telling it the lever has been pulled in order to dim or brighten the lights.

 

When the BCM gets a signal that the lever has been pulled it will send a signal to the Hi/Lo Beam Relay to turn on the high beams if they are currently on low.   OR it will turn on the low beams if they are currently on high.  When the headlights are first turned on the headlights should default to the low beams. IF the relay is bad the headlights stay on low beam.

 

The switch, actuated when you pull the lever, does not change the circuit (wiring) of the headlights from low to high beam. It simply tells the BCM to invert the current status of the headlights.

 

I did try pulling the lever that changes the headlights for low to high. It does NOT click like a lot of dimmer switches do.

 

If the lights are working properly the slider to dim the instrument panel doesn't work in bright daylight. It does dim the instrument panel when it is dark outside. If yours are not dimming at night you may have a bad photocell. There are how-to guides here on ROJ to troubleshoot that problem.

 

There is also an adjustment in the CRT, I don't remember which screen, that will adjust the brightness independent of the instrument panel if the CRT is too bright at night.

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fordrodsteven

Thank you Ron, The whole thing about the Multi switch and the ignition becomes a moot point if I should decide to just change out the whole steering column. I've found a couple salvage yards (that have tan 1989 Reatta columns) within 5 hours of my house where I might take a short road trip. I just have to make sure they have the key. The two closest yards each want $150 for the column.

I will also ask them how much for the headlight switch and try to get that at the same time.

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You cannot use a Riv column in the Reatta. The columns are different as the cruise control is in the steering wheel and not on the column like the Reatta has.

I have extra Headlight switches and an extra Tan column [w/keys]. I will be getting a Saphire Blue Reatta on Monday with a Dark Gray interior so that column would have to be painted. I would prefer to sell that one. I would sell both the Dark Gray column and Headlight switch if you are interested. My email is;

lemke1044@aol.com

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fordrodsteven

I called Matt's Used Auto parts in Hyde Park, NY. I'm heading there Friday (3-1/2 hour drive) to get a tan steering column and a headlight switch off an 89 Reatta. When I called the guy he wanted to know if I wanted to buy the whole car. I told him that I am not interested in a whole car. At least I won't have to worry about things getting damaged or lost during shipment if I just go there.

 

He said he has three Reatta's that he would like to sell.

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I don't know where the headlight dimming switch function is located but I do know that my '90 does not "click" when switching beams. I am pretty sure it just makes contact to tell the BCM to switch the relay which actually powers the headlights.

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fordrodsteven

On my drive home from the car show tonight it was dark and I had the headlights on. The high beams do not work, The backlighting in the dash or on the shifter do not work and the other dash lights (speed / clock /fuel gage and touch panel are all as bright as can be. I might be working on more than one issue here but I'll get it figured out (especially with the great help from other Reatta afficianados)!!!!

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fordrodsteven

I now have a steering column and headlight switch from an 89. The column needs clean up and a little touch up where there is some chipped paint. The steering wheel is in better shape than my current steering wheel. The horn button has a different emblem than the current one in my '88. My '88 has the "R" with a black background. The one from the '89 reminds me of the "select 60" emblem. It has the "R" set in a gold sun burst but it's a little beat up. Very easy to change the horn button if I decide to do that.

I think Ronnie is correct in that my backlight problem is most likely the photocell up in the center of the dash. My current headlight switch functions correctly except no back lighting or adjustment from the slide. It does click and make the interior lights go on. I will probably replace it anyway as the replacement light switch "feels" better when I push the buttons.

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The earlier '88 models had the black horn button emblems and the latter '88 models like mine had the gold emblems. Either one would be correct for your '88 but if the color of the horn button with the black emblem matches the color of the new column I would use it. All '89s had the gold emblems in the horn buttons.

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  • 2 years later...
Attila M

I have the same exact problem. No dash or shifter back lights. Does anyone know where to buy those 110V inverters? I was looking all over the internet without success. I bought the car recently (88 coupe). Thanks.

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Ronnie

Welcome to the forum. Sorry but I don't have any better answers about the inverters than what have already been given.

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DAVES89

Try Jim Finn.

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  • 1 month later...
Radiotowerdude

I have never been able to solve the backlighting problem. The only thing that lights up on the dash is the speedometer, and it's way too bright, with no adjustment. Replacing the headlight switch, and even the entire instrument cluster did not help. Funny thing, how the backlighting works just fine when the "light show" occurs when I start the car. 

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Radiotowerdude

Thank you! If I can find a new mechanic to get it running again, we will give this a try for sure. Wish I had known about the photocell years ago. It makes sense.

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