Car problem - advice needed!

Discussion in 'Off-Topic Chat' started by DaveR, Jun 17, 2006.

  1. DaveR

    DaveR Active Member

    I've had an intermittent problem with my dipped headlights for some time and I now need to ask for some advice!

    They keep going onto dim-dip (i.e. sidelights with the engine running) for no apparent reason. It can go for months without being a problem, then for a while they are completely unreliable. Main beam is fine, as are sidelights (engine off) and dim-dip (engine on).

    I used to be able to fix it for a short period of time by leaving the headlight switch on dipped headlights (position 2 if you consider position 1 being sidelights) and switching the engine off. This brings them back to proper dipped headlights, and they often stay working properly for a good period of time - sometimes for weeks on end.

    Until tonight that is. I went to the car this evening, and no matter where the switch was, I only got sidelights / dim-dip, whether the engine was running or not. Again, the main beam was fine. What worries me most was when the switch was turned to position 2, there was a brief smell of burning. Now I'm no mechanic (anybody who knows me will tell you that I am totally mechanically inept) but even I recognise that this is not a good sign.

    I suspect the relay unit because I have heard it clicking in and out when the problem has been happening. Now, as at this time of year I hardly ever drive in the dark my main concern is stopping the car bursting into flames (until I can get the unit replaced). If I was able to find the relay and take it out, would that make it safe? And what would happen to the lights; would they be permanently off, or would they always be on dipped headlights, even when the switch is in the sidelights position? Or would they not work at all?

    Any help you can give would be much appreciated! Oh, by the way, it is a 1998 Rover 114 GSi, in case that make any difference.
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2006
  2. BigHorn

    BigHorn Active Member

    The first thing you should check is the bulb holders/contacts. When oxide builds up on these (white powdery deposits) then anything can happen due to the shared negative earting system. Just clean them up with a wire brush or emery paper. Also make sure there is no moisture araound the contacts. and spray with WD40. 99% of problems with lights (apart from blown bulbs) are due to earthing problems. I doubt it will turn out to be the switch.
  3. DaveR

    DaveR Active Member

    Thanks - I'll have a look at these later today. Would that explain the burning smell whenever the lights are first turned on though? :confused:
  4. BigHorn

    BigHorn Active Member

    ooh err... perhaps not. sorry missed that. Sounds like a new switch is in order.
  5. DaveR

    DaveR Active Member

    Ok thanks - I'll check the contacts anyway because from what you say they may need doing!
  6. andyp

    andyp Active Member

    It's not a Ford, is it?

    I'm guessing it is and it's between L/M and about P reg or so (the dim/dip law was brought in then and then abolished by those interfering bueurocrats at the EU!). I have an N reg Escort and it has the opposite problem, sometimes only the dipped headlights come on, no other lights inside or out! And the main beam sticks on when you dip odd times, too.
    My problem is with the switch stalk itself though, if you tap it on the end all the other lights come on! I just live with it as I can't be bothered to take all the steering column etc to bits (and I'm not keen on messing with the airbag either, as it's explosive).
    Fords are bad on earthing too, always have been. I'd say your best bet is a proper auto electrician, but it probably won't be cheap (unless you know one!). It's one of those "takes an hour to find but 30 secs to fix" kind of things, infuriating.
  7. stephen2001

    stephen2001 Member

    Sounds more like a dodgy switch more than anything else. I don't think it would be too much of a pain to sort out.
    A copy of your car's Haynes manual might help.

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