Repair and General Information About Your Imperial's Headlights


Imperial Home Page -> Repair -> Electrical System ->Headlights

Tip from Tom- How to clean a headlight switch:

 To do this, carefully bend the tabs holding it together. They are fragile and can only be done a couple of times. The plastic part will come off and you can clean the copper contacts with contact cleaner or alcohol along with a scotch-brite pad works well. Lightly lube the contacts with a white lithium grease upon assembly and the switch should function for another thirty years. Another thing to look at while it is out, is the rheostat for the dash lights. Be careful not to damage the wire coil while cleaning it. There is a small contact that touches the coil that is usually dirty. Scotch- brite works well on the brass contact ring in the center.

Tip from Dick (1967):

On  the '67 and later Imperials, when the headlights flicker on and off, most often, this type of problem turns out to be either the circuit breaker on the back of the switch, or the dimmer switch (assuming you do not have automatic headlights, not sure if they were offered in 67).

More tips from Dick (1967):

Here are some tips on repair/rebuilding headlight switches on the '67 Imperial:

1. From the rear of the switch, I drilled away the swaged over ends of the potmetal posts that hold the plastic housing onto the metal front piece.

2. Then I disassembled the switch as far as I could without damaging anything.

3. This allowed me to clean and lubricate all the moving parts, and to burnish the electrical contacts inside the switch, and also clean up and polish the moving arm which slides over the contacts.

4. I checked the built in circuit breaker for continuity, and cleaned up its contacts also.

5. Then I removed the rest of the old pot metal posts from the metal front, and drilled and tapped the holes in line with the old post centerlines using a 4-40 tap.

6. Then I used some long #4 -40 fillister head screws, coming through the plastic body in the old post holes from the back of the switch, through the old post holes in the plastic body, to the holes I had drilled and tapped in the front piece to take the screws. There isn't much meat around the screw heads, so you have to use small headed screws, thus the choice of fillister head (sort of like a fat round pill, thick and with #1 size Phillips slots on it, but only maybe 1/4 inch in diameter head). I used Locktite #270 on the screws, so they won't back out from vibration. The screws need to be trimmed so they don't protrude from the front of the switch.

Problems cured on all 3 cars on which I've done this so far - and I expect the cure to be permanent.

Tip from Eric on burned out headlight switches:

There is a good website that gives a detailed instruction how to wire the headlamp circuit through a relay. This upgrade isolates the largest load from the headlamp switch using a fused link directly from the alternator as source of power to the power hungry headlamps. I have installed the relay kit from this site on my 1972 Newport. The specific relay upgrade site is at
An informative tech overview of automotive lighting is at The proprietor, Dan Stern, is an excellent help in this field. He is well versed in Moparaea...??

As most cars come, the power for the four 45-75 watt headlamps, the 10-15 running lights for some cars, and the many dashboard lights all route through the headlamp switch. I'm thinking that the digital dashboard probably takes more juice than a standard instrumentation light bulb system, but I don't have the specs. All this going through a standard switch that sees frequent duty could explain the burned switch problem. A relayed circuit would be the logical preventative medicine to preserve an unmelted switchbox.

Question from Kerry:

Is there a shade tree method of aligning headlights?  Something like park x feet from a wall.  Low beams should be y inches off the ground and m inches from the center?


From Dick:

Park on a level surface, 25 feet from a vertical surface, with the car aimed straight on at the surface.  Mark the wall with a horizontal line at the height of the center of the headlight bulbs, and also mark the vertical centerline of each bulb and of the car by sighting through the rear window and windshield so that you can know the exact aiming point of the car body. (You measure the distance from the center of the grille to the center of each of the 4 bulbs so that you can mark the location of the bulb centerlines.)

Now, block off (or disconnect) the outer two bulbs, and turn on the high beam lights.  Adjust the inner bulbs so that the "hot spot" of each bulb is centered 2 inches below, and exactly in line  (horizontally) with the mark made for that bulb.

Now, reconnect or uncover the outer bulbs, and switch to the low beams. Adjust the outer bulbs so that the main part of the bright spot is entirely just to the right of the centerline for that bulb, and just below the horizontal centerline.

If you are running Halogen bulbs, be kind to your fellow man and cheat the low beams a tad to the right and a tad lower than the above directions.

It's a personal choice, but I always set my high beam bulbs ( the inner two) right on the permissible upper limit and straight ahead, as I live beyond the outer reaches of civilization on a narrow country road, but I set the low beams (the inner two) a little low and a little to the right, to avoid ticking off some the oncoming drivers (yes, I do run Halogens).  That way, I have excellent night driving lighting on high beams, but I don't run the other guys into the ditch.

From Chris:

Easy way to check your headlamp aim with no tools: Park on a flat surface, like a parking lot, with your low beams on. Walk 25-50 feet directly in front of the car and crouch down while looking at your headlamps. You should see the "hot spots" of the low beams <<below>> the centerline of the lamps, and slightly to the car's right (your left, facing the car). Move around, and if you can see glare higher or to the car's left, you need to adjust the lamps.  Basically, imagine yourself as an oncoming car and logic will do the rest.

Question from Paul:

After about 10 minutes of driving, the lights on my Imperial  go on and off.  Is this a bad switch? 


From Brad:

That happened on my ' 78. There is a circuit breaker in the headlight switch that gets weak. Replace the headlight switch.

From Tim:

My own 1967 Crown has exactly the same problem. I've found that I can tell when it's about to start happening, because the headlight switch on the dashboard feels warm. And if it's sufficiently cold outside, I can actually delay the problem by opening the wing window near the switch and letting the breeze keep the switch cool. :-) I've been told that the problem is likely in the headlight switch itself -- specifically in the circuit breaker that's built into it. I've bought a new-old-stock headlight switch (on Ebay) and that fixed my problem.

From Steve:

Check the dimmer switch too...while you are at it. They are cheap, possibly you might want to consider replacing it or at LEAST check the connections.

From Chris:

Circuit breaker, I think.

From John:

Have the same on my '65 Crown.  The connector on the headlight switch was burned/melted.

Question from John:

My high beams are nice and bright, but they start to randomly flash off and on after a couple of minutes. The taillights and dash lights stay on, but he high beam dash indicator goes off/on with them. The low beams are stable. I've already put in a new dimmer switch. I've heard the headlights have a separate circuit breaker. Any ideas?  


From Jim:

Yes they do. The circuit breaker is part of the switch. I have had this problem many times and sometimes found it easy to fix and sometimes found it hard (neigh impossible on one car) The circuit breaker is being tripped because SOMETHING is drawing too much current. The job is too find out where that extra current draw is. #1 clean all contacts. The dimmer switch on the floor is exposed to all kinds of crud, water etc. pull the connecting wires clean the contacts clean & lube the switch, (replace?) then check the plug in connections at the firewall and where the wires plug into the bulbs. the under hood and grill environment is not a good place to maintain clean electrical connections especially after 20-30 years. Oh also check those pesky ground wires that ground the bulbs. #2 while you are 'running the wires' check for place where the insulation may have been scraped away and the power wires are grounding inappropriately.

From Michael:

Yes, there is a breaker at the headlight switch, and the description you give sounds exactly like the breaker. The dash and tail/stop lights have a different power source. Sounds like the high beams are just enough to trip it. Could the the breaker, or very high draw.  

Question from David:

I was driving home last night and my high beams were on and after a while they started to dim. I switched them back to low and they worked fine, I normally don't drive to much at night. When I parked the car I felt the fuse box and the fuse was hot. I removed the amp meter some months ago and had no problem as of yet. Has anyone had a problem with the lights flickering off when the high beams on.

Reply from Elijah:

Most likely you have a problem with the floor-mounted dimmer switch. I encountered this same problem on a dark, foggy night while driving through the Great Smoky Mountains -- NOT the kind of time that you want your lights to click off!!! Fortunately, the switch is easy to find and even easier to replace. Your local NAPA parts store should be able to track one down, or you can purchase one from Year One (1-800-YearOne).

Question from Glenn:

I'm currently having a problem with the headlights on my Crown. After turning them on they will blink on and of at an intermittent rate.  They will stay on for about 30 seconds and go off for about the same time. Any thoughts?  I have had some problems with the wiring on my car.  It ended off that somebody cut the primary accessory wire and then just routed it to the fuse box bypassing the juncture for all the accessories.  Also, since I've got the blower operating again, there is no heat or air coming from the defroster vents.  What should I look for here?     

Reply from Dick:

On the Headlights, this is your circuit breaker cycling. This is normal if there is a too heavy load on the headlight circuit, which since someone has been diddling with your car's wiring, could be the case (something extra running off the headlight circuit). Another cause of this is converting the car to Halogen Headlights without upgrading the rating of the circuit breaker. A third, and very common cause, is age deterioration of the circuit breaker, making it much more sensitive than it is supposed to be. If you narrow it down to this, buy a 30 AMP circuit breaker from your local NAPA store, and replace it. It is probably mounted on the headlight switch, it looks like a miniature bathtub with two screw terminals. If it is not on the switch, it is on the fuse block somewhere.

If you think this is excess load related, determine if it changes it's characteristic when you switch from high to low beams. If you find that one beam is OK, then look at the specific wires for the failing beam to see where there is a bad insulation or an unauthorized added load, like for instance fog lights. Anything that would go on and off with the headlights. If you've got the blower making noise but it is not moving air, it sounds like your vacuum diaphragms are not operating. There is one particular vacuum diaphragm which controls air to the defroster, but I cannot locate it for you without digging out the manual and looking, and you can do that too. It matters whether or not your car has ATC, also. If you cannot locate the right diaphragm, let us know, one of us will dig out the books and tell you how to find it. Check for vacuum hoses off or misrouted. The other possibility is a rat or mouse nest inside the air plenum - those who live in the desert are very familiar with this problem. Just take stuff apart until you find the blockage. I hope you have a FSM to work on this critter, you are going to need it to sort out these types of problems.

Question from Carl:

Is there anything I need to know about converting my '68 to Halogen bulbs.

Reply from Dick:

The conversion to Halogen headlight bulbs often hastens the day when you need to replace the built in circuit breaker on your headlight switch. When I made this statement a few months ago, someone challenged me with their observation that the Halogen bulbs do not pull any more current than the originals. This may be, but for some reason, they do seem to hasten the demise of the circuit breakers. Perhaps it is caused by a different time characteristic (current surge) when the power is first applied to the Halogen bulbs, I don't know, but there sure seems to be a definite relationship. The breakers are in stock at any NAPA store, and to be sure, I'd upgrade them by at least 5 AMP from whatever is in your car. I don't know for sure without looking, but I do know I've been putting 40 AMP breakers in my cars when I have this failure. I have had this experience sooner or later with every car I've put Halogens into, which does in fact include my 68 Imperial. 

In an emergency, to get yourself home with electrical problems in your headlight system, you can always temporarily use your handy clip lead (6 feet of #12 wire with alligator clips on each end, you do carry one of these, right?) and connect directly from the + side of the battery to one of  the low beam terminals on one of the headlights. Plug the harness back into the light, and both sides will come on (of course they will stay on when you try to turn them off, so you'll have to take the clip lead off when you  park.) 

If your loss of headlights was due to a circuit breaker tripping, they should have come back on in a minute or so, and should have stayed on as long as you avoided using the high beams. Since they did not, I assume the breaker has failed permanently, or else your dimmer switch has failed. If  you have the automatic headlight dimmer system, it is possible the failure is in that system also.  

Follow-up from Carl:

The headlamp switch looks like it's practically a sealed unit. Are they designed to be taken apart? In addition, all the wires that attach to the back of the headlamp switch are riveted in place and then join up with the wires from the panel dimmer at a female connector.

Reply from Dick:

I see your problem: it does appear from the FSM that the circuit breaker is incorporated within the headlight switch itself. This is a first for me; it is only your visual inspection confirming that fact that convinces me that such is the case, as I've never seen this situation before. Before you decide you need to dissect or replace the headlight switch, let's confirm that this is indeed your problem. If you can plug the switch back into the 10 pin connector, but leave it hanging loose so you can probe the contacts, do so and turn on the headlight switch. You should have 12 volts at the B1 terminal (the Black #12 wire) and also at the H terminal (the Light Green #12 wire). If you do, your problem is elsewhere, not the switch. Also, if you don't have 12 volts at either terminal, your problem is elsewhere, not the switch. If and ONLY if you have 12 volts on the B1 terminal and NOT on the H terminal with the switch on, is the problem internal to the switch. So, let's confirm that fact before beginning what may lead to your having to locate a replacement switch. If that is the problem, you are going into uncharted territory by disassembling the switch. Proceed with caution - I cannot tell you any more without doing it myself. I have personally taken apart many headlight switches, and have always been able to repair their problem and get them back together, but this does take gentleness, patience, a good light, and alertness to note every part location and orientation. If there is a bathtub shaped metal device, about 3/4" by 3/4" by 1" inside there with two screw posts on it, then they used a standard circuit breaker, and you can find a replacement at any NAPA auto parts store. The original was only 20 AMP, which is not adequate for your Halogen headlights. I've found that you need at least 30 AMP on a 2 headlight car (my Packards) and I'd guess at least 40 AMP on your 4 headlight car to be sure it won't overheat after a long time on high beams. All the standard circuit breakers are the same size and terminal configuration, you need only replace the old one with whatever rating you need. The existing wire is adequate. If the incorporated circuit breaker is something other than the above, (and assuming it checks bad with your Ohmmeter), you can bypass it inside the headlight switch with a piece of #12 wire, and install a standard circuit breaker in the B1 wire external to the headlight switch (which is how these things are usually done).

Question from Bill:

When I  turned on the lights there would be a clicking noise form a circuit breaker.  After a couple of these clicks, it would die. I could hear another click and  it would start. Over and over.  Any ideas what the problem is?

Reply from Dick:

Sounds like you have a really bad short in your headlight system. The clicking you hear is the circuit breaker in the headlight circuit disconnecting from the car's wiring to avoid burning something out. You will need to track this down before you can turn your lights on again. Apparently the short is so bad that it is pulling so much current from the system that the coil voltage is dropping too low to run the engine. Wow! Probably a bare wire rubbing on metal somewhere in the headlight harness. If your car does not have an automatic headlight system (either "twilight sentinel" or automatic dimming), a very likely place to look is around the dimmer switch. In fact, just for information, see if the short clears when you switch beams from whatever it is now to the other one. If that clears it, it narrows down the location of the short.

Question from Carl:

What is the difference between the 1034 bulbs and the 1157 bulbs?

From what I see, both are 12volt dual filament bulbs, taillight, brake light and turn signal (signal/brake on the same filament), is there a wattage difference?

The 1034 is specified for the rear of the car but from what I could tell the 1157 would work just as well unless there is a gross wattage difference...

Oh, I also heard that the 1157 is available in a halogen version, does anyone have info/websites on that?


From Bill:

Years ago an old timer that ran one of the local service stations (back when there was such a thing) told me that the 1157 was just a heavy duty version of the 1034, otherwise the same. I am sure there is a little more to it than that but what I got was it was ok to use either. If you want to know if they are compatible, the answer is yes.

AS far as them being available in halogen surprises me. Maybe my thinking is way off but the application for these is usually for brake, parking and turn signals lights. Aren't the halogen more for headlights? I would think they would be too bright and if used in the rear tail lamps confuse people that the brakes may be on. Probably off base here. Only half a cup of coffee so far.

From Mikey:

Yes, 1157 is a 1034. There is also a version used in heavy over the road trucks and I think it was a number 198. The difference in that one is the filaments are a bit heavier duty to resist the breakage from the inherent vibrations found in heavy trucks and trailers.

As far as swapping the bulbs go, the same as any other bulb....if the physical characteristics of the bulb are the same - number and position of contacts , the voltage and the candlepower or wattage is the same, go for it. I know there will be some differences of opinion here, a good parts store with a bulb buyers guide can confirm or deny if a bulb will swap.

There are halogen brake and tail lights available, they are brighter on both filaments, so the apparent brightness when you apply the brakes versus the tail light is there, other drivers can tell when you have the brakes on....but initially it can look like the brakes are on when its just the tail lights. They aren't terribly expensive, you find them in some of the performance magazines, Mopar magazines and such. I have heard that they do tend to run a bit warmer, so if you have a close proximity to lenses and are worried about a meltdown...think about that. I have heard of folks drilling small vent holes in the reflector area of their brake and tail lights (not the lenses please) to relieve this heat, have no idea if it is really a problem or not as I haven't tried them yet.

From Mark:

I was looking on the web and found replacements for 1157's. Company is called LEDtronics. They're expensive:. ~$50 each bulb. Seen them as low as $38 though. 

Follow-up from Chris:

Interesting find! I checked out this site and the LED bulb replacements seems to exhibit the effect I mentioned in my post. That is, the light emitted by the LED cluster doesn't seem to diffuse far from the bulb itself, so rather than a lamp illuminating to the shape of its lens, you seem to see just the round clump of light in the middle.

If you think about the LED systems used on cars (Cadillac Deville tail lamps, Mercedes S-Class brake lamps, many center-mounted stop lamps, new truck tail lamps and new traffic lights), you can see that the LEDs are distributed in something of a honeycomb pattern throughout the shape of the lamp.

On cars from our Imperials' era, the reflectors were usually painted matte silver to help diffusion of the bulb. Since conventional bulbs throw the light in a nearly spherical pattern, this works well. Replace that bulb with an LED, all of whose light is sent directly outward, and I would think you'd lose the diffusion almost entirely. To simulate this effect, remove the bulb socket and shine a flashlight through the hole. When you look at the lamp from the outside, you see only the shape of the hole.

Unless a tail lamp has a serious diffuser behind the lens by design, you'll probably get this "hot spot" effect. A diffuser is a second lens mounted behind the outer red lens, usually clear/white but with a fine pattern all over it that renders it more translucent than see-through... It works (like obscure or frosted glass in a house) to conceal the bulb position and spread the light throughout the lens shape. Cars typically haven't come with diffusers since the 1980s, and even then they were far from universally used.

Even on modern cars with their crystalline clear-red lenses (where you can see the bulbs even with the lights off... something I personally find rather inelegant), the reflector behind the lens tends to be both chrome-plated and fluted to reflect the bulb into an overall pattern. The reflector distributes the light, rather than the lens itself.

As much as the LEDs offer nearly infinite life, faster illumination and low-energy, low-heat lighting, conventional bulbs still work well, last a long time, and provide the warmth and glow that our cars' stylish tail lamps generate so well.

Question from Roy:

Back when sealed beams were really sealed and came in two sizes, both of them round, you could go to just about any gas station or garage and get your headlights adjusted, but that seems to have gone the way of a lot of other things. I recently went to a half dozen places including Pep Boys and Midas, only to be treated like I came from outer space! I went through the yellow pages and got much the same response, with a few suggestions of going to a body shop. Well the shop where I had my car painted did not offer any help, nor did a few others that I called. I even called the local official light and brake inspection station and was told that they only inspect but don't adjust! Although I can't seem to find it, it seems one of my old textbooks had a diagram of a headlight target. Can anyone provide me with a diagram or dimensions of a headlight adjusting target? And what happened to all those headlight adjustment boxes everyone had? Did they go to the same place as the vacuum tube testers that were in every drug store?


From Ken:

I find that I can get my lights adjusted very well by trial and error. Do you have a garage with level ground in front of it? I pull up to my garage door, so the front of the car is about ten feet from it. Just by looking at the lights on the door, you can see pretty well how they are off, left-right/up down. Just get them so the "look" lined up with the car. Of course you want them pointing down a bit. Just a "bit" though. Rough guess would be if the headlight is 30" off the ground, then you would want the center of the beam maybe 27". Just guessing here to give a general idea. Left to right is real obvious and easy to see/correct. Up and down may take a few tries. If you have a car about the same height of the one you want to adjust, with good lights, park it first, turn on the lights and make marks with a marker pen, for both high and low beam, and be sure to label which is which. Then pull the car to be adjusted into the same spot, and adjust the lights to match it. Anyhow, once you have this reference point/marks on the door, you can drive the car, decide if the lights are too high or low, come back and lower or raise them an inch or two at a time until perfect. Now, if you have no garage, the parking lot behind a big store will work, using the cement wall as your "target board". Or, a big enough piece of cardboard would work. Might have to tape two together. Just be sure you always park the car the same distance from it.

From Bob:

Ken has a good idea, so I'll add mine. It's not hard to do--I've never had a light box or even used my garage door. All you need is a nice, dark street with few or no parked cars, a Phillips head (cross-point) screwdriver and a couple of old bath towels. The adjusting screws are at the top and 3 o'clock position (be careful not to loosen the screws that hold the retainer ring which number three). First, park the car at the curb in a conventional parking place, turn on the low beams and cover the right headlight (it helps to take someone with you but if you're alone, you can pop the hood and tuck some underneath). I adjust the left headlight to show about 300 ft. just to the right of the left hand edge of the lane you are parked in. Then I cover that lens and go to the right. I aim slightly below (closer to the car) and to the right just illumining the curb (or where the curb would be if you're on a country road.) This should put your high beams at an acceptable level for oncoming cars. Then I cover up both right hand lights and the low beam left side. Adjust the high beam to illuminate approximately one city block away more to the center of the road. Cover both left lights and the right low beam and do the same with the right light. When you're finished, cover both low beams and look at the high beam pattern. Uncover everything, put the headlight doors (why to they call them that rather than rims?) back on and drive home.

Question from Cliff (1954):

Look under the hood of my 1954 imperial and the wiring will scare you. Much of the insulation is brittle and coming off. Everything was still working until recently. Now my headlights only come on occasionally when the switch is first pulled out and then they go off. Dash lights will not work either. Does this sound like switch or wiring problem? Also is a wiring harness available for this car or would I have to make one up?


From Paul:

Given the condition of the wiring that you described, it could be either. I first would try cleaning the switch and other connections. Check around for loose strands of wire which could give you trouble. Even if this works, eventually you will have to bite the bullet and replace the wiring, at least the ends that exposed and frayed.

From Roger:

I'm in the middle of installing a new wiring harness made by Rhode Island Wiring. Look for them under "W" in Hemmings. I sent them my old harness to duplicate as they had the New Yorker harness in their catalog, but the Imp has some length under the hood over the NY. So, now they should have the Imperial harness in their latest catalog. I've installed their harnesses before and they look wonderful with fresh bright colored cloth insulation and they have pretty good instructions. I'm also upgrading to the park brake warning light, tho I don't have the bulb socket or the switch, but then my birthday is coming next month........anyone want to surprise me?...:)

Once that cloth insulation gets to the age of our treasures, it seems to fall off if you look at it==with the potential for some pretty scary shorts.

From George:

I used Rhode Island Wiring service to replaced the wire harnesses in my 1949 New Yorker. I did the whole care bumper to bumper. All ther harnesses were original in material & color. They fit perfect. There service was fast and the cost was reasonaable. Check out there web site:

From Arran:

It looks as though we have the same good taste in cars. Regarding your problem, as a temporary measure, I would replace the wires from the cowl foward and splice them into the existing wiring under the dash. I would recommend handling replacing each strip at a time and try to match the existing colour codes so you can folow the diagram later on. The wire in these cars was of good quality when it was new, heat in the engine compartment is what breaks the insulation down, even modern vinyl covered wire will start to go bad under these conditions. Most of the wire from the cowl back, provide the rats didn't get at it, should be in better shape, though the power window cables in the doors are usually toast from bending too much.

From Ernie:

Rhode Island wiring Service makes harnesses for 54 New Yorkers, probably would fit. Be prepared to pay about $1000 for a complete set. Pricey, yes, but consider the alternative of a major fire trashing your toy.

Question from Ernie (1958):

Does anybody on the list know what brand of lamps Imperial used in '58.

Reply from Philippe:

According to W. Graefen book about Chrysler 300C, the bulbs (for '57) were supplied by GE (General Electric).
" (..) they have the wide-fluted glass pattern with the "GE" script logo placed in a 5/8" dot in the center of the face of the bulb. A 2nd supplier was also used during this period (..) Tung-Sol brand (..) TS logo in the same location..."

I think it's the same for '58 cars.

Question from Tony (1961):

I was driving my '61 convertible and noticed that my headlights have an odd pulsating low-bright pattern, around twice per second. If the car is at rest, there is no pulsing, but at acceleration the effect is most noticeable. I'm sure it looks odd to the folks ahead of me on the freeway at night, throbbing in their rear-view mirror. Any clues on what would cause this and how I would be able to stop it?


From George:

1. check the voltage regulator at fast idle (or higher), it may be "cutting out"...but then your charging gauge would be doing the dance as well.   

2. Likewise with the main ground strap. 

3. Generator output (with the engine 'turning' above 1200-1500RPM), versus what's coming out of the regulator. 

4. The circuit breaker for the lights (although it doesn't sound like they are going off all the way). #2 would be the likely culprit (at idle the generator doesn't put out more than the battery, which is why they don't flicker then....but they will {or should} dim) The lights suck a lot of power, so for them to dim off and on would suggest the charging system is having an on/off event, the voltage regulator (at least on my old GM's) has a point setup to tell it when to open and close (the bright=charge, dim=battery). OR your alternator battery output is going to something else.  Something else (take your pick as long as it is electrical) could be borrowing the juice, or worse shorting to ground. If the lights do their thing while parked (and the engine running above idle) pulling a few fuses one at a time might be a wise hunt.  Feel that light switch, see if it is warm (the dash rheostat will be a little warm after a while, be it shouldn't be too hot to touch), likewise with the wires under that dash!  

From David:

I've had the same problem with my '64 since I bought it about 10 years ago. In the course of maintenance I've replaced the voltage regulator twice, replaced the voltage dash gauge for another reason, checked and cleaned grounds, checked out the alternator, replaced the battery, all with no change. With mine, it's a small flickering of the lights and dash lights, in a range from just above idle to about 2000 rpm, I'd say - doesn't do it (or isn't noticeable) under acceleration or at idle in drive. But the pulse of the flickering does vary with the engine speed. I kind of like the idea of the voltage regulator trying to charge a full battery - an "on-off event", but I know that these cars didn't do this when new. I think I'll look some more at the grounding...

 From Dave:

When you see this happening, look at your ammeter. If the lights are "bobbing" in sync with the wiggle in the charging system, then it is probably time for a new battery. You don't notice it at low speeds because the regulator is applying full field due to the slow alternator speed, but when you speed up, the alternator supplies more current and the regulator starts chopping the field in little spurts...hence the wiggle from the needle. The newer cars used a transistorized regulator since the electronic ignition used after '72 does not like fluctuations...but I digress.

From Elijah:

Try a new voltage regulator. This fix solved a similar problem for me a few years back.

From Richard:

Do all the testing with a voltmeter across the battery terminals. Battery should be at least 12 volts, when disconnected from car. Should stay at 12 volts when cables reconnected. Should read between 12 and 14.5 volts when idling. Voltage should increase slightly when headlights turned on (does w/ electronic voltage regulator), should also increase slightly when just above normal idle. All readings DC voltage, slight AC voltage (less than 1-2 volts) is ok, but higher readings may indicate alternator diode or regulator failure. If possible connect a test ammeter between the battery terminal and the + battery lead in the wiring harness. Operate the lights and other accessories one at a time and look for one drawing an excessive amount of current. I wouldn't suggest starting the car with the test meter in the circuit as starter draw and charging current could possibly fry the test leads of typical low current meters. I once shorted the battery lead on the alternator to ground through a wrench on the valve cover bolts (blowing the diodes in the alt), don't know what other inadvertent shorts can do the same thing. Bad grounds through mounting bolts, corroded wires and connectors under the hood, and cracked or loose battery cables and clamps are very common and can cause all sorts of intermittent charging problems. Before tearing a lot of things apart, make sure you've got a good battery (steal the one in the other car if in doubt), and then go back over (or disconnect) whatever electrical problem(s) you were working on JUST BEFORE the light problem started. We having a saying in my business (custom software and other related headaches): fix one, break one.

From Frank:

Chryslers, earlier than '69 (I think) use mechanical voltage regulators. I'll bet that the relays in your unit are not calibrated or working correctly. I only vaguely remember what they looked like internally, so I can't really help too much. I replaced the mechanical regulator on my '68 with the better electronic one. It requires a slight re-wiring of the charging circuit, but results in better voltage control. Put a voltmeter in the car and watch the value. Should stay between 13.8 and 14.5.

Question from Joe (1962):

How can you tell the left headlight from the right? Does it make a difference? I would guess that all '61 through '63 Imperials are the same.

Reply from Jay:

In each '61-'63 headlight cluster, one headlamp in the cluster is a smidge more forward than the other. It's not that noticeable unless you take a yardstick or some other straight edge and lay it across the face of the headlight bezels.

Unfortunately this prevents the cluster from being interchangeable left to right.

Question from Joe (1962):

When wiring the headlights on a 62-62 Imperial which side does the power feed go to? Do you then use a jumper wire to the other side, or are there feed lines to bothe sides?

Reply from John:

The wiring harness comes down the drivers side & then continues on to the lights on the passenger side. The '61-'63 are all the same.

Question from Gale (1964):

My headlights are no working.  I replaced the lights & fuses - why don't they work????? 


From Frank:

The headlights are not powered through a fuse. The circuit is protected by a circuit-breaker (thermal type) that is integral with the headlight switch. I don't have a wiring diagram for a '64, but check that there is power to the headlight switch, and headlight power from the switch when it is "on". Work backwards if the is no supply voltage. Work forward (to the lights) if these is output voltage. Don't forget to check the ground wires from the headlights to the body ground screw.

From Dick:

There are no fuses in your headlight circuit. There is a circuit breaker, probably mounted on the headlight switch. These seldom fail, however. The most likely place of failure (if it involves just the headlights themselves) is the dimmer switch. Usually, when a car sits for long periods of time, the contacts in the dimmer switch build up a coating of oxide on them, and often just pumping the switch button 1000 times will bring it back to life. If not, or you're in a hurry, you can replace the switch, it is an off the shelf item. Does your bright lights indicator come on and off when you operate the dimmer switch? If you have a shop manual, it is easy to trace from the headlight switch to the dimmer switch wires, to make sure that there is power to the switch. If not, you're have to climb under the dash to identify the wire. It goes through the bulkhead connector to the engine side of the firewall, and that's another place where things can get cruddy.

From Ron:

Have you checked the headlight switch? They have a built-in circuit breaker that very well may have burned itself out. Do any of the other lights come on? Also check the firewall connector blocks to make sure they are clean and tight. If corroded, buy electrical cleaner to clean them. Radio Shack and others carry it.

From Julee:

I was having problems with the headlights in my '66 Imperial as well. I replaced the switch and that turned out not to be the problem after all. It was not the clamp on the battery, but a "ground" wire that lead to the battery, which was bolted with a nut and bolt to the side of the car, right beside the battery. It was as simple as tightening that bolt.  

Question from Alan (1965):

I have a '65 LeBaron that has flickering headlights/ dash lights. Any thoughts?


From Elijah:

Replace the points-type voltage regulator with a solid state regulator. Year One ( has a solid state regulator that's an exact replacement, looks just like the original, and only costs about $10.

From Ross:

Had the same problem on my '63 Catalina wagon that I bought last fall. Turned out to be a bad headlight switch.

From Bill:

Without seeing it , it sounds typical of a bad regulator. Even "new" ones can be bad.

Question from Jim (1965):


On my 1965 Imperial, the high beam headlights are on very dim when engaged from the switch. They are only normal if you ground the power side of the high beam. We've checked all wires and bulbs but I am at a dead end. 


From Norm:

Change the headlight dimmer switch-there's only one.

Follow-up from Jim:

I've already changed the dimmer switch and tried new headlights themselves. We've been working on the wiring all afternoon. As I said we get good lights if we ground the power side of the high beam headlight.

From Joe:

Be sure to check the ground for the headlights (and the new dimmer).  It will usually be somewhere near the radiator. A corroded connection there will cause lots of loss in the connection leading to dim lights. Also check the body ground wire from the battery negative terminal. Some mechanics have been known to remove them. They have to be there for proper operation of lights and various accessories in the car. This is usually about a number 12 or 10 AWG wire, so, it should be easy to locate. The ground wire for the headlights should also be at least a number 12 or better.

From Jim C.:

Sealed beam headlight bulbs have 2-3 wires. One wire is power to each filament (high or low beam) the other terminal is the ground. Follow the wires, one will lead to a terminal that is screwed to the fender or either sheet metal. remove the screw holding the wire to the fender then wire brush or sandpaper the contacts until they are shinny clean. Lights are generally very simple to troubleshoot.

Question from Rodger (1966):

I only have parking lights. The head lights at one time would go on. Then I realized that three miles from the house they would go completely out. Now I have no head lights. I can get away with dusk or dawn driving with the parking lights for a little bit, but it is getting old.


From Dick:

Probably 90% of these cases turn out to be oxidized contacts in the dimmer switch. Try turning on the lights, then clicking the dimmer switch 187 times - I'll bet you a week's wages that the lights come back to life. If you have twilight sentinel or automatic headlight dimmer, all bets are off, though.

I'm totally in the dark (no pun intended) about how these systems interlock with the stock dimmer and headlight switches, but I know that, at least in some years, the dimmer switch had to be left on "high beam" position for the automatic dimmer to operate. If the stock dimmer switch were left in the "low beam" position, the automatic dimmer did not work at all, and the lights stayed on low beam. This means that you could still be suffering from the oxidized dimmer switch malady, so as you say, I think it is wise to do the 187 step fandango on it before replacing parts.

Similarly, (and in contradiction of something someone said here the other day,) the Twilight Sentinel will work correctly only if the main headlight switch is OFF (not "on"), at least in the 1968 models.

From Bill:

The headlight switch is bad on your '66. I have been through this on both my '63 & '66 at one point. The '66 I had the same problem. I was able to get an after market switch that was basically identical to the original thru Jeff Carter (come to think of it, it may have been a NOS) here in Seattle. He only charged me $3,000.00 for that part. Just kidding. It was $45.00 I believe. I should be good to go in that area for another 37 years. You may well be able to get the same part from a parts house for less, but if not check with Jeff Carter on his website at:  If you are the old fashioned type like me you may write him at: 20815 52nd Ave W, Lynnwood, WA 98036 phone 425-672-8324, fax 425-771-2522. For both the '63 & '66 I got the switches from Jeff. Also, just for you '63 and older Imperial owners, Jeff is one of the only & most surely the best when it comes to rebuilding the Electroluminescent gauges in these cars. Also, he rebuilds clocks, either original mechanical self winding, or places a quartz movement inside. On my '60 I insisted on the original mechanical, and it ran quite well, even if it did need adjustment occasionally, but the quarts he had already done on the '66 when I bought it. He also calibrates the gauges, and refinishes them to factory spec. He will also rebuild window, seat switches, etc...

Question from Rodger (1966):

So its off I go into the coolness of the Saturday night. It doesn't take long and I have gone from head lights to a need for candle lights. It would be OK to drive around all over the place, but I'm afraid that some un-watchful driver would just un-watch a left turn into us. Its no head lights until the car has cooled off.

Reply from Dick:

Change the circuit breaker on the headlight switch. These are thermally operated, and when they get old, they get over sensitive. You can buy a replacement at NAPA - get the 40A one to be sure, especially if you are going to convert to Halogen headlights.

Question from Erik (1966):

Help!! I think that my headlights are possessed. Both dim light work fine, but when I turn the brights on, the drivers side dim light goes out, and the driver's side bright light doesn't come on. Both lights on the passenger's side come on though. Sometimes after pressing on the dimmer switch to turn the brights on it returns to to dim position. Is this a problem with the switch, or??? 


From Dick:

The outer bulbs have two filaments. When you switch to high beams, the "dims" are supposed to go out. The reason your outside left bulb goes totally out when you switch to high beams is that the high beam filament is not lighting, probably because the bulb is partly burned out. If neither left side bulb lights on high beam position, either both bulbs are bad or you have a wiring problem. The dimmer switch is connected to both sides of the car, and since the right side is OK, the dimmer switch must be OK. The business of it returning to the "dim" position after you have switched to brights is possibly your automatic headlight dimmer just doing it's job (if your car is so equipped)- it is enabled when you switch to the brights, and if the sensor sees a source of light that is bright enough in front of the car, it will dim your lights automatically. If this is your situation, the next time this happens, put your hand in front of the automatic beam sensor (the thing with a lens facing front, probably on your dash board  and it will switch back to high beams as soon as you shield it from ambient light. If your car is not equipped with the automatic beam changer, then I'm all wet (again), and you've probably got a bad dimmer switch.

From Gary:

I have had this problem before, my problem was found to be with the headlight switch itself , when I hit the dimmer switch my lights would go out and only have dim lights, it was found that the light switch on the dash (through age) would no longer handle the full power of all lights on any more.  I put in a relay and it cured the problem permanently.  This was successfully done with a number of my cars.

Question from Gary (1966):

I have a 1966 Imperial Crown Coupe and decided to take it out for a cruise.  When driving at night, sometimes my headlights go out for about 5 sec. then come on again, this happens a few times... any ideas of what I can do to fix this problem?


From Philippe:

It's the circuit breaker who breaks the circuit : too much amperage (i.e. halogen bulbs or a grounded bulb or a too thin wiring) or breaker needs replacement. Don't know where is the breaker ; in '57 it's a built-in affair in the switch. I've a friend who has a '66 cad%"*ac and he has the same problem; he has halogen sealed beams and when he put high beams on, the breaker cut after 15 or 20 s.

From Jim:

Sounds like the circuit breaker for the headlights. It might be overheating (worn out, bad connections or whatever) or you may have a short and its just tripping like its supposed to. Unlike the circuit breakers in a house, these reset themselves automatically for obvious reasons. I've never had an Imperial do what you describe but a 1950 Studebaker once did it to me all night. We finally found that the luggage in the trunk had pressed against a tail light wire causing a short and it made the breaker keep tripping. Your Imperial shouldn't have any exposed wires there but there's plenty of places things in the lighting circuits can get shorted.

From David:

Sounds to me like you have a dead short somewhere, that is tripping the circuit breaker in the headlight switch. Had a Buick do the same thing. Turned out to be the license plate light on the trunk lid. Isolate the different circuits until you find it. 

From Jay:

If you have the automatic headlight dimmer (that periscope thing that protrudes from the dash top just in front of the driver) the dimmer might be trying to switch from high to low beam (or vice versa) and the relay could be at fault.

I had an auto-dimmer on my '66 Crown. Large road signs had a tendency to reflect the high beams back into the dimmer sensor. The resulting high-low-high-low cycling of the headlights would cause the relay to temporarily fail (perhaps overheating or something like that) and cause all the headlights shut down. This happened to me one time a curving mountain road. With no moon out, it was quite exciting. Talk about adrenaline rush!

Deactivating the automatic dimmer circuit will return your dimmer switch to manual operation.

From Dave:

You didn't mention if your '66 has the auto-high beam control eye on the dashboard. This could also be a problem that would create your symptom. It could also be the switch as was mentioned previously.

From Greg:

There has been much discussion on intermittent headlights on the 66 Imperial. The original switches were only riveted together, after time and use, the rivets become loose causing intermittent and heating within the switch. If left for an indefinite period, the heat can and will destroy the plastic connector that joins the switch and the wiring, not to mention the switch itself. I suggest replacing the headlight switch with one that is riveted and SOLDERED, this type will provide many years of service.

Another problem with mid '60's Chrysler products is lack of locking washers on the ammeter connections. Many Mopars left the factory with only 10/32 nuts holding the wires on the ammeter studs, over time the nuts become loose causing all kinds of electrical malfunctions, because much of the cars power circuits passes through the ammeter circuit.

Question from Greg (1967):

The headlight switch on the dash of my '67 Imperial is acting up. If I flip the toggle to the middle position, the taillights and dash lights come on as they are supposed to, but the "parking lights" in the bumper up front do not come on (no front lights on at all). The turn signals operate just as they are supposed to, as do the large "cornering lights" with the Imperial Emblem. BUT, if I flip the switch all the way on, the headlights come on and EVERYTHING else goes out (turn signals still operate normally and even make the back lights blink as designed..... just no running lights). Any ideas? Should I just replace the switch? Does it sound like a thorough cleaning of the switch itself will be enough? Anyone had a similar problem?


From Chris:

The lamps in the front bumper of a '67 are not parking lights, they are only the turn signals. Yes, they have dual-filament bulbs, but they are both jumpered together and are used simultaneously for the turn signals.

The front parking lamps are the lower bulbs in the large, lovely wraparound lamps in the fender corners. They should only come on when the headlamp switch is in the middle position, then they shut off when the full headlamps are switched on. (The upper bulbs in these lamps are the cornering lamps, which come on when the tail lamps and turn signals are BOTH on.)

If the headlamp switch makes all the exterior lamps go out, you possibly have a short, if not a bad switch. but first, replace the bulbs for the front parking lamps and see what that fixes. Sometimes just having all the bulbs in working order can solve a mystery such as yours.

From Dick:

Chris's reply covers just about everything on this matter - I would only add that if you have no running lights (defined as tail lights and license plate light) when the switch is in the headlight position, (and we know you do when the switch is in the park position) there is definitely a problem internal to the switch. The running light connection is the same for both switch positions, and since it works in one position and not in the other, there must be no connection internally when the switch is supposed to provide it in the headlights "on" position. Very likely, if you carefully disassemble the switch and inspect it, you'll find a burned contact or a distorted slider in there - you're on your own to create a fix and reassemble the switch.

The turn signals, cornering lights and brake lights are on completely independent circuits, there is no interconnection or shared component with the parking or running lights, so the fact that they operate normally really has no bearing on this matter.

Question from Tim (1967):

Last night the flashing headlight problem happened again, and I found  that the headlight switch lever on the dashboard was pretty hot at the time. When I turned off the lights and let things cool down a bit, the problem went away. Apparently that's an indication that the switch itself and/or its relay need to be replaced.


From PEN:

I am going to guess that at some time the front carpet of your '67 was replaced or removed and replaced. At that time, the wiring harness going to your dimmer switch was exposed from its nest in the original carpet under-layment. Ever since, someone's foot or the carpet has been rubbing on the wiring harness or stretching it or bending the socket going into the dimmer switch. If you fold back the carpet and look at the wiring, you are likely to see that some of the electrical tape wrapping has melted somewhere between the dimmer switch and the bulkhead, and you will find bare wires together going up to the bulkhead connector. This is what is causing your brights to flash on when your lights are in dim: as the dim wire grows warm, it is grounding against the bright wire and sparking away. Replace the wires and protect them against friction where the carpet meets the floor. 

From Elijah:

In that case, you probably have a bad switch (which you're on your way to solving), or loose wiring at the switch. The wiring connectors at the switch can loosen up over the years, resulting in a connection that still transmits current, but which has a high resistance, resulting in high levels of heat. When you pull your old switch to install the new one, closely examine the plastic block and associated wiring that's connected to it. You can tighten the crimped connections with some small pliers. It's also a good idea to clean all the connections with some good contact cleaner.

From Dick:

If the heat is coming from the switch itself, and you are able to replace it with a new one, you're probably out of the woods. The "relay" is most likely the circuit breaker that is wired to the switch and in fact is mounted right on the switch in some cars. These are readily available at NAPA for just about any car. I recently bought one for my 55 Hudson right off the rack in a bubble pack - it is an exact replacement. If you are going to replace it just because, this is the time, because they are cheap and easy to get at when you have the switch out. If you need to, you can take the switch apart and clean up the contacts and tighten all the spring tensioners, and get many more years out of the old switch, if you get to it before it has cooked the phenolic resin to the point where it falls apart. In other words, do it sooner rather than later! In your original post on this flashing light problem, I think I remember you saying this happened whether or not the lights were turned on, and that sent me off thinking about bare wires touching something hot in the area of your starter relay, which as I recall had also failed at about that time. Am I all wet here? Maybe I'm imagining this? Anyway, if the switch is getting hot, and the heat is not just being transferred from something else near it (like the dash light dimmer switch, which can get very hot at some settings; that is perfectly normal), then your headlight switch needs help, anyway.  

Follow-up from Tim:

When the problem is happening, the brights (which are, of course, separate lights on the 67) flash too, even if the dimmer switch on the floor is not in the "bright" setting. But no, the headlights don't ever flash if they're not switched on at all (as far as I know!). I brought up the flashing headlights in the context of my spectacular non-stop starter and melting battery cable insulation episode, because the headlight thing had happened just before that. I think that's what prompted you to start thinking there might be a short involved. But now that the starter trouble seems to be fixed (involving replacement of the battery, starter, and cables), the headlight trouble continues, so I think the two problems must not be related after all. Sorry to have introduced a red herring... 

I've been keeping my dash light dimmer switch at the brightest extreme. Am I right in thinking that's where it will put out the least amount of heat?

Reply from Dick:

Yes, maximum and minimum brightness (read: off) are the two settings where, theoretically, the rheostat is coolest. Mid-brightness setting can make it get quite hot, that is why it is mounted in a porcelain block. Thanks for clearing up some of the fog on the headlight flashing. There is a still a puzzlement, though. If the dimmer switch is in the low beam condition, and yet the brights flash when this phenomenon occurs, there is something occult happening here! I think I asked before, but I don't recall the answer - does your car have the "Twilight Sentinel" or the automatic dimmer system? This changes a lot in the headlight wiring, and we need to be looking at the right page in our clue book!

Question from Bob (1968):

How hot should my head light switch get when using my lights.

Here is what I done to the car I have installed a new head light switch that I bought from car quest it is wired right D>2 told me how to wire it. And it has worked great until now. When I stop at a red light or just stop my voltage gauge drops below the center of the gauge and when I step on the gas to move it goes back to charging the battery. Last night I blew a fuse that is on the back side of the switch and the switch was really hot. Were would be the best place to look to fix this problem or does the switch get this hot just from the amount of voltage that goes thru it.


From Kate:

It sounds like the switch you obtained can't handle the amperage, and could cause fire problems, which you don't need. Many headlight systems run power through a relay to the switch - I am not conversant with how you are set up, but this sounds like a viable option.

From Matt:

The first thing coming to mind is a bad stop light bulb wherin the end of a broken filament has swung around and made a shorted contact with other elements inside the bulb. I would have thought his switch would have a circuit breaker built in. Evidently it has a fuse. Under a normal load the switch shouldn't get hot and if it gets too hot it will ruin the switch so the sooner the trouble is found the better. Investigate the bulbs first. It could even be the wrong bulb for the application causing a short circuit at the base.

From Demetrios:

If you wired it the way I have wired the switches in both my 68's, it should not get hot, unless something went wrong. The current going through it should be enough to activate the relay, and the relay has a bunch of resistance, so the current cannot get high (unless you applied a very high voltage, which I am sure is not happening in your case). It is possible that the relay is muflunctioning, and is shorting out or something. Try replacing that relay. Its cheap, and real easy to get to. Or, if you have a multi-meter, check the resistance between the triggering wire and ground, it should be plenty of Ohms, like over 10. Another possibility may be that you did not wire the relay right, but it would probably not have worked at all in that case. A hot switch can be bad news.

By the way, I have only installed relays for the low beams, because I almost never use high beams for extended periods. If you use high beams for extended periods, you would have to install one for high beams too. That would be done exactly the same way you did with the low beams.

From Eric:

I understand those switches are hard to find / expensive. I'm finding some benefit with crimping down the female connectors at my high power drawing plug-on connectors. After 30 years of being heated and cooled with general usage and with the vibrations accompanied with driving, the metal female connector ends have a tendency to open up. When they do this, they lose an effective consistant tight connection which builds heat. I take the metal pick in my Leatherman's pocket knife and use it to lift the holding tang on the connector to release it from the plastic plug housing. With the connector out of its plastic holder, I can then do a clean up of the connector and crimp down the rolled sides to make a tighter fit to it's male counterpart.

Putting a relay in the headlamp circuit would be the preferred way to extend the life of these switches. An excellent site for this upgrade is:
Dan also supply's the needed equipment under the "Products" part of his website:
The effect of this upgrade is to reroute the 100+/- watts that would normally run through the headlamp switch and send it through a relay instead. The end effect is that you are only running the small amount of power that the relay uses through the headlamp switch.

I've replied with this info a number of times for you hot-headlamp-switch syndrome Haze Green Era folks, has anyone made the upgrade with the result of a less hot headlamp rocker switch? With the cost of these switches, the relayed circuit upgrade would be a cost effective (ask Dan if he still offer's his MOPARite discount, he's mopar sympathetic) preventative maintenance procedure. $45-55 for the relay plus a couple bucks in wiring and connectors vs $100 for a NOS switch just makes $ense. The installation is very easy, I installed one in my '72 Newport and only had to putz around the front of the engine compartment to mount the relay and do the necessary wiring from the alternator and headlamps.

Question from Bob (1968):

I need some help with my light switch. I called Atlas and they do not have one so I bought a universal one. Here is the problem: In the book I have on the '68 Imperial this is what is listed in the wiring diagram for the switch.
On the new switch this is what is marked on it.
Tail with 2 screws.
I need to get my lights working before I leave for Carlisle and on Monday it goes to the body shop to get some work done on the door so I am running out of time. If some one on the list knows what these symbols are on the switch it would be a great help to me I know what the letters are after the numbers there is a code in the book for that the for the letters on the switch.

Reply from Dick:

H-12LGN is a heavy light green wire which needs to go to the Head terminal on your new switch.

B1-12BK is a heavy black wire which needs to go to the BAT terminal on the new switch

B2-16P is a thin pink wire which needs to go to the BAT terminal also.

R-18BK is a thin black wire which needs to go to the Tail terminal on the new switch.

P-18Y is a thin yellow wire which needs to go to the Park terminal on the new switch.

This switch is not designed for a car with cornering lights, but by hooking the new switch up this way, I think they will work OK.

Don't throw away your old headlight switch, they can be repaired.

Question from Joe (1968):

I have a question I have bought a new old stock dimmer switch for my '68 Imperial and it is supposed to be here on Friday. My question is how do I get the wires out of the plastic connector so I can put the new wires back in the plastic connector?

Reply from Steve:

Typically a new switch does not come with a new plastic connector. You just pull the old switch off and plug the new one in. If yours is melted and you are getting a new one you will also need to get some new pins to replace the ones in the melted section. If you just plug the same heat damaged ends in you will melt the switch again (you can also add headlight relays to lessen the load on the switch)

Hmmm.. All that and I didn’t answer your question… The wires are typically held in by a metal tab on the connector. You push the metal tab back in and pull the wire out. I have a very small spring hook that works well for this. Once you get the wire out bend the locking tab back out again and put the wire in the new connector. Do them one at a time so you don’t forget which one goes where (been there done that).

Question from Tom (1968):

How can I increase the headlight output on my 68 Imperial without risking damage to the electrical system or blinding other drivers? Don't use the car at night a lot but when I do the headlights leave much to be desired. They are yellowish and weak.


From Phil:

Clean all the ground connections...over the years, these connections corrode and sometimes develop total resistance. The wiring diagram in the appropriate shop manual will help you locate all of them. I cringe every time I think about all the $ my son and I put into his Jeep trying to fix a rough running engine...I finally checked the ground strap that connected the engine block to the firewall...the connection was covered with white fuzz with enough resistance to make the engine computer malfunction. Now, I check the grounds first.

From John:

Replace them with halogen bulbs.

From Joe:

I had halogen inserts in the freestanding headlights in the '63 Lebaron and they worked great. They weren't sealed beam halogens they were special french type with the replaceable bulb inside. I could change the wattage by what bulb I used. The lenses had a different beam pattern than standard sealed beams. When I sold the car I kept the inserts and will put them in my '65.

From Bob:

Have you checked your ground wires. I have found out on cars that I have owned that when you get a bad ground that the lights will be a dull yellow.

From Demetrios:

In addition to all the good suggestions you got, install a light switch relay. This will not only improve a bit the intensity of the lights by reducing the total length of wire and thus resistance the current goes through, but it will reduce/eliminate the chances of your head light switch going bad on you. As you know, these switches is a typical problem on the '67-'68's, they are almost impossible to find, and extremely difficult to replace.

I have relays on both my '68's. I have the relays only on low beams, as I rarely use high beams. If you use high beams a lot, install two relays, one for the high and one for the low beams. They are very cheap and easy to install, if you don't mind a non-stock little item up front. But if you use your car at night, the last thing you need is a head light failure in the middle of the night.

From Eric:

There is a good website that can explain in further detail about headlamp upgrades at Note the relay and front side marker
flash upgrades in the Tech section, and the Cibie' lamps mentioned below are in the Products section.

The old SAE standard sealed beam headlamps that came as standard equipment on our cars are just plain miserable. They give a small patch of fuzzy, inefficiently diffused light. US government restriction was loosened in the early 1980's to allow manufacturers to upgrade headlamp design. This is when freeform lamps with replaceable bulbs became the norm.

The European standard, or E-Code, headlamp lens design allows for a wide swath of undiffused light, as opposed to the fuzzy little patch of the SAE US spec lens. There is a cut-out in the lens pattern that blocks light for oncoming traffic, while still spreading the beam further to both left and right. Hella, Bosch, and Cibie' are the likely brands you would find at an import parts house that would have E-Code headlamp units. Typically, an E-Code lamp will not be a sealed beam, meaning it has a replaceable bulb
which then allows for higher wattage bulbs. If higher wattage bulbs are used, this can present problems in that you are sending more juice through the headlamp switch that was designed for lower wattage use.

In the Tech section of the above link, there is a section on installing a relay in the lighting circuit. Installing this relay minimizes the wattage
going through the headlamp switch which allows for higher wattage bulbs. Installing a relay would be a benefit to any headlamp circuit even with
standard headlamps to increase the switch's lifespan.

Another way around the high wattage problem is to consider the Cibie' CSR headlamps in the Products section in the above website. Cibie' has made a technological advance in that instead of scoring the inside of the glass lens to bend the light being reflected by the typical smooth silvered metal reflector back of the lamp unit, they use a mostly smooth glass lens with a precisely sculpted plastic reflector back. This plastic reflector back has been scored to make greater use of the light being produced by the bulb, allowing for a substantial gain in efficiency of light. In comparison with some Hella E-Code lamps I have, these Cibie's produce an even lighting whereas the Hella's are comparitively patchy in light distribution on the road. These Cibie's also incorporate a 5W 'city light' that I use as a daytime running lamp in both low beams.

I have replaced the old sealed beams on my '72 Newport Custom sedan with these Cibie' CSR lamps. I have standard-ish wattage bulbs in them, and I have them running through the above mentioned relay installed in the headlamp circuit. The difference over the old sealed beams is literally brilliant. I can see! The right side of the beam pattern is vastly improved, throwing the light much further down and further out on the right hand shoulder of the road. I have now lighted many a jogger/deer/pooch that would have remained darkened. Driving safety is unquestionably improved. The light cut-out on the left side of the beam sufficiently blocks the light for oncoming traffic but allows for more light spread to the left side than a SAE lens design. Correct aiming, as with any lamp, is needed and E-Codes are able to be more precisely aimed than the old fuzzy SAE sealed beams.

Question from Tom (1968):

How can I increase the headlight output on my '68 Imperial without risking damage to the electrical system or blinding other drivers? Don't use the car at night a lot but when I do the headlights leave much to be desired. They are yellowish and weak.


From John:

Replace them with halogen bulbs.

From Jim:

I had halogen inserts in the freestanding headlights in the '63 LeBaron and they worked great. They weren't sealed beam halogens they were special French type with the replaceable bulb inside. I could change the wattage by what bulb I used. The lenses had a different beam pattern than standard sealed beams. When I sold the car I kept the inserts and will put them in my '65.

From Bob:

Have you checked your ground wires . I have found out on cars that I have owned that when you get a bad ground that the lights will be a dull yellow.

From Demetrios:

In addition to all the good suggestions you got, install a light switch relay. This will not only improve a bit the intensity of the lights by reducing the total length of wire and thus resistance the current goes through, but it will reduce/eliminate the chances of your head light switch going bad on you. As you know, these switches is a typical problem on the 67-68's, they are almost impossible to find, and extremely difficult to replace.

I have relays on both my 68's. I have the relays only on low beams, as I rarely use high beams. If you use high beams a lot, install two relays, one for the high and one for the low beams. They are very cheap and easy to install, if you don't mind a non-stock little item up front. But if you use your car at night, the last thing you need is a head light failure in the middle of the night

Question from Tony (1971):

My '71 Newport last night to go get some things at the store and when I got ready to take off, the headlights would not work. I found this very strange due to the fact that they were working fine 30 minutes earlier.. Any help??? I am thinking the dimmer switch but I am not sure how to test it to see if it is bad or good....!


From Mikey:

Typically the headlight switch does not use a fuse, there is usually a circuit breaker built into it. The classic symptom of that is the lights will work then blink off as the breaker pops then they will work again then go off and etc etc until the problem is fixed.

Id say dimmer switch, as it is the next link between headlight switch and headlights. IF you have that sentinel system then I'm not entirely sure, otherwise here is all you need to do to check the dimmer.

Unplug the dimmer, take a 12 volt test light and clip one end to ground, any chassis metal should work, then take the test probe end and touch the center terminal of the plug that goes to the dimmer, if you have power there then the electricity is going from the headlight switch down to the dimmer. If not, then its upstream at the headlight switch most likely.

If you have power at the center terminal of the dimmer switch plug, take a short piece of wire and go from that terminal to either of the other two plug terminals and when you turn the headlights on one set of your lights should work, hi or lo will depend on what one of the two outer terminals you connected to. Then go from the center terminal of the plug to the other outer terminal and the other set of lights should come on.

The dimmer is just a single pole double throw switch, it sends power from the headlights to either the hi or the lo beams, they are cheap to buy and easy to install and rather generic for a lot of years.

From Eric:

My '72 Newport had a dimmer switch go out on me. At the most inopportune times, when changing beams, I would have nothing, resulting in a mad stomping on the switch to get them back on. A new (old) switch cured the problem. This yr/model has the 3 position pull out headlight switch, not the toggle switch as some earlier models had. My previously owned '67 Crown Coupe had a bad headlamp switch that would need some coaxing once in a while. I've heard that soaking the beam change switch in oil and then a good workout w/the switch part of it revives them, haven't tried that yet. If the '71's had the toggle switch, I highly recommend installing a relay into the headlight circuit, as described here

From Dick:

My advice is to turn on the headlight switch, then pump the dimmer button until you are blue in the face and your foot is getting tired. I'm betting the lights will come back on and function properly - just watch the wall in front of the car an you'll see them struggle to come back to life.

There is no fuse in the headlight circuit, but there is a thermal overload circuit breaker that is built into the headlight switch, and these are famous for getting weak in their old age, and if you have converted your headlights to halogen bulbs, you've helped it along the road to failure. If the dimmer switch isn't the answer, you can bypass the original circuit breaker fairly easily, but you have to remove the headlight switch to get at it to bypass it. Then you can add a replacement circuit breaker inline with the power feed to the headlight switch to restore the original safety of the design.

If the dimmer switch exercise brings it back to life, then you need to remove that switch from the floorboard (it's easy!), take it apart, and clean the bejabbers out of the contacts to get all the 37 year accumulation of crud, congealed grease etc. off the contacts. It is a simple device, easy to take apart and put back together. Put it back together and it will be good for another 37 years, or you can sue me (I'll be 107, and probably won't have any money left!).

Question from Mark (1971):

Since I got my '71 painted I've started obsessing about everything else on the car, and I wanted to know if anyone could recommend something to clean the headlight doors.  It's not the chrome I'm worried about. I have some chrome cleaner that works fine on that. It's the dull aluminum looking areas, which I believe is called an "argent" finish. I want to clean these areas, but I don't want to change their appearance to shiny. I'm afraid my chrome cleaner will cut through the argent finish.

Reply from Chris:

The "argent finish" is, alas, just paint. A dull silver-gray on a textured surface. But this is a good thing! Year One sells correct argent silver paint in an ordinary spray car, and you'll be pleased with the results of cleaning, masking and respraying the inserts on your headlamp doors. I restored the grille surround on one half of my '72 Charger and you cannot tell the difference between it and the original surround on the other side.

Chrome cleaner won't necessarily cut through the paint but it will leave residue in all the texture.

You might also find the argent silver spray paint at your more attentive Mopar dealer's parts department, as I believe it is sold through the Mopar Performance catalog. Ask for it! (About $7/can.)

Question from Travis (1973):

My '73 imperial now has an annoying buzz that it does when the headlights are on. I have looked in my shop manual but cant figure out what its trying to tell me. Any ideas?  


From Al:

Remove your head light cover motor and try giving it a good lubrication.

From Kerry:

The buzzer means that your headlight doors are not fully open or closed I have a '73 Monaco, '73 Imperial and a '73 Lincoln, and a '76 Imperial Wagon and they all have that buzzer.  I find that when the weather changes from hot to cold that they all do that and I get out and move the doors one way or the other and it stops, also it helps to lubricate the springs too. It happens when they sit a lot also!

Question from Matthew (1974):

The headlights won't come on. The bulbs are fine, and all the other running lights work, so it's not the switch. My Chilton's book says that they are on a circuit breaker. Can anyone tell me where it is? This is my first Imp and there are more wires in this car than any other car I have ever seen. Thanks in advance...


From Elijah:

One possibility is the dimmer switch located on the floor. These little guys commonly go bad and can cause some annoying problems.

From Mark:

DEFINITELY checkout the dimmer! That was the problem with mine. I found out only after pulling the original switch from the dash. It had simply come unplugged...

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