The Studeblogger

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Better turn signal indications.

When I gave Barney his new wiring harness, I installed a full complement of brand-new instrument-panel bulbs of the type called out in the Owner's manual, #1445 bulbs in most locations. It quickly became apparent that at least two of them, the turn signal indicator and the Flight-O-Matic indicator lamp, were too dim to be seen in the daylight.

A Forum search turned up several threads on the subject, one of which is here. Folks in that thread recommended some other bulbs that would fit the space and provide more candlepower, so I tried those out and found them still wanting - I can barely see Barney's turn indicator when the signals are on.

So my Jameco catalog came and as I was leafing through it, I found LED replacements for bayonet-mount panel lamps - 12 volts at .30 milliamps. Unfortunately, searching their site turned up availability in only red or yellow LED colors, but a Google search found the white-light versions at Grainger. Grainger shows the LM-1012MB as a direct replacement for the 1445 bulb - for only $20 per item! I may not be a genuine CASO, but that's a little stiff for me.

Finally, another web search on the part number turned up a place called Bulb Town, whose site lists the LED "bulbs" for $13, a much more amenable price.  So I ordered a couple, which arrived in my mailbox last Thursday.

You'll notice that the package size of the LED is longer than the 1415 bulb that the factory used, but for in-dash lighting this is not a problem, as there is plenty of room in the gauge cases. I popped the LED bulb into the socket for the turn-signal telltale, and it was indeed notably brighter than the 1415, and very similar in brightness to the 1816 incandescent bulb that others have used. OK, one problem solved!

That left me with only one other issue: the flasher unit and its audible indication, of which there is barely any. Studebaker specified a 552 flasher can for this application. These are of the standard, bi-metallic strip design: A strip of metal inside the can, made of a laminate of brass and steel, is fastened at one end and makes contact with a stud on the other end. As electrical current passes through the metal strip, the steel side heats up faster than the brass, and the strip flexes, breaking the circuit. It cools, and contact is re-established. The cycle continues, and this is the way the blinking of the turn signal is accomplished. It's really a dirt-simple mechanism. I can only imagine, however, that the construction of these units has changed greatly since these cars were made, because the 552 unit I purchased new was 1) inaudible - no "tick tock" blinker indication, and 2) too fast - the first flash would be 1 second long, until the bimetal strip heated up, and then the flash cycle settled into a rapid blink of about 4 per second.

The Forum post on the issue had the solution: a "long life" flasher with an actual electrical relay inside, a much more robust mechanism than the bimetal strip. I was able to get this from my NAPA for a shade less than $9.00. It differs in appearance from the original style, but the package is virtually identical in size, and it plugged right in.

Woo hoo! Complete success! I now have an audible turn signal indication with a visible dash tell-tale, and turn signals that flash at a steady, noticeable rate. What a difference this makes! My son was a bit nonplussed by my enthusiasm for this improvement (maybe I did get a little too excited), but it sure is cool to have something that once again operates the way it was designed to.

As to the Flight-O-Matic indicator: the LED bulb package (and that of the 1816 bulb) is too large to fit into the lamp cover housing, so the solution to that problem eludes me for now.

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  • Thak you for your very, very helpfull blog.

    What about your turn signals one the back? Are they still red?

    In germany we need yellow turn signals at the back also. So I will move them in the white back lights and put some white LEDs beside them for driving back.

    63 Lark Sedan, old but new for me

    By Blogger sam, at 2:05 PM  

  • Hi Sam, and congratulations on your new Lark. I must ask - driving a Lark in Germany, does anyone ever assume it is some sort of unknown Mercedes-Benz? I have had that happen here in the US!

    Yes, my turn signals and stop lights are still all-in-one red units, as the factory built them.

    However, I know that Studebaker made Larks for export with separate stop and turn lamps, with the turn signals where the reverse lamps were located in US cars. Amber lenses were made to fit those lamps, and I believe they can still be had from Studebaker International. They may also have the "export" rear wiring harness, so that you could easily change out the wiring and lenses in the back without having to hack up the old wiring harness yourself. Email or call them and see if they can help you!

    By Blogger Clark, at 6:56 AM  

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