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1991 Trans Am headlight funkiness

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Old 04-14-2018, 07:43 PM   #1  
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1991 Trans Am headlight funkiness

Hi Everyone,

So I bought the car late last year and immediately parked it because it was the start of winter in Indiana.

I've been checking out the car more recently testing things and noticed some oddities with the headlights.

1. The passenger side headlight motor keeps spinning even after raising/lowering the headlight. The headlight functions fine and pops up/down quickly - the only issue is the motor keeps running. Stripped gear?

2. When I hit just the parking lights on the headlight switch the headlights raise but do not turn on. The headlights shouldn't even be raising. Any idea what that could be? Something with the switch?

I wasn't sure if I should post here or in Body - please move as appropriate.

Last edited by whostorm05; 04-14-2018 at 07:50 PM.
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Old 04-14-2018, 07:50 PM   #2  
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Re: 1991 Trans Am headlight funkiness

I have a 91 and it does the same thing. when I put the lights down the motor turns for about 3 seconds or so and if I hit the parking lights the headlights raise but do not come on
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Old 04-14-2018, 08:04 PM   #3  
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Re: 1991 Trans Am headlight funkiness

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I have a 91 and it does the same thing. when I put the lights down the motor turns for about 3 seconds or so and if I hit the parking lights the headlights raise but do not come on
Strange. I am 100% certain that my old 91 I had 20 years ago didn't do this. Let's get to the bottom of this!
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Old 04-14-2018, 08:05 PM   #4  
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Re: 1991 Trans Am headlight funkiness

Not the gears, but the three delrin bushings turn to dust over time

On Corvettes of similar vintage, I’ve replaced more than I care to remember.

Go to Advance Auto. In the Help section/isle,, look for a 3 pack of Ford window regulator bushings. Buy two packs. About 7-8 bucks/pack.

Takes about 30 min, each side.
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Old 04-14-2018, 08:34 PM   #5  
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Re: 1991 Trans Am headlight funkiness

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Not the gears, but the three delrin bushings turn to dust over time

On Corvettes of similar vintage, Iíve replaced more than I care to remember.

Go to Advance Auto. In the Help section/isle,, look for a 3 pack of Ford window regulator bushings. Buy two packs. About 7-8 bucks/pack.

Takes about 30 min, each side.
Nice. Is there a write up somewhere for how to repair them?
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Old 04-14-2018, 08:38 PM   #6  
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Re: 1991 Trans Am headlight funkiness

Assuming my other issue is the headlight switch, is there a guide somewhere for replacing the headlight switch in a Firebird? I"m assuming this is harder on the Firebird than the Camaro.
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Old 04-14-2018, 08:51 PM   #7  
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Re: 1991 Trans Am headlight funkiness

It's easy. On the side of the motor there are three screws, remove them and pull the gear/shaft out of the motor. Slide the plastic gear back off the shaft, and you'll see the shaft piece has three lobes on it, and the inside of the plastic gear has a triangular shaped opening with three round corners. There is supposed to be three plastic bushings in the corners that the lobes drive against to raise/lower the headlights. When the plastic breaks down, the lobes go further than they would normally.

The headlight switch is just as easy. Remove the knee bolster under the column, and the trim panel above the HVAC controls, there are about 4 7mm screws across the bottom of the gauge trim bezel, and another 4 across the bottom of the dash pad. Pop the bezel off, then there are 3 or 4 screws holding the headlight switch and dimmer to the dash. Remove the screws and the entire bracket with both switches just pulls out. On the back there are two plastic clips holding the switch in, carefully pry them up off their catches, and the switch will drop out. New one snaps in, reverse the steps.
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Old 04-14-2018, 08:51 PM   #8  
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Re: 1991 Trans Am headlight funkiness

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Old 04-14-2018, 09:01 PM   #9  
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Re: 1991 Trans Am headlight funkiness

Thanks guys!
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Old 04-14-2018, 09:15 PM   #10  
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Re: 1991 Trans Am headlight funkiness

What's the easiest way to get the headlight motor out? Remove the entire headlight assembly? I swear I did this once 20 years ago but I don't remember how I did it. lol
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Old 04-14-2018, 10:10 PM   #11  
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Re: 1991 Trans Am headlight funkiness

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Old 04-14-2018, 10:16 PM   #12  
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Re: 1991 Trans Am headlight funkiness

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Originally Posted by whostorm05 View Post
What's the easiest way to get the headlight motor out? Remove the entire headlight assembly? I swear I did this once 20 years ago but I don't remember how I did it. lol

I raise headlight (power off) remove the headlight bezel, remove nut on motor arm then the arm from the shaft. Next up are the 3 long bolts on the motor. A 10mm ratchet wrench is your friend here.
When pulling the motors apart, mind all the small parts, shims an small ball on top of the motor shaft.
One side is easy, the other is a bit harder because you have to pull it farther apart and deal with the motor brushes.
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Old 04-15-2018, 12:19 AM   #13  
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Re: 1991 Trans Am headlight funkiness

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One side is easy, the other is a bit harder because you have to pull it farther apart and deal with the motor brushes.
Weird. Did the pair for my green Firebird last year, and I've never pulled the top half of the motors. I remember one side took a little fiddling, but I never took it any further apart than the side cover over the gear. Hmm...
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Old 04-15-2018, 12:32 AM   #14  
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Re: 1991 Trans Am headlight funkiness

Lost a bunch of pics between now and then, but found a few in my archives...

Not tasty Parmesan cheese... What's left of bushings. LOL


Gear/shaft assembly and good bushings.


Motor rebuild, while waiting for new bushings.


Several vendors on Ebay sell replacement bushings. The ones I ordered were so cheap, I stocked up for other bird that still has the original motors.
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Old 04-15-2018, 06:45 AM   #15  
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Re: 1991 Trans Am headlight funkiness

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Weird. Did the pair for my green Firebird last year, and I've never pulled the top half of the motors. I remember one side took a little fiddling, but I never took it any further apart than the side cover over the gear. Hmm...
The lip on the one side of the gear with the pucks in it make it hard to remove. It won't slide past the drive pinion gear very easy.
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Old 04-15-2018, 07:49 AM   #16  
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Re: 1991 Trans Am headlight funkiness

I've ordered a repair kit and a new headlight switch. I'm worried that the headlight switch won't resolve the issue but I figured it's worth a try. It took a while to find a new switch that didn't have Lights Off labeled on the off button instead of just Off but I found one on eBay. I think it's an aftermarket piece but it looks identical to the stock one. Hopefully just the parking lights come on when I hit the parking lights switch once I get it installed.
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Old 04-15-2018, 08:06 AM   #17  
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Re: 1991 Trans Am headlight funkiness

Actually after reading some old forum posts the problem with the pucks may be why the headlights are popping up when I select just the parking lights. Maybe I didn't need the switch after all. I unplugged the motor and hit the parking light switch and the driver side (good) headlight still came up, so not sure what to make of that yet.

I think I'll try tearing into the headlight motor first before replacing the switch.
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Old 04-15-2018, 08:16 AM   #18  
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Re: 1991 Trans Am headlight funkiness

I should have read this post before ordering the switch: https://www.thirdgen.org/forums/elec...p-parking.html

At least three people confirmed that the bushings/pucks and the motor spinning after it raises/closes the headlight can cause the headlights to pop up (but not turn on) when pressing the parking lights button. I still don't understand why because the motor shouldn't be running at all since the headlights shouldn't open - but whatever. If this fixes it I'll be happy. Only one side is making the noise so I'll do it first and see what happens.

Oh well, at least I have an extra switch now.
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Old 04-15-2018, 08:29 AM   #19  
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Re: 1991 Trans Am headlight funkiness

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Originally Posted by whostorm05 View Post
Actually after reading some old forum posts the problem with the pucks may be why the headlights are popping up when I select just the parking lights.

I think I'll try tearing into the headlight motor first before replacing the switch.
Can't think of any reason the headlights should be doing anything with just the parking lights. But I do know you can tease the headlight/parking light switches and get some funny things out of the headlights.

Could always pop the switch open and have a look-see. It's a simple switch with a few brass contacts. Might be able to see a faulty connection. They're often packed to the gills with grease, which can leak out and make a mess. I have opened a few to clean and re-lube if necessary.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TTOP350 View Post
The lip on the one side of the gear with the pucks in it make it hard to remove. It won't slide past the drive pinion gear very easy.
That's right! I remember it was a bit of a pain, but I got it together eventually. I'm sure I didn't remove the motor screws because I'm phobic of snapping them off in the houshing, or launching brushes. hmm...
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Old 04-15-2018, 08:33 AM   #20  
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Re: 1991 Trans Am headlight funkiness

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Originally Posted by whostorm05 View Post
I should have read this post before ordering the switch: https://www.thirdgen.org/forums/elec...p-parking.html
Interesting thread. Let us know if the motor refurb solves the problem.
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Old 04-15-2018, 09:39 AM   #21  
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Re: 1991 Trans Am headlight funkiness

Drew.
I made a really cool brush holder out of 2 paper clips. And your breaking bolts is a warranted concern.
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Old 04-15-2018, 03:57 PM   #22  
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Re: 1991 Trans Am headlight funkiness

Admittedly I've never taken the motor half apart far enough to see how the business end is setup. Maybe someone will post a guide on resetting the brushes for future reference. But not me, I'm already finished restoring my headlight assemblies for the Greeno Bandito.
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Old 04-19-2018, 06:29 PM   #23  
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Re: 1991 Trans Am headlight funkiness

So I got the repair kit today. Got the passenger side headlight motor out and replaced the bushings.

I got everything put back together but the 10 mm nut that holds the lever to the actuating shaft on the headlight assembly doesn't want to get tight? At first I thought it was tight but tried the headlight and i could see the unit spinning but not raising or lowering - the whole arm assembly seems loose? Any reason why that wouldn't get tight?
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Old 04-19-2018, 07:18 PM   #24  
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Re: 1991 Trans Am headlight funkiness

Figured out part of the problem, I didn't realize the arm had to go on a certain way in order to fit flush. Figured that part out and got it on flush.

Now the damn nut will still not go on. It's the strangest thing. It will just spin and spin and never actually go on, I can just freely remove it.

Going to see if I can find another 10 mm nut somewhere.
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Old 04-19-2018, 07:25 PM   #25  
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Re: 1991 Trans Am headlight funkiness

Sounds like something got stripped or crossthreaded. As long as the threads on the stud are OK, you just need a lock nut in the right size.
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Old 04-19-2018, 08:33 PM   #26  
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Re: 1991 Trans Am headlight funkiness

I ended up getting tired and frustrated and tried to put the nut on backwards and the stupid thing went on. LOL It's tight enough that it's working properly so it should be fine. Next time I take it apart I'll fix it up properly.

The good news is that the headlight works without the motor running afterwards. All 3 bushings were toast.

My headlights also no longer pop up when I turn on just the parking lights. So the switch wasn't the issue after all, somehow the missing bushings were causing the issue.
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