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Old 06-12-2013, 07:52 PM   #1
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Red face Headlight problems?

Hey guys maybe someone can help us on this. We have a 1991 Jeep Wrangler YJ
The headlights work good on dim but on brights after about 3-4 minutes the headlights start going off and on. Question: Any ideals? Is there a relay?
Our dimmer is in the handle on the steering column.
Any ideals or suggestions are very much appreciated. Thanks a head of time.

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Old 06-12-2013, 08:53 PM   #2
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If there isn't a relay I be surprised. Typically they wouldn't put full headlight current through a steering column switch.

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Old 06-12-2013, 09:05 PM   #3
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Red face

The column switch is like in a car? It works the turn signal and you pull it to you to dim or put brights on. To be honest I don't know if it is wired full current. Do you happen to know where the relay switch would be? And if the 91 YJ has a relay for the headlights?
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Old 06-12-2013, 09:09 PM   #4
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I have a '92. Give me a minute and I'll see if I can find the wiring diagram for you.
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Old 06-12-2013, 09:22 PM   #5
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The switch is overheating from current draw and it has a thermocouple. Makes them blink slowly. Here is a thread complete with other links and pictures on how to fix it permanently and get brighter headlights at the same time. Relays are cheap on Ebay or Amazon and it only takes a couple of hours.

http://www.wranglerforum.com/f8/best...de-195373.html
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Old 06-12-2013, 09:31 PM   #6
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1992 Headlight Dimmer Switch.pdf
The above link is to a pdf that I uploaded. The information shows where the dimmer switch is located on the '92. On my jeep the dimmer is operated by pulling back on the blinker lever. There must be a mechanical linkage to the switch in the dash. Check it out.
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Old 06-12-2013, 10:31 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jokerchief462 View Post
The switch is overheating from current draw and it has a thermocouple. Makes them blink slowly. Here is a thread complete with other links and pictures on how to fix it permanently and get brighter headlights at the same time. Relays are cheap on Ebay or Amazon and it only takes a couple of hours.

http://www.wranglerforum.com/f8/best...de-195373.html
X2 on you needing a new switch and on the relay mod, really makes a big difference getting rid of the weak old headlight wiring.
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Old 06-12-2013, 10:46 PM   #8
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The relay may be overkill. The switch is easily replaceable and it has enough beef to last for many years. Mine is likely the original and it has lasted 20+ years. If you have a lot of time on your hands then the mod is not a bad way to go.
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Old 06-13-2013, 08:59 AM   #9
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you need to turn them on and wiggle the connections at the back of each headlight. As you wiggle, I'll bet you'll find the problem.

Been there... several times on several YJ's. We've even ditched the plastic connectors and hooked each wire up to the lights you just got to keep track of top/left/right.

We call 'em winkin jeeps cause they'll wink at ya when hitting bumps on the road lol.
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Old 06-13-2013, 12:18 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jk'n View Post
The relay may be overkill. The switch is easily replaceable and it has enough beef to last for many years. Mine is likely the original and it has lasted 20+ years. If you have a lot of time on your hands then the mod is not a bad way to go.
The mod would take a guy like me no longer than half an hour to install and be back on the road. It's not hardly time consuming once you know what to do, and there are plenty of diagrams to help out.

Using relays to power the headlights is an absolute MUST on a vehicle such as the YJ, as the switch inside of the cab takes all of the current and passes it onto the lights. It's a horrid design, and you lose hundreds of lumens of light this way. The stock Wagners are relatively dull at night as most can verify. With a relay setup, the increased light output from the stock lamps is significantly higher and noticeable right off the bat.

I highly highly recommend setting your headlamps up with relays, and that includes replacing all of the connectors and wiring going to the headlamps. Start out with fresh wiring, not that old worn out and inadequate crap.
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Old 06-13-2013, 02:58 PM   #11
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^^ You sound like you know what you are doing. I am a master electronics technician registered and licensed in my state and would agree with you that I could do that. After having taught electronics and computer repair for over 30 years I can tell you that we are in the minority. Most folks would prefer to stay away from complex wiring like relays.

You can take this to the bank: The dimmer switch under the dash is beefy enough to last for years and years after being replaced. Only after about 15 to 20 years of constant use would the switch deteriorate to the point of causing significant loss due to increased resistance. The only bad design in my humble opinion MIGHT be the fact that there is a mechanical linkage from the blinker to the switch. The newer systems with low current and a relay is a better design because the weak link in that system which is the relay can be replaced easily and the steering column switch can live on indefinitely. The dimmer switch in the YJ is as strong as a relay would be. That is why I would advise just replacing the switch if it is bad.

It is more likely that there may be a bad connection at the headlight itself than a bad dimmer switch. That can be verified as stated above by just turning the lights on and moving the wires.
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Old 06-14-2013, 12:18 AM   #12
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^Absolutely, I love to tinker with wiring up stuff! Keeps my active mind thoroughly occupied.

However, you cannot deny the voltage drop from the battery voltage to the headlamp plug voltage. With a brand new switch I measured around 12.5v at the headlamp sockets, whereas the battery was at 14.6v. That's 2.1 volts of power loss, and that 2.1 volts can equate to around 200-300 lumens of light lost. That can make a big difference in how much light you get.

So for me, I will always run a relay to a lamp I use to illuminate the road
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Old 06-15-2013, 07:17 PM   #13
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Any circuit other than the battery will measure 12.something, not 14.6.
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Old 06-16-2013, 04:07 AM   #14
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Actually, while it is charging it will typically measure about 13.8.

Regarding the issue of relay vs. just replacing the dimmer switch there is no advantage to putting a relay in as related to wear of contacts. Both devices will produce about the same lifetime of usage because relay contacts are not some extraordinary device. They are pretty much the same as the contacts in the switch. It will add complexity to a system that will confound the next owner of the jeep as they will be looking for the dimmer switch under the dash when the problem is in the relay which was placed who knows where. I am an advocate of the KISS principle. That is why I say just replace the dimmer switch if the voltage drop across the switch starts to cause the headlights to appear dim. Simply measure across the switch. If the voltage is anything above zero (about .3 volts or higher) replace the switch. That goes for any switch in the vehicle. The voltage should be near zero when the switch is closed.

I have the expertise to install a relay. I would not do that in this circumstance. I would just replace the switch. I don't think I will own the jeep in twenty years - give or take - when the switch has to be replaced again but rest assured, the next owner will find the switch exactly where the factory put it.
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Old 06-16-2013, 08:26 AM   #15
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I'm not an electrical engineer or even knowledgeable on wiring but I do know this mod made a difference in the amount of light my headlights put out, could be as simple as replacing old corroded wiring with new, but there is a very obvious difference. this is a very popular mod on the other forum with many people seeing the same results.
while i understand some peoples desire to restore or keep a vehicle in stock condition I, like many here enjoy doing mods to my jeep and have already done enough changes to confuse the next owner, one more won't matter.
I do keep records with part numbers to document the changes and help ease the pain.
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Old 06-16-2013, 12:29 PM   #16
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Most people who purchase a jeep used like it when things to be repaired are pretty straight forward....translate: mostly stock. The most usual changes are with the suspension. All I'm saying is that unless there is some super duper benefit to a modification I recommend leaving it stock. Puting a relay in has absolutely no benefit other than changing the location where the switching occurs. There is no benefit to the actual lighting produced that wouldn't have been obtained by just replacing the dimmer switch. That is a fact. Other locations of difficulty in the lighting circuit are any connectors in the wiring harness and the connectors on the headlight itself. Any loose connection will cause a voltage drop which will prevent full voltage from reaching the headlight and thus the light will produce less than full brightness. The light is restored to full brightness when all problems in the line between the battery and the light have been remedied. Now there are always people who want the "Tim Allen" model of lighting for their jeep so that they can light up in front of the jeep like daylight and blind all oncoming drivers in the process. That is a different kind of mod which probably WILL require the use of a relay because the super duper uber light draws way more current from the battery than a stock light. In that situation I would advocate use of a relay to handle the increased current because not to would stress the stock dimmer switch too much and cause PREMATURE FAILURE of the component. If you still have stock headlights there is no reason to install a relay. Just replace the dimmer switch if it has too high a resistance (translate it drops too much voltage) as I had pointed out above -->.3 volts or higher across the switch.
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Old 06-16-2013, 10:27 PM   #17
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As has been stated, a relay takes voltage directly from the battery and passes it to the headlamps. The voltage does not pass through a mess of wires, then through the switch, then to the running lamps, then to the headlamp. It simplifies the path of electricity and reduces further issue with the stock switch. This also simplifies troubleshooting, as generally any such issue will be located within the headlamp relays, creating one open area for resolving conflict- rather than having to dig under the dash and pull the switch out, and also creating a simple path of wiring. I'm pretty sure I also said there is a significant voltage drop across the headlamp sockets which reduces light output, and wiring directly to the battery through relays is the only way to go, especially if you upgrade your headlamps. Under-driving standard Halogen lamps is not good for them (neither is over-driving them for that matter, but they like the voltage to be around 13 volts, that's what they were designed to operate at).

The YJ is based on antiquated technology. Personally, I think AMC f***ed up big time with the YJ wiring harness. There's so many issues with it, so much so that when I re-wire up my YJ the harness will mainly be handmade by me. Every single manufacturer nowadays fits a relay setup to the vehicles wiring harness to get every single bit of power to the headlamps as possible. Toyota figured that one out in the late 70's, why American manufacturers are so slow to get up to speed, I have no idea.

I will always recommend the relay upgrade. Besides, who cares if you wind up selling the Jeep. It's no longer your concern after that point, and if you did your relays right (it's not hardly difficult, even for a novice) then the entire setup will last until the Jeep has rotted away.

Spark notes:

The most significant advantage to going to relays is increased light output, and bypassing the piss poor factory headlamp switch. Otherwise you get less light output and risk having your switch fail on you- the price difference is negligible between upgrading to relays and replacing the headlamp switch.

-------

We can argue this to the end of the world, but you cannot deny the massive following behind the relay upgrade. It modernizes the whole setup, gives better light output, and ontop of that is a safer alternative to the stock switch. Agree to disagree if you wish, but this doesn't change the facts.
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Old 06-17-2013, 07:45 AM   #18
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The wiring harness presents no appreciable resistance to the headlight circuit unless there is a problem with it compared to wiring in a relay. That is given that stock headlights or an equivalent are being used.

Having a problem with the headlight connector will not be changed by the inclusion of a relay. Simply put on a stock headlight or equivalent there is no scientific reason to ad in a relay no matter how fancy you get with wording.
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Old 06-17-2013, 11:23 AM   #19
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The wiring harness presents no appreciable resistance to the headlight circuit unless there is a problem with it compared to wiring in a relay. That is given that stock headlights or an equivalent are being used.

Having a problem with the headlight connector will not be changed by the inclusion of a relay. Simply put on a stock headlight or equivalent there is no scientific reason to ad in a relay no matter how fancy you get with wording.
You have still missed the point of going to the relays. Increased light output and eliminating any further issues with the headlight switch. That is why people do it, that is why it is so popular. Deny it all you want, the facts are there.

And the problem does not lie within the connector, it is the inadequate wiring and the shoddy headlight switch. Contrary to popular belief, engineers do not always know what they are doing. If you swap to a better lamp, upgrading the headlamp harness with relays is mandatory, otherwise you won't get any better light output and you've essentially wasted your money.
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Old 06-17-2013, 10:35 PM   #20
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What I'm talking about is not a fluke. The switch is in every YJ ever made and has been time tested to last. Many jeeps still have the original switch in it and are working fine. There is no substitute for that kind of testing. The engineers could be taken to task if all YJs have had to have their dimmer switch changed out within the first 5 years or even in warranty. So the engineering of the system is not in question here. The average owner can be rest assured that changing out the dimmer switch will deliver many years of good service from the new dimmer switch. If the connectors to the headlights are causing problems, CLEAN THEM or replace them. Then get on with having fun with your jeep instead of engineering a whole new system! wOOt!

Call me a minimalist. I like old engineering and new engineering that works. New systems have their own share of problems. They use a lot of tricks getting signals from here to there with serial data links sending several sensor signals over one wire. Try troubleshooting that system when something goes haywire! (emphasis on wire) And they use relays! And wiring harnesses! So people still use bypass circuits to get the maximum voltage to the headlights. But this still needs to happen only when increasing the current of the load (using uber headlights with more output and thus requiring more current). If you are a headlight maniac....then this solution if for you. If you just want to make your stock system work and get on with the important business of wheeling your jeep, just get the old bird back on her wheels by restoring it back to functioning and get on with your life of being on the trail. Done.
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Old 06-17-2013, 10:42 PM   #21
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BTW, thanks for the great discussion on fix it or PUMP IT UP!
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Old 06-17-2013, 11:38 PM   #22
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run the new power wire and relays you wont regret it. if you dont know how and you take your time 2.5 hours tops.
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Old 06-18-2013, 07:42 AM   #23
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Don't do it it's not worth your time unless you are putting a wicked current drain on your stock system.
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Old 06-18-2013, 07:52 AM   #24
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I have been in the electronics industry for over 35 years (me beats chest here) and have seen all manner of unnecessary modifications to circuits from original design which have caused all manner of unintended results. So I go back to - if it was working properly for years and you intend to put it back to working as it was - just do the repair and leave it as it was designed. If somebody ubered up your jeep and you can't figure out what they did, put it back to its original configuration and then go from there. I'm not talking mechanical changes, I referring to electrical changes.
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Old 06-18-2013, 08:27 AM   #25
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interesting discussion, while I respect your experience I can't deny the difference I see in my headlights. when I did the mod my dimmer switch was about a year old, I had just switched to sylvania silver star headlights, although they were a little brighter than stock I had expected more. read about this upgrade and decided to give it a try. the difference is very obvious, they went from dull to bright.
also, when I installed the headlights and switch I cleaned the contacts with elec. contact cleaner.
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Old 06-18-2013, 08:40 AM   #26
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"when I installed the headlights and switch I cleaned the contacts with elec. contact cleaner."

This is key. No matter what you do, clean the connections. It didn't roll off the assembly line with dim headlights. And if you havn't changed parts, 9 times out of 10 its a dirty green cooroded connection somewhere.

Lots of good discussion, I'm waiting on the OP to update... Interested to see what they find when rippin' into it.
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Old 09-11-2013, 05:01 AM   #27
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I have a 92 2.5 my first wrangler but only my brights work and when it's on my signal work very slow or not at all when I switch the head lights off the signal lights work normally any idea why it does that?
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Old 09-11-2013, 11:29 AM   #28
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Grounds maybe??? Clean the grounds up on the tails and see what that does. The rears are grounded through the three mount bolts. Remove and clean may scuff the tub a little. If you are worried about rust use some dielectric grease from any parts store.

Check the proper bulbs are installed. You can also do the headlight grounds you will find them in the engine bay right behind the headlight cans one small bolt.

__________________
89 2.5 TBI, 4" RC lift, 1" Booms, SYE, Adams Driveshafts front and rear, Ford 8.8 with 4:88s, BFG 33X12.50X15, and a ton of other stuff.

AF Jeep Club Tail Number 184
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