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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Dear Alfisti,

Just thought I would share with you my latest battle with my 1976 (Series II) Alfa Spider 2000's electrics. On several occasions during this winter of long cold nights I had attempted to switch from MAIN beam to DIPPED beam only to somehow end with NO beam! The headlamps would switch off completely and only be restored by frantic wiggling of the headlight stalk.

This was, I thought, a trifle inconvenient. My wife, a passenger on one of these occasions, put it rather more strongly as we hurtled blindly through the pitch darkness …

So what was going on?

Well it quickly became evident that it was a bad connection somewhere inside the control column mounted switch that controls the side lights, headlights and indicators.

I suppose I could have tried squirting stuff inside the switch, but I just thought this was too important to not fix properly so I decided to remove the switch and refurbish it. To this end I figured I needed to remove the steering wheel. Well, as many threads on this forum testify, this is not necessarily as simple as it may appear. I tried, with a variety of pullers and hardened bolts, and failed utterly and miserably to shift the wheel.

So then I asked myself, could I get the switch out with the steering wheel still in place?

And the answer is YES!

If you are faced with a similar problem and want to know how I did this then please read on ...

Removal - Step One

Take the instrument shrouds off the speedometer and rev counter. This allows better access and more light to reach your target area of work. A small self tapper needs to be loosened at their base and then they pitch forwards and off. They are probably identical but I am paranoid so store them separately to maintain L and R.

Removal - Step Two

Disconnect the battery. You will be waving all sorts of metal tools near the fusebox so this seems like a prudent act.

Removal - Step Three

Remove the upper and lower plastic covers from the steering column. They are held on by four or five bolts into the lower shroud, and you will need a small metric allen key to undo them, as well as a flexible spine! The lower one falls off easily; the upper one needs to be withdrawn carefully and can be a bit of a struggle. Fortunately plastic bends a bit. This exposes the headlamp/indicator column switch and its cunning twice-wrapped around the steering-column return spring.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
contd.

Removal - Step Four

Dismount the fusebox by removing the two mounting screws which hold it to the frame. This allows you to tip it forward and will greatly facilitate removing contacts.

Removal - Step Five

Trace and record all the connections leading from the column switch to the fusebox, indicator connector and the flasher unit. Here is what I found on my car, but this may not be exactly what you have so please do make your own record.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
contd.

Removal - Step Six

Carefully disconnect all the above wires and pull the column switch mini-loom clear. Make mental note to visit chiropractor …

Removal - Step Seven

Disconnect one end of the indicator switch return spring. The trick here is to get a lot of light on the subject and, preferably, magnification. I have one of those lamps that do both, i.e. they are like an angle poise lamp but the lamp is circular and surrounds a magnifying lens. Ideally suited for this task as it allows you to see what you are doing without requiring a third hand. Use a screwdriver to tension the metal hook one way and needle-nosed pliers to slide the loop at the end of the spring off the hook. It can be done … I promise you!

With a bit of luck the spring is now dangling free and has not flown off into hyperspace!

Removal - Step Eight

Use an allen key to remove one of the most accessible of the four bolts that retain the switch on the column. Get another identical allen key and callously hack it down using an angle grinder so that the short end is only about 1cm long. This purpose-built wonder tool should now allow you to get at those two less accessible bolts and remove them. Make a note of which bolt is which, as the less accessible ones are shorter.

The column switch should now be free!
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
contd.

At this point I realised that to clean the contacts of the headlamp switch I would have to remove the hollow rivets that hold the unit together. There are ingenious threads on this very subject, but I thought I would treat myself to a replacement unit as my switch stalks were pretty corroded and unsightly. Classic Alfa does a deal where if you send them the old unit for reconditioning you get a discount, so this is what I did. The new unit arrived the very next day after ordering!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
contd.

Encouraged, I set about reassembly. This was always going to be harder, but I came up with a cunning plan worthy of Baldrick (see below).

Fitting - Step One

Referring to your notes, refit all the spade connectors at the top of the still-dangling fusebox, the indicator 2-way connector, and the flasher unit. I would now recommend that you reconnect the battery and test the new switch for function, as what follows is quite tricky and it would be annoying to do it all and find there was a problem and have to do it all again. Why do I say this? Because that is what happened to me! Fortunately it was a small problem. It turned out that the 2-way indicator connector on the reconditioned column switch was wired upside down (or else my car was!). It is one of those connectors which can only be connected one way, because it has a clever rail on one side of the connector. Fortunately, using needle nosed pliers, I was able to pull the blades, reset the locking tag, and simply swap them over. But I had reconnected everything by this point and reattached the switch. Such modifications are much easier done outside the car.

Fitting - Step Two

Satisfied that all is working, and in the correct orientation, again disconnect the battery. Locate the indicator return spring on the lower hook. And now, the clever bit. Take some dental floss (it is very strong!) and tie one very long length to the free end of the spring, and another long bit to the hook on the other end of the indicator switch to which you will soon wish to attach it. This is again far easier to do before refitting the switch (although it is possible afterwards).
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
contd.

Fitting - Step Three

Mount the switch on the steering column and use your modified allen key to do up the bolts, with their rubber washers. Note that the column switch mini-loom should be routed under the steering column as there is room for its passage inside the lower plastic shroud but not the upper. Be careful during this operation not to dislodge the return spring, which should be left dangling from the lower arm of the indicator switch. Refit the fusebox and flasher unit (if dismounted).

Fitting - Step Four

Use the attached dental floss to tension the upper hook. I tied it to the open door handle. This should hold the hook horizontal and eventually allow you to hook the loop (eye) at the end of the spring onto it. It is effectively an extra hand.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
and finally ...

Fitting - Step Five

And now, the cunning bit. The spring must be wound completely around the steering column one time, then back around for another half turn, and then hooked on at the top. This is where the second piece of floss comes in. By using this as an extension of the spring you can do this quite easily and then pull it very taut with one hand so that the eye at the end of the spring is very near the hook. Then, again using light and magnification, use a needle nosed pliers to place the eye of the spring onto the hook. It may take a couple of attempts but at least it is possible! When it's on, simply cut off the two pieces of floss with a sharp knife. It doesn't matter if some is left.

Fitting - Step Six

Refit the upper and lower plastic shrouds on the steering column, being careful with the routing of the column switch loom, which should emerge from the back of the lower shroud on the right hand side but just to the left of the ignition switch. Doing up the allen bolts from underneath can be a bit of a pain. Don't forget to refit the circular plastic ignition key surround. Refit the speedometer and rev counter shrouds.

Fitting - Step Seven

Reconnect the battery and final test all headlamp and indicator functions.
 

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'66 Sprint GT, '67 Duetto, '70 BMW 2800CS
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Eugene:

This was a great thread - I appreciate your sharing your expeniences, describing your procedure in such detail, and including photos. A couple of observations:

- You should add relays to your two headlight circuits. The steering-column mounted switch carries all of the current for the high and low beams, and it is this high current that eventually fried your switch contacts. In another 32 years, your new switch will fail, and you will have to do it all over again.

- I'm puzzled why your steering wheel was so hard to remove. I bought a generic steering wheel puller many many years ago (probably cost me $US 6.99 at the time), and it has always worked. I know these things can get corroded on, but with a puller, they usually will pop off. If you ever get it off, smear a little NeverSeize on the taper, and subsequent removals will be quite easy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Relays

Eugene:

This was a great thread - I appreciate your sharing your expeniences, describing your procedure in such detail, and including photos. A couple of observations:

- You should add relays to your two headlight circuits. The steering-column mounted switch carries all of the current for the high and low beams, and it is this high current that eventually fried your switch contacts. In another 32 years, your new switch will fail, and you will have to do it all over again.

- I'm puzzled why your steering wheel was so hard to remove. I bought a generic steering wheel puller many many years ago (probably cost me $US 6.99 at the time), and it has always worked. I know these things can get corroded on, but with a puller, they usually will pop off. If you ever get it off, smear a little NeverSeize on the taper, and subsequent removals will be quite easy.
Alfajay, glad you enjoyed my post. As for relays, I think that is in an excellent idea. But a couple of questions? Are relays available that combine dipped/main functionality? Where best to locate them? Near lights, or near fusebox?

As for the wheel removal, I note from posts that lots of people of struggle. It is, I believe, a tapered shaft and so presumably over time corrosion means it can get incredibly tight. I just did not want to break anything so gave up.

Eugene
 

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The switch contacts can be cleaned up without removing the switch from the column. There are 3 rectangular holes in the switch body. Shine a flash light (torch if you live in the UK) into the holes and you will see contacts that look like bigger versions of distributor points. Take a strip of wet & dry paper, fold it so that the abrasive side is on the outside, slip it between a set of points, turn the switch until the points close, then pull the paper between the points. Repeat until the points are clean. Then do the next one. You could finish up with a squirt of contact cleaner but that is optional.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Puzzled

Alfaparticle,

Well, if there were holes to see the contacts through I could not see them. Not that I doubt you, but I wonder if my column switch is not exactly the same as yours. Perhaps you could post a photograph?

Eugene
 

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I do not have a spare switch to photograph. The holes are at the corners of the switch body. They are easy to miss if you don't know about them but easy to find if you know that they are there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Ah hah!

Yes, that's clear now, thanks. Oh well, I'm still glad that I've got a new switch fitted and nice shiny stalks to play with. My next project will be to fit headlamp relays to improve the longevity of the new switch and get better light on the street ...

Eugene
 

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NICE thread. Great detail, and lots of pictures too!
I am amazed at what you accomplished with dental floss, and I am anxious to see what you will accomplish with duct tape! ;) Again, great informative post in many ways... Mostly the knowledge that there is a trade in policy on the stalk assemblies...
 

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Here is a side shot of the contacts, this is a Euro version, which is the same as the US but the knobs are different, this is why I bought this broken, I wanted the knobs.
Alfaparticale is correct, two contacts on one side and one on the other. The last picture is for the High Beam when you push the knob in for a quick flash, this can't be cleaned unless you take it apart.

Rich
 

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I've taken mine apart a few times for a good cleaning, but I now added relays....I think it's the only way to keep em woirking. And yes, there are relays that combine low and high beams. Very easy to install close to the switch. Maybe if you upgrade your headlights in a way that requires upgrading the wiring, you may want to install closer to the lights
 

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'66 Sprint GT, '67 Duetto, '70 BMW 2800CS
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AlfajAre relays available that combine dipped/main functionality? Where best to locate them? Near lights, or near fusebox?
Eugene:

There have no doubt been several previous posts on this subject, and I think you have a lot of flexibility on where the relays are installed, what type you use, etc.

On my Sprint GT, I added relays as a part of a ground-up restoration - I was building a whole new wiring harness, so I had a lot of flexibility. I put my headlight relay to the left of the radiator (mine is a LHD car, so the wiring from the switch comes up the left side of the car).

I found a part at my local NAPA store that included two relays plus a fuse. So yes, you can buy one component that includes both H and L beam relays. However, the box is fairly large - sized more for US-made pickup trucks than an Alfa Romeo.

If I were refitting relays to a running car, I would still put them in the vicinity of the headlights, disconnect the existing wiring from the headlights, and use the wires that formerly provided power to one headlight (say the left) to provide signal to the relays. It would be prudent to put lower amperage fuses in the original fuse box positions that powered the L light, and to remove the fuses for the R light, since the old L headlight power wires would now be just providing low amperage to the relays. I would run a heavy gauge wire from the alternator output terminal to the new fuse, and on to the "+12v in" terminals on the relays. This is a real summary, but should give you some ideas.
 
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