There’s trouble with summertime work on the Thunderbird. Outside, there’s room to work, but no shade from the intense California heat. In the garage, it’s nice and cool, but I can barely move around the car, let alone open a door wide enough to crawl under the dash. To get the turn signal switch swapped out, I stored the car outside, under a cover, reserving the last few (cooler) hours of the day to do what I could. The job took longer that way, but it was a lot more comfortable.

I thought I was brilliant, hanging the collar on the shift lever like that, until the wires pulled back through when I tried to slip it off.

I was able to locate the aftermarket turn signal switch I used a few years back (but not the wiring diagram that came with it). The old switch came out pretty easily, especially once I made the decision to simply cut the bullet connectors off before pulling the wires through the column. A wire in the switch had clearly failed, so I knew I was on the right track.

In the coming years, I expect more wiring failures like this.

I had to remove the collar to thread the wires for the new switch. That done and attempting to mount it in place, I was reminded of the repop switch’s shortcomings: the mounting plate has to be ground down to fit, as did the steering collar where the turn signal stalk exits (the new switch holds the stalk at the wrong angle), and the self-canceling nylon arms catch on the trigger in the wheel with even the slightest turn—click, click, click, click.

This was the worst part of the job, grinding the original collar to make up for the poor design of the replacement switch. I still have some sanding and painting to do here.


On the plus side, Bird Nest was able to email me a new wiring diagram. (Clearer and easier to read than the original, by far.) And, it only took me two tries to get the switch wired up correctly.

I took this photo as a way to remember how the old wires were installed, but looking at it now, it’s a grim reminder of the cracking, aging electrical system.

Last time I used this switch, the horn worked, at least sporadically. I removed the old horn brush (which was stuck), ordered a new one, and immediately misplaced it. For now, the steering wheel is loosely installed in the hopes that the new brush will materialize.