View Full Version : Electrical: 61 Lark Tail lights not working

05-26-2015, 11:17 AM
My son bought his first car, a '61 Lark, last fall, on ebay. We are just starting to work out the bugs, and the first is getting all the electrical stuff working like it should.


When we got it home, the brake/turn signal lights were working only on the driver's side, and no tail lights on either side. I pulled and checked the bulbs, and they are good. The passenger bulb socket, the one that wasn't working, was a bit corroded and crusty, so I cleaned it out and made sure the bulb contacts were good, and this fixed the turn/brake circuit that was in-op.

With a tester, I checked the contacts in the bulb sockets for the tail light circuit, and no juice to the sockets on either side. I found the plug in the trunk, where the sockets plug into the harness that runs forward, and checked for power at the plug, and nothing there either.

It looks like the dash lights are working, which look to be on the same circuit in the wiring diagram, so I am assuming the switch is working correctly. It seems that there must be a short or disconnect somewhere between the switch and the plug in the trunk.

Any suggestions where to look from here? Where does the wire from the switch to the trunk run, under the carpet? Wondering if there is a common spot where the wires rub through or break?

Thanks in advance for any advice...


05-26-2015, 01:47 PM
I would check for power in to and out of the harness plug at the steering column. All power to the tail lights/brake lights must pass through the turn signal switch.

05-26-2015, 02:28 PM
I would check for power in to and out of the harness plug at the steering column. All power to the tail lights/brake lights must pass through the turn signal switch.

Thanks for the reply Rockne10. I was under the impression that only the brake lights went through the turn signal switch...
Here's a wiring diagram I found, according to this, the tail light circuit is direct to the head light switch... Am I missing something?


05-26-2015, 03:12 PM
That's a nice looking Lark your son has there!
Along with the plug by the steering column as rockne10 suggested , check your headlight switch connections.

Skip Lackie
05-26-2015, 03:19 PM
It's possible that the contacts inside the switch have gotten corroded and it's only passing electrons to some of the circuits. Turn the switch on and off a bunch of times and see if any of them start working. The light switch has a number of external contacts, marked T for tail, P for park, etc. Check with a test light to see if all of the external contacts are hot when they're supposed to be.

05-26-2015, 03:23 PM
I was under the impression that only the brake lights went through the turn signal switch...Yes! I spoke a little out of turn. Only the brakes and turn signal use the high filament.

05-26-2015, 03:44 PM
We will check out the switch and connections again. I had the dash pad off, and can see the top of the switch and wires from above. I'll get the tester out and see if I can figure it out from there. I think the dash lights are working though, which leads me to believe it might be a bad wire between the switch and lights somewhere.


05-26-2015, 07:25 PM
Try Skip's idea of turning the switch on and off several times to rub the contacts clean. I had to do that to my 1950 Champion when I bought it last year. I also had a loose nut on the ignition switch, which fed power to the lights. It's also a good idea to take each of the wiring plugss apart and put a little grease on the contacts to help prevent corrosion.

I agree that is a nice looking Lark.

05-26-2015, 07:56 PM
I think you have narrowed it down to the connections at the Hd. Lt. Sw. or the Switch.
however I have one more suggestion for you to check out.
On 1960 and on Larks and Lark Types there is a disconnect Plug to disconnect the rear harness from the front, it would have all rear Light wires and the Fuel sending unit wire in it.

I believe you will find it near the drivers door post under the dash where the rear harness routes down the kick panel to the floor, and runs under the carpet/rubber floor covering. Corrosion or loose connection on the Tail Light circuit there could be your problem, unlikely but possible.

Your Son is one lucky Kid, that is a VERY sharp looking Turquoise '61 Lark! :!: Is that a 6 Cyl. Automatic Trans Car or what?

05-26-2015, 08:59 PM
The headlight switch has a dedicated circuit and internal circuit breaker feeding the taillight circuit. The schematic shows that the black and yellow wire powers the taillight circuit. Unplug that wire from headlight switch and check terminal with a test light to see if it lights when you turn on switch. If the test light doesn't light the switch is bad if it does light you more than likely have a short kicking the internal circuit breaker feeding the tail light circuit. If you have an indication of a short as a result from the test don't overlook the license tag lights, shift quadrant light and trunk light as possible causes. You can unplug the lamps one at a time to see if it eliminates the short. Your Lark is stunning.

05-26-2015, 10:40 PM
Any engine pictures and interior pictures of that beautiful Lark?

05-27-2015, 09:07 AM
Funny you write this as I am using a '61 Lark as a "rental" because my truck is getting a new flex plate. The Lark has a problem with the rear blinker on the drivers side. All other lights work fine. I have tried to clean the contacts at the bulb. changed the bulb, etc. Have not chased it down yet. Is this a common problem?

05-27-2015, 12:17 PM
Problem solved! Turned out to be a quick fix...

We pulled the dash pad off again, to access the switch from the top. Tested the contacts with a tester, and after looking carefully at the wiring diagram, found that the black/yellow wire for the tail light circuit was plugged onto the wrong contact on the switch. Moved the wire over to the correct spot, and Ta-Da! Tail lights work.

Not sure if the previous owner changed out the switch at some point, or what, but it was just put together wrong.

Now on to the next item on the list...

Here are a few pics from when we picked up the car last fall-

What we found when we arrived in California after an 11 hour drive from Idaho. Pleasantly surprised! We bought the car on Ebay, which as you know, can be hit or miss. Got lucky with a hit for $1,800.

Proud new owner... :D

Light body damage to the left rear corner. The car came with a NOS rear body panel to fix it. Probably leave as is for now, we like the original paint.

Patina on the hood... paint worn down to bare metal. Rattle can paint on the passenger front fender.

The interior is a nice home-done upholstery job, but not factory correct. That's just fine with us, it looks great.

It has the OHV six, with auto trans. Seems to shift fine. Runs, but not that great. We went through the carb, but it didn't help much. Last fall it would stall like it was out of gas, and wouldn't restart for about 10 minutes. Then fire up and run again for a minute or so, and repeat. The issue has gone away for now, able to drive it around.
There are some questionable things about the engine, like blue permatex between the head and block...It will probably need engine work at some point, but we are going to run it for now and see how it does. Hoping to get the carb to work better, but might do a weber swap.

The car is in great shape. We plan to keep the patina on the paint job, take care of the mechanical issues, and drive it. Mostly original paint, looks like the driver's door and passenger front fender have been replaced/painted at some point in the past.
It needs little things, like rubber weather stripping on the doors (new rubber came with the car in a box). The front suspension/steering needs a complete overhaul, it is making some ugly noises and wanders a lot, The carb and fuel system have issues, etc.
Plan to install 3 point seat belts, and maybe a disc brake upgrade for safety.
We've only driven it around town on side streets, the tires are so old and sketchy I'm afraid to get it up to any kind of speed. Working on finishing another project before we dive in too deep with the Lark, just picking at little stuff for now so we can putt-putt around town. I think it is going to be a great cruiser for my son.