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headlight circuit breaker

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  • Electrical: headlight circuit breaker

    My problem concerns a 1964 Daytona. After the headlights are on high beam, (4 bulbs), for a few minutes the breaker shuts the lights off for a few seconds, they come back on and then go off again each time staying off longer until after half a dozen on/offs they stay off. On low beam, (2 bulbs) the lights stay on indefinitely but occasionally go off as well. After a cool down of a few minutes the lights will work again. The little relay or circuit breaker behind the headlight switch gets hot during these events. It is marked 20A.

    Has the breaker worn out over the years so that it won't support 20A anymore? Would it be ok to go to a 25 or 30A unit as a replacement? Inspection shows no faults in the headlight circuits. Thanks for you help.

  • #2
    Two possibilities here;

    1. It is very common for the Dimmer switch or it's connections to fail on these models with the switch on the inside of the floorboard where moisture, water, rust and corrosion attack it. The high resistence causes the breaker to pop.
    Try cleaning the connections and using dialectric grease on them.
    It is kinda funny how our Family Parkview Wagon has gone 54 years with the dimmer UNDER the floor board, protected only by the splash shield, but exposed to the outdoors and survived when most of my '63 and '64's over the years have all failed.

    2. As you figured out, the Breaker could fail, and I believe there was a Service Letter about replacing the 20 with a 30 AMP Unit.
    Second Generation Stude Driver,
    Proud '54 Starliner Owner


    • #3
      halogens or original sealed ?


      • #4
        This is a common problem on '64s. If you use halogen lamps, even more so. The breaker is a standard part, and can be replaced by a 35 or 40 amp one, no problem.

        The headlight wiring in the car is kind of light for real powerful halogen bulbs. If you want the best out of your lamps, I'd suggest going to relays, and feed the relays direct from the battery, and also use new headlamp pigtails made from thicker wire. This will let you use your existing breaker, because it now has carry only the tail lamp and relay coil current. It will save you possibly cooking your dimmer switch or wiring harness, and you will have the brightest lights possible.

        Here is a link to a Web site that will give you a lot of useful information on modifying your lighting circuit: Disclaimer: I have no interest in their business; they just give good useful information.
        Gord Richmond, within Weasel range of the Alberta Badlands


        • #5
          I have fixed that same problem on several Hawks by, as others have suggested, replacing the 20 amp with a 30 amp CB. Never had to go back and fix it again, i.e. replace a 30 amp.


          • #6
            Thank you all. I will clean up the dimmer switch and install a 30A CB and see what that does. The car has original type headlamps which illuminate well.....while they are on. We're thankful for the circuit breaker, if a FUSE had blown on that mountain road that dark nite, it might have been real hairy. It was just exciting to get a glimpse of the road while eyes kept trying to adjust to high beams and then darkness. We came thru unscathed. Thanks again.


            • #7
              I'm surprised no one has mentioned this, because Studebaker issued a bulletin on it:

              Some four-headlamp 1964s were accidentally fitted with headlamp circuit breakers for 2-headlamp cars. Obviously, they would be inadequate for high beams (all four headlamps) being on for an extended time. I forget the amperage values involved, but it was an early, legitimate problem. It looks like you've identified yours as one of the cars, Studer35, and have corrected it appropriately.

              (Obviously, not all cars so equipped got back for a correction; if the original customers never drove at much at night, or only in the city on low beams, they would not have never been aware of the problem.)

              However, at this late date, other factors must also be considered, as others have posted. Particularly troublesome are the dimmer switch and connections down in that damp environment in which they operate; corrosion produces resistance and resistance, amperage draw beyond the circuit's ability to handle it. BP
              Last edited by BobPalma; 11-29-2011, 04:02 AM.
              We've got to quit saying, "How stupid can you be?" Too many people are taking it as a challenge.

              Ayn Rand:
              "You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality."

              G. K. Chesterton: This triangle of truisms, of father, mother, and child, cannot be destroyed; it can only destroy those civilizations which disregard it.


              • #8
                Back a few hundred years ago (or so it seems), when I sold industrial supplies from A to Z, I had a plant engineer who would automatically replace any circuit breaker that had tripped only a couple of times. I explained to him that I appreciated the business, but questioned why he did this. His explanation was that once a circuit breaker tripped, it lost some of its value and would be quicker to trip in the future. He was a stickler for detail and would investigate completely any circuit in which a breaker had tripped. His plant was full of heavy machine tools manufacturing mining equipment. In addition to circuit breakers, he was a great customer for heavy-duty electric motors.

                This post reminded me that I have a similar problem with my '60 Lark that has not been on the road in many years. The breaker that trips on it is for the wiper motor. I had forgotten about it but the last time I got caught out in the rain in that car, the wipers would quit and after a few seconds, come back on as the breaker cooled. I wonder if the motor is bad or has the breaker weakened over the years?
                John Clary
                Greer, SC

                SDC member since 1975