Tail lights and front side signals do not

Tiny
BUCK211
  • MEMBER
  • 1990 DODGE DAKOTA
  • 3.9L
  • V6
  • 2WD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 220,225 MILES
Recently had tail lights an dash lights go out. Found burnt wiring from previous owner. Replaced or repaired all bad wires. Now head/brake lights, front/rear turn signal work. However tail lights and front side signals do not. Not a blown fuse or bulb. Checked those. Have replaced every burnt wire an made proper connections according to Haynes manual. My headlights also now turn on with the first pull of switch, any ideas where I may have went wrong or better color wire d gram from headlight switch to fuse box?
Thank you for reading this, any and all help or information is appreciated.

Rob W
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Sunday, February 26th, 2017 AT 2:27 PM

11 Replies

Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Sounds like you switched some wires, but given the recent history, it is also possible some wires are still melted together. Because of the unusual situation, I recommend going right to the head light switch connector and jumping various wires together so we can see what works properly and what doesn't.

To start, remove the head light switch and unplug its connector. Use a jumper wire or stretched-out paper clip and connect the red wire to the light green wire. Be careful with the colors because there is also a light green with black tracer. You want the light green with no tracer. The head lights should turn on and the dimmer switch should work properly. Be sure the high-beam indicator turns on full brightness when the high beams are on. The tail lights, running lights, and dash lights should not be on. If everything is correct so far, remove that jumper wire.

Next, jump the pink to the black/yellow. The tail lights and running lights should turn on. The dash lights should not turn on, but if the ignition switch is on, the radio's display should go very dim. Check the flash-to-pass function with the dimmer switch. No head lights or other lights should turn on.

Where were the burned wires and how did you repair them? Were any switch terminals overheated? Where there overheated terminals in a connector?
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Sunday, February 26th, 2017 AT 4:37 PM
Tiny
BUCK211
  • MEMBER
To Cardiodoc:

Thank you for replying, the burnt wires were from headlight switch. They were pink and black/Yellow. Pink wire burnt from switch to fuse box. Then the black/Yellow burnt from switch to where it connects with harness at firewall, an from there to radio. The headlight switch also burnt out at the spots where those wires connected to it. All wires and connections were replaced with same exact wires from harness from parts truck. Headlight switch also replaced. Fuses checked, bulbs checked. Good.
Was curious if you could tell me how I may have the headlights hooked up to come on with first pull of switch? Also, thank you for the information on trying the jump wire. Will be trying after work tomorrow. Will update ASAP.
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Sunday, February 26th, 2017 AT 6:03 PM
Tiny
BUCK211
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Pictures are of headlight switch and connector. I do not know if that helps or not. Again, any and all Information appreciated.
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Sunday, February 26th, 2017 AT 6:37 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
I can see by the first photo this was not caused by the switch. Any time you have a mechanical connection, meaning the contacts inside the switch, and the terminals in the plug that mate to the terminals in the switch, anything less than a perfect connection causes a little resistance, and current flowing through a resistance generates heat. That heat expands the terminals to create more resistance, and that makes more heat. When that starts with a pitted or arced contact in the switch, the heat migrates out to the terminals and makes them black. It also overheats the first four inches of those wires, but not to the point of melting the insulation. That part of the wire will just become real hard, and solder will not adhere to it, so that four inches must be replaced.

The additional clue is the total length of the wires has melted insulation. That means something on that line was shorted to ground. One real good suspect is if the truck has an aftermarket radio. The tail light circuit goes to the original radio to tell the display to dim at night. A different wire from the dash lights also goes to the radio to tell the display how much to dim. The clinker is there is no ground wire in the connectors for the radio. The ground is made through the braided strap bolted to the back of the radio. When people install an aftermarket radio, they often use an ohm meter to figure out which is the ground wire, and they mistakenly find the black/yellow because the meter reads through the tail light bulbs, then to ground. The same thing can happen with the orange wire at the radio, but that one goes through a fuse first, so it would just blow that dash light fuse. (Between the fuse and head light switch, that is a tan wire).

There is a 20-amp fuse in the pink supply wire, but if it did not blow, that means there was enough current flowing to overheat the wire eventually, but less than 20 amps. That is unless someone put in a larger fuse. If the black/yellow wire was used for the ground for an aftermarket radio, that circuit would have gone to ground through the radio's metal case, then through the outer shield on the antenna cable, and to ground through the base of the antenna into the fender. That is a dandy ground for shielding out interference, but it is a terrible ground for current flow. That could explain why not enough current flowed to blow the fuse.

Check fuse number five and be sure it is a 20-amp. If someone stuffed a larger one in there, and a proper 20-amp blows, that is a good thing. I have a trick for working with that.

Let me know what you find after jumping those two wire pairs. Be careful when you do that. If something is shorted, ten to fifteen amps through a stretched-out paper clip will turn it red-hot. It is best to not be holding onto it for very long that way.
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Sunday, February 26th, 2017 AT 8:44 PM
Tiny
BUCK211
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Cardiodoc:
I'm sorry for the delay in answering ya back. Between laying block all day, and replacing the radiator in the same truck SMDH, I didn't have time to check those jump wires til now. When I jumped 1st set, Red/LG everything did what u said it would. When I jumped the 2nd set the Pnk Blk/Yw wires, the headlights came on again, no tail lights or side signals. I PRAY this helps u to help me figure this out. If I was any less stubborn, I'd honestly probably have sold this truck. BUT I refuse to let it whoop me. Lol. I've got to much blood, sweat, tears and LOOONG wrench nights into her to just give up on the ole girl. Lol.
Ty again for the help, idk where I'd be looking if not for you guys at 2carpros. I LOVE THIS SITE!

Rob W
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Tuesday, February 28th, 2017 AT 6:40 PM
Tiny
BUCK211
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When the ole girl won't go to the garage, the garage goes to her. Built this around the cab to stay warm & dry while working in rain and cold. Lol.
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Tuesday, February 28th, 2017 AT 7:17 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
I see a problem, ... I think.

Clarify "When I jumped 1st set, Red/LG everything did what u said it would".

You said when you jumped the pink to the black / yellow, the head lights came on. That's not good. The pink is one of the 12 volt supply wires. The black / yellow goes to the tail lights, not the head lights.

For the record, I would rather be driving your '90 than anything newer with all kinds of unnecessary computers. My daily driver is a rusty '94 Grand Voyager, only because my '88 Grand Caravan is so rusty, the carpet is the only thing holding the front and rear together. Any chance you can find me another '88 with 15" wheels and no rust?
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Tuesday, February 28th, 2017 AT 7:21 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
I see another potential problem. The truck seems to have eaten a man!
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Tuesday, February 28th, 2017 AT 7:23 PM
Tiny
BUCK211
  • MEMBER
To Cardiodoc:

PROBLEM SOLVED!
Man I am a special kinda stupid. LoL. I found my issue with the tail lights and it was such a simple solution. Turns out my problem wasn't from the 're wiring I did but from the connection between the blk/ylw wires and where it connects at the firewall. Idk how I had it but I just started checking all my connections, and that wire WASN'T connected properly at firewall. But, EVERYTHING works again as it should.
THANK YOU Cardiodoc for the help, info, guidance on this. Also, what kinda vehicle was you looking for again? I'll check around my neck of the woods and see what I can find out for ya.
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Monday, March 13th, 2017 AT 8:57 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
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Dandy. Happy to hear it's solved and you're ready to buzz off into the sunset!

I'm looking for an '88 Grand Caravan with 15" wheels. I had one since new, but it's so rusty now, the carpet is the only thing holding the front and rear together. I used it for 15 years to drag around a tandem-axle enclosed trailer that's bigger and heavier than the van. I take it 55 miles to the Iola, WI Old Car Show swap meet where I repair and sell car radios. Going down a long steep hill, I couldn't hit 70 mph because of the wind resistance. When these came with factory 15" wheels, they also came with optional bigger brakes. I never hooked up or needed the trailer brakes.

Also, '88 was the last year before they came out with the computer-controlled 4-speed transmission. I have an '89. A '94, and a '95 with that transmission, but those would explode before I got to the end of my driveway if I tried to pull the trailer. I'm starting to see these vans on tv shows occasionally. At this point I'd even be happy with a rust-free body. Whatever I come up with is going to be stored indoors for the winter, and will have collector plates on it.
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Tuesday, March 14th, 2017 AT 7:07 PM
Tiny
BUCK211
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Cardiodoc,
Omg man. My mom had an 88 Grand Caravan. It was the car I learned to drive in and the very 1st car of theirs my dad let me work on. Lmao. Small world, but man I will look around and see what I can find for ya. Hell it's least I could do for ya because you guys at 2carpros are AWESOME. Since buying this Kota, it quickly became my #1 visited website.
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Tuesday, March 14th, 2017 AT 8:17 PM

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