Updated: May 17, 2021
By now many of our subscribers are aware that the 1955 Ford Fairlane does indeed have a 1956 Ford Fairlane steering gear, column, turn signal switch, and steering wheel. I like that look much better and have plans to install a 56 Fairlane dash as well. I almost have all of the parts that I need to do so. For now, I need to resolve the problem with the horn ring not sounding the horn unless the ring is pressed down squarely on the center. This happened intermittently a few years back when I got everything together but nowadays the horn ring does not work properly. So... how did I troubleshoot this? Like most of my tech articles these days I not only include photos and text but I also post a video. If you want to skip most of the script, just scroll to the bottom and play the video.
Most of the time when people troubleshoot antique horns the issue tends to be a horn relay that is malfunctioning, maybe the contacts within the horn itself not working correctly, or even a ground wire. I must say that this one had me stumped, but only for a little while.
The first thing I did was disconnect the battery. Next, I removed the horn ring by twisting it counter clockwise about 15 degrees or so. Since the horn ring is spring loaded, it basically popped backwards towards my hand. You can see in the photo below that there are three tabs on a flat retaining ring that secure the chrome horn ring to the steering wheel.
There's not much to the parts, so how difficult could this really be?
The contact ring (which grounds the horn wire) sits below the retaining ring.
The three bushings keep the retaining ring from grounding the contact ring while at rest.
I thought for sure that the issue had to be corrosion or that the contact ring was not "sliding" correctly on the bushings. I completely disassembled the horn ring parts (there really aren't that many) all the way down to the plastic Ford crest which was in good shape. I should have noticed that the condition of this piece here was a real detriment...
I thought that this rubber insulator was there only to protect the contact ring from grounding...
My assumption was that the rubber disc was only used as an insulator; so the fact that it was in a compressed shape did not alarm me. I had no idea that it needed to be firm to hold tension against the contact plate and the shoulders of those bushings. The next photo should give it away that the rubber insulator had a primary purpose.
The metal piece with three legs has a cone shape so that when you press the circumference of the horn ring to sound off the horn the insulator maintains pressure against the contact plate so that it will ground.
It took some trial and error to figure all of this out, and I did get some helpful advice from a guy named Jimmy. But along the way I did discover that the steering wheel cup itself was corroded and not conducting the ground circuit as it should. In the video you can see that I used a test lead to verify my findings. I ended up removing the steering wheel and taking a wire wheel to the cup to clean up the corrosion. The residue left on the white paper of the workbench in the video was certainly a telltale sign that I had more problems than one. For the time being I simply replaced the rubber disc with a stack of foam rubber discs I cut out from stock. Matching the thickness of the original rubber disc brought the contact plate to a position where it needed to be. After re-installing the horn ring and hooking up the battery the first push on the circumference of the ring was quite satisfying. The whole neighborhood woke up as I sounded off a few times - gotta love those 50's era car and truck horns! You can watch the video below to see more of the details.
Video of the Troubleshooting the Horn Ring
The Hot Rod Reverend
aka Daniel Jessup