1955 Ford Part 43A: Headlights, Headlight Switch, and Turn Signals
Updated: Dec 27, 2019
Wiring the Lights and Switches
With the floor insulation completed it was time to move on to the wiring of the lights. The Rebelwire wiring harness is very simple to understand because each wire is imprinted with its use in the vehicle. For instance, when wiring up the lights there is a bundle under the dash that includes a wire labeled "Right Rear Brake Light" - the bundle that went to the rear of the car in the trunk also has a wire labeled with the same words. Connections are easy, provided the installer is aware of two items: 1. Original wire coding (for instance on an original diagram from Ford, there may have been a "blue wire with white tracer was for the brake light" and 2. Simple knowledge of DC electricity, grounding, etc. Hopefully, most folks working this in depth on a project understand these basic principles and can at least crimp a terminal and insulate correctly. With any custom kit, you have to install your own terminals. I went the route of crimped terminals with shrink wrap tubing for insulation. I also used some handy schematics and other digital printouts (including Ford's diagrams) to give me some help as I connected each wire.
While printouts such as these can be very helpful, you need to remember that it will not exactly match your situation if you are doing anything different from what Ford did in 1955. Later on I discovered that I should not have connected the brake power wire to the headlight switch as shown since I had installed a mechanical brake switch much different from original. (more on that later in post 43B)
The first step in this process was to locate the wires marked for the headlights and the parking lights and feed them through the proper grommets. The Rebelwire kit gives the installer plenty of extra wire in most cases - especially for the wiring leading up front. In this case I had to shorten all wires that went to the lights up front.
Even after pulling in the slack where the harness went to a "Y" (for both passenger and driver side), I discovered that I would have to remove more extra wire at the locations of the light bulbs themselves. While this may seem tedious, I personally was thankful that I had plenty of wire - would have been frustrating to come up short on a run.
The two wires coming out of the opening for the headlight are labeled low beam and hi beam respectively. The uppermost mounting hole for the headlight bucket is where the socket pigtails are grounded.
After the wires were run up front, I focused attention out back and ran the wires for the rear lights, fuel gauge, etc, in just about the same location on the floor that Ford had originally used. You can tell that I used the tape from the insulation kit to keep the wires in place.
When all of the wires were placed in the proper locations it was time to wire up the headlight switch first and test the circuit for each terminal end. Keeping a simple 12 volt test light in your tool box is a must in my opinion and a test light certainly comes in handy when checking your switches and grounds.
You may be wondering why I did not install the headlight switch into the dash after the circuits had been tested and passed with flying colors. I decided to wait until I had the turn signals and the brake lights working appropriately - the switch does not need to be grounded, and leaving it on the floor like this gives easy access to removing or adding circuits as needed. (I am glad I did this by the way - I did have to remove that brake power wire!)
The next step in the process was to install the headlight buckets, parking light/turn signal plates, and all sockets/bulbs. The tail lights I had already installed and tested some time ago so all that I had to do was to connect the "pigtails" correctly. The headlight buckets did get a grommet for the hole where the wiring connects to the socket. This is critical for all wires that pass through sheet metal. If you do not protect the wires with a grommet the insulation on each wire will be cut away and the circuit will short out pretty quickly.
You can also see from the photos above that the gaskets and other pieces of hardware were all laid out prior to installation. I even had an aftermarket headlight relay kit to install, but once I discovered that the Rebelwire harness already had relays for the headlights I thought it would be redundant. The nice sockets were used though. Gaskets were made for the parking lights/turn signals. The outer diameter was easy - I just traced the edge from lens. The inside diameter measurement was actually the outside diameter of the original heater control bezel on the dash! Who would have thought? but it worked perfect!
The final result is the title picture at the beginning of the post.
One thing that I found was rather disconcerting:
The three photos above show a section of wire that was removed. The main reason - it had been almost severed in half! The other was that an 18 inch length needed to be removed anyway since we had so much extra up front. Thankfully this was not a real problem, but I am glad I caught it. I am not sure how or when it happened. The harness has been in the car for quite some time. Maybe during one of my painting sessions I closed the hood on it?
As the headlights were being wired up I also installed the dimmer switch in the floor and tested its operation. The wire lengths provided by Rebelwire were nearly perfect for a 1955 Ford so this was pretty much a deal where I crimped the terminals and attached them to the switch.
Back up front, things were going nicely and the headlight bucket gaskets, buckets, sockets, and headlights themselves were all coming together pretty easily. I did make a mental note that I would want to adjust these with the two adjusting screws at a later point when I could be on a level surface with a wall a good distance away.
I am going to wait to fasten the headlight hoods onto the fender later. I still want to do a little more buffing when the weather breaks. Below is my test run video of the lights, switch, etc - needless to say I was a pretty happy camper (until I found out something I forgot about those taillights!)
More in post 43B coming up next!
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