Q&A with Kit Foster: January 3, 2013

Publish date:

Q. In the Q&A section of the Nov. 15 issue, Wayne Anders had dim dash lights in his 1972 Mustang. He said new bulbs did not fix his friend’s ’71 Mustang. Just because changing bulbs didn’t fix his friend’s car, doesn’t mean it won’t fix his. I have a ’68 Pontiac that, I believe, uses the same dash light bulbs as the late ’60s-early ’70s Ford products. My bulbs had turned black inside due to vaporization of the bulb filaments with age, and light was barely getting through. New bulbs solved my problem. I suggest that Wayne take out a couple of bulbs and see if they are black inside. If that isn’t the problem, then I’d check the ground and supply lines to the panel, and, as was mentioned, maybe the dimmer switch.

— Dave Stanton, via e-mail

A. Good point. I’ve seen many a blackened bulb, although that thought didn’t occur to me when answering Wayne’s question.


Q. In response to Wayne Anders’ dim dash lights, I recently traded for my first Mustang. It’s a 1966 convertible, six-cylinder 200-cu. in. automatic. The dash lights were very dim at night, such that I could not read the gauges at all. Although it was in very good restored condition, the car had been in Ohio until I got it here in Texas (northern panhandle – almost no humidity). I looked at the battery, which was new, the cables, which were new, and the connection of the ground cable to the bottom of the engine block. All connections were either coated with a rust-like coating or, like the battery posts, “glazed” over with a donut-like glazing. I cleaned all the connections with a wire brush and coated them all with a dielectric grease before re-connecting the connections. I also cleaned the poles and all wires on the solenoid. The lights are now normal.

— Roland Keenan, Amarillo, Texas

A. In my answer to Mr. Anders, I mentioned the dimming rheostat but failed to implicate the other connections in the circuit. They are just as important. I must caution, however, that dielectric grease should be applied after the connections are put together, not before. Dielectric grease is non-conductive, and will actually hinder current from reaching its destination if smeared on contacts themselves. Its proper function is to inhibit corrosion by preventing the ambient atmosphere from reaching the exposed exterior surfaces of the connection. To ensure a good connection you can use contact cleaner (available at electronic supply stores, but not as prevalent now that televisions no longer have mechanical tuners) on the conducting surfaces. There is also a conductive grease, called “light bulb grease,” that I’ve been able to buy at auto parts stores.


Q. Regarding the odd distributor cap in the Oct. 18 Q&A, I experienced this trick back in 1967. It was a bit more subtle than half a cigarette filter stuck in one of the cap towers. At that time the Big Three and some local auto dealers held contests for auto shop students to diagnose and repair engine problems. There was a lot of out-of-the-box thinking even back then. It brings back a lot of good memories.

— Jim Foley, via e-mail

A. Good thought, and I suppose it could be used in that way, but most responders say it’s simply a manufacturing reject. Read on.


Q. In the Oct. 18 issue there was a question about a distributor cap with a missing brass terminal. I worked at a Chrysler plant in the mid ’70s that made electrical components. One of my jobs was to cut the caps and inspect the cut and all contacts. We had to look for ones with missing brass. It was something that happened. They were factory defects, not made for testing, just a screw-up. I did keep a few to have fun with. My guess is the guy with the GM cap got it the way I did, or from someone who worked for GM. Maybe it slipped out and he bought it. Basically it was a scrap cap.

— Larry Mayes, via e-mail

A. Thanks. Perhaps your first-hand experience will put this topic to bed.


Q. I have a very nice 1991 Lincoln Continental Signature Series. The automatic temperature control went bad. I need a blender door actuator. I can’t find one anywhere.

— Darrell Jensen, Audubon, Iowa.

A. Your Lincoln is more than 20 years old, so I guess we should not be surprised that Ford’s parts system doesn’t stock them. Auto recyclers might help, I suppose, but blender door troubles seem to plague many makes and models, even when the cars are not that old, so a good used one might be a long shot. Is it the mechanical or the electronic part that you need? Perhaps this is a common problem with that era of Continentals. Lincoln lobbyists, what advice do you have for your colleague?

To submit questions to this column: E-mail angelo.vanbogart@fwmedia.com or mail to: Q&A, c/o Angelo Van Bogart, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990-0001.

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