Head (Trafficator) Rebuild for an Adjustable Wheel
Well, I have been putting off
task of rebuilding the control head to prepare it for installation in
Moto-Lita wood rim steering wheel. I rebuilt the original control head
when I was in college and I don’t recall it being a fun task. Although,
back then I did so without any instruction. Today I have the benefit of
helpful tips from Norman Nock, Michael Salter, Steve Byers, John
and Tracy Drummond and others. The notes below and some of the images
"borrowed" from their work. Tracy’s photos were particularly helpful.
may be found at: http://www.wavewired.net/~tracy/trafficator/trafficator.htm
or at http://www.justbrits.com/articles.htm
If your control head or trafficator is fine, but you want to install a
restored or new steering wheel, Roger Moment has provided some useful
tips for partially disassembling the trafficator to permit switching
out the wheel without pulling the wiring. His guidance is provided at
the end of this article.
For starters I now know that the
way to begin is not to pry up the bent tabs at the back of the unit!
the process is much simpler but less obvious. Turns out the whole job
not as bad as I had remembered.
In my case I needed to completely
rebuild my control head because the signal lever was broken and because
I needed to install new wiring. I also wanted to improve the finish of
the Bakelite head which had turned a bit brown with age. If one only
to replace the wiring the suggestions from Michael Salter proved to be
very helpful. That was my first step.
Read through these instructions
completely before starting the disassembly!! If you don’t want to
this then I understand that Vic Wright (firstname.lastname@example.org)
does a great job of rebuilding used units!
On the steering wheel, you will see
three set screws on the steering wheel hub, forward of the spokes.
(probably remove, to avoid losing them) the screws. The four wires that
go to the control head need to be disconnected from the harness at the
front of the car not far from where they exit the long stator tube at
steering box. The job is made easier if one simply cuts the bullet
off the wiring and then solders a wire or ties fishing line to the
Having the line attached to the wiring will make inserting the new
much easier than it would otherwise be. The line should just rest in
steering column until the replacement is ready to install. The control
head with a short stator tube and the wiring can then be removed from
steering column by pulling straight out (not twisting). Neil Trelenberg
drawing a line on the stator (short and long) tube with a felt marker
a guide for realigning later.
Now to the disassembly of the
First, carefully pry the horn button
trim ring away from the bakelite head being careful not to scratch it.
Once the horn button is
the horn spring will be revealed. Its small diameter end faces to the
head. The laminated blades of the horn switch secured by two brass
also become evident.
Examine the entire assembly. On
back of the unit, viewed from the side, a small tab bent down into a
can be observed.
The tab can be pushed up so
it slides on the flat plate and the unit can be rotated slowly. Doing
provides access through 3 holes in the base mount plate to 3 slotted
Before removing the three
make a note or reference mark of how the two halves of the unit secured
by the three screws goes together. Then remove the screws. The correct
orientation of the turn signal lever is straight up, but if the two
are oriented incorrectly, the turn signal lever will be either pointed
down, or off to the side.
The stator tube, base plate,
plate, the base mount plate and assorted washers and spring can then be
separated from the bakelite mounting plate and head. This assembled
does not need to be disassembled. It can be pulled off the wires and
aside for assembly later.
Examine the back of the
plate. There are six nuts visible. Three are for the turn signal
two are for the horn (one goes through the brass gound ring) and the
without an attached wire is to hold the head and the mounting plate
(It is barely visible in the photo under the wiring sheath). Make a
to illustrate the color code and where each of the wires should
to its proper fitting.
If your plan is to install
wiring harness only and you do not wish to disassemble the control
head to access the turn signal switch it is IMPORTANT to
the new wires onto the screws one wire at a time.
A. The screw on the right in the
photo is accessed under the horn button. Hold it with a screw driver
loosen the nut holding the wire, remove the nut, change the wire, refit
and tighten the nut.
B. The nut second from the right
is held in place by a hex head screw recessed in the bakelite mounting
plate. The turn signal lever must be moved so that it is aligned behind
the screw/nut. It will hold the screw in place permitting removal of
nut and old wire, change the wire and refit and tighten the nut. Do
not let the turn signal lever slip while doing this procedure or you
likely be disassembling the complete unit!
C. Reposition the turn signal lever
to the center position and repeat B. above for the screw/nut located
from the right.
D. Move the turn signal lever behind
the screw/nut located fourth from the right and repeat B. above.
If all you are doing is replacing
the wiring you are finished. Leave the screw/nut to the far left,
the horn ground ring, alone.
Feed the wire through the base plate
and the stator tube. Reinstall the three base plate screws with the
opposite the turn signal lever. I found it easiest to install the
with the unit on its side. Don’t forget to then reposition the thin
with the locating tab to the slot and push it down. Reinstall the horn
button, spring and chrome trim ring. Note that the button and ring have
a locating notch that matches up with the bakelite head.
I recommend cutting the bullet
off the wires, solder the wire or tie the fishing line left in the
column, to the new wires and slowly pull the new wiring harness through
the stator tube and out the end of the steering box. The fit of the
in the tube is tight so it might be best to tape the wire ends together
as they are pulled through. The short stator tube fits down and into
longer stator tube in the column. The tubes go together in only one
directed by the dimples found on the side of the short tube.
If you are installing the control
head into a non-stock wooden steering wheel you may need to install a
(I used the plastic top of a yogurt container) inside the hub between
hub and the control head to move the control head toward the driver
so that the turn signal lever does not contact the wheel ring. Then
the three set screws to tighten the control head to the wheel hub.
Cleaning or repairing the turn
Remove the two screws holding the
laminated blades of the horn switch under the horn button. The horn
will lift out. The third screw can then be removed and the bakelite
can then be separated from the mounting plate.
The turn signal lever is
with one screw to the back of the bakelite mounting plate. Underneath
is a curved wire with a spring on each side of the lever.
There is another little
ball at the bottom of the turn signal lever.
If you carefully remove the
screw to separate the lever from the assembly, the springs and small
should stay in place. Note how they should be reassembled, then take
clean and lubricate with a little lithium grease.
If you experience an explosion
parts, don’t be alarmed. It will all go back together! All components
identified in the photo below:
The proper positioning of
hinges or "triggers" is important. They have angles on the end that fit
opposite each other. They need to be placed as seen in the image and
for the canceling switch to work. Before reassembly of the complete
now is a good time to refinish the bakelite if it is needed.
Refinishing the Bakelite Head
I have lost the source of these
or I would give attribution, but clean the head well and wipe with a
cleaner like the type used before spray painting metal. Then apply
India ink. I used two coats letting the first coat dry for about an
before applying the second. Then use black paste shoe polish rubbed in
well. Polish. Reapply paste and polish again. Finally, apply a coat of
carnuba wax for protection and final shine. Be very careful to not drop
the bakelite head! I recommend doing all the polishing over a carpeted
floor in case the head is dropped. This should result in a control head
that looks brand new.
Carefully place the head and the
mounting plate together pushing the spring at the end of the turn
lever into the mounting plate. Holding the two pieces together install
and tighten the single screw and nut at the bottom of the unit. This
will securely hold the two pieces together while the horn switch screws
and nuts are inserted and tightened.
I recommend, based on the
of others and my own experience, cutting the bullet connectors off the
wires, solder the wire or tie the fishing line left in the steering
to the new wires and slowly pull the new wiring harness through the
tube and out the end of the steering box. The fit of the harness in the
tube is tight so it might be best to tape the wire ends together as
are pulled through.
Steve Byers took a slightly
approach that certainly makes taking the wiring through the stator tube
easier. He commented, "although I
been able to pull the harness out of the column with the connectors
I have never been able to put it back in no matter how tightly I
the connectors together. The last time I did this, I installed a
new steering column harness as a part of a general re-wiring. To
make it easy on myself, I cut off all the bullets from the new harness
(leaving about 3/4" of the wire attached to each), fed the harness
and then soldered the bullets back on with a piece of heat-shrink
over the splice. The key is, I did not twist the wires together
soldering but soldered them together as they lay side by side.
way, next time the harness needs removing it will be easy to remove the
bullets without damaging the wire, and that can be done many times
damage to the wires."
The short stator tube fits
into the longer stator tube in the column. The tubes go together in
one orientation, directed by the dimples found on the side of the short
If you are installing the
head into a non-stock wooden steering wheel (Moto Lita, Derrington) you
may need to install a shim (I used the plastic top of a yogurt
inside the hub between the hub and the control head to move the control
head toward the driver slightly so that the turn signal lever does not
contact the wheel ring. Then reinstall the three set screws to tighten
the control head to the wheel hub. The job is complete! Now the control
head (horn and turn signal control switch) will look and work as well
the rest of your car.
Roger Moment’s tips for
installing a new steering wheel or repairing
the trafficator without removing the wiring.
For those who are really bold and
experienced Roger Moment has informed
me that it is possible to complete a trafficator repair or replace a
steering wheel without having
to pull the wires up through the stator
tube. I have no personal experience with this approach so I cannot
comment on the degree of difficulty, but if Roger says it can be done,
then it can! However, he emphasized that it should only be attempted by
those who are totally familiar with the disassembly of these units.
The relevant steps are:
Unclip the end of the steering column harness so that there is about 8"
or more of slack. This is accomplished by locating the clip that
holds it to the cross brace in front of the radiator.
Back off the three retaining pointed screws in the steering wheel hub.
Pull out the head enough so that it can drop down across the front of
the steering wheel.
Push up and rotate the retaining tab as seen in Image #3 and below.
Remove the three screws securing the mounting to the backing plate
Then separate the backing plate
One can then remove the wires as described earlier in this article,
using the technique with the lever to "back up" the contacts so that
they don't fall into the head. It is very important to replace
the nuts immediately after removing each wire!
With the control head unit free of the wiring one can then replace the
steering wheel if that was the (an) objective by removing the circlip
and sliding the wheel off the shaft.
Roger indicates that this “in-car” method will also work on
non-adjustable steering set-ups (on 100s and those few 6-cylinder cars
that are equipped as such). However, here the entire stator is
drawn up after loosening the clamping nut. The steering box oil will
drip out around the wires at the end during the time that the tube is
partially withdrawn. As soon as the wires are freed, the tube can be
re-inserted and the nut re-tightened. You'll only lose a bit of
the oil and it still beats reinserting the entire tube.
Roger suggests that if you do draw out the tube, use a 3/8" bolt with a
good 1" or so of smooth shank to re-insert into the nut and olive at
the steering box to keep most of the oil from draining out. This
bolt is then removed when the tube and wires are put back through.
Happy Healeying and Cheers!
July 7, 2005
Revised July 21, 2005