September 18

1969 Chevrolet Corvette; Headlight Repairs



Mark: Hi it’s Mark from Top Local, we’re here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, Vancouver’s best auto service experience, 17 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. How’re you doing Bernie?

Bernie: I’m doing very well

Mark: So we’re going to talk about a classic some people would say, other people would say a strange vehicle to begin with but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, this is a 69 Chevrolet Corvette that was having some headlight issues. What was going on with this vehicle?

Bernie: Well basically the headlights on this vehicle, sometimes they come on, sometimes the high beams would work, sometimes the low beams would work, sometimes they just shut off completely. So there’s quite a few issues with the headlights on the vehicle but not reliable that’s for sure.

Mark: So it sort of sounds like a vintage English car but I guess, this is a 69 so it’s got the hideaway headlights, I bet that was fun! How was that to deal with?

Bernie: Well it definitely adds some complexity to the repair but in this case, this was a purely an electrical issue. Hideaway headlights are kind of neat in this car but that’s a complete vacuum operated system which is kind of a, I don’t want to say a nightmare of it’s own, but it has a vacuum system, basically it uses the engine vacuum, there’s a little storage tank and a bunch of switches and valves. So when you turn the headlights on, it actually pops the lights up and it closes them down when you shut the switch off and you can also flip them up manually to leave them up all the time. This car is a bit of a, you know not perfect, it needs a bit of work. So the actual headlights have to be operated up and down with the manual switch but there’s not much crossover between the electrical and the vacuum system, they’re separate, so when the lights actually don’t illuminate that’s actually an electrical problem.

Mark: So what do you do to start diagnosing this kind of issue?

Bernie: Well, I’ll start, within the electrical problem,you got to start at one end and you know just from experience, pick which end you want to start with is it the end where the headlight is or is at the end where the switch is and it’s a lot easier to access the headlights and the owner had just bought this car and there was a box of new headlights in there that the previous owner had said, hey you should change these lights. So I thought well, he want them done anyways so we start with the headlights, pulled everything apart and what we first of all found, a few of the headlights were actually broken so that was part of the issue but in being able to take the lights out, we were able to test the wiring and found that there was a bad ground to the lights and in fact, a lot of the front lights didn’t work as well. So it’s a matter of finding that common ground wire and why that connection, and why that end of it wasn’t working.

Mark: So what else did you eventually find that was the problem and how did you fix it?

Bernie: Well what we found is the ground wire is located near the front of the vehicle, near the headlights on a metal tab, interesting thing about a Corvette is it’s a fibreglass body car, so there’s lots of metal around that it’s not as plentiful as an average car which is all made of steel, so you have to hunt around for your ground wires. The wiring, there is a little more wiring on a Corvette than it would be on an equivalent 1969 car because the body isn’t a complete ground. So once we found the ground wire, found the bad connection, but the connection actually ended up not being repairable so I ended up finding a new ground source and repaired that. So I’ll just share a few photos while we’re at this juncture here and here’s a of view of the hideaway headlights. This is the passenger side, you can see that there’s a covering around the headlight and the drivers side, here I actually took this picture when it was partially apart. I don’t have any fancy videos or things going up and down, it is kind of cool to watch but we’ll do that at a  later date. Here’s the passenger side of the cover, there’s a cover that lifts, a few screws you remove and then you can get at the lights and remove them. What is kind of neat about this cover, it’s a 69 car, the cover which on any modern car, even you know a few decades old, would be made of plastic. This one’s made out of like a thin, tinny pot metal. So it’s kind of neat working on this kind of stuff, it’s kind of like working on a museum piece in a way that still drives down the road. The wiring problem, there’s our ground wire, it’s a close up view, that’s the actual wire that was bad. I cleaned it up first of all, this is the hole where it screws into, you can see it’s a fairly thin gauge piece of metal and when I went to screw it back in, it just wouldn’t tighten back up which happens. It’s probably really good for one or two, in this case only one shot, it’s probably never been removed since the factory but there’s basically corrosion that built up in this area and just wouldn’t allow the ground connection to happen. So we’ve got a better source elsewhere.

Mark: So we don’t really have, we haven’t often spoken about cars this old, do you work on a lot of vintage cars like this?

Bernie: Not too many and to be honest, we try to avoid them in our shop. It’s tricky to get  parts for old cars but I will say that we seem to work on a lot of old Corvettes and a lot of older Mustangs. These are two cars where you can actually get a lot of parts fairly easily. I mean things like, I should say on this Corvette there’s a couple other problems with the lights too, the high beam-low beam switch which is located on the floor was broken and these are parts that you can still buy quite easily. So some of these parts I mean, they just made millions and millions of them. Same switches used on GM cars for, as I say, like millions and millions of them. So there’s still the demand to make parts but you can pretty much buy anything you want for one of these Corvettes, unfortunately a lot of it is cheap made in China junk, which is kind of unfortunate. So it’s a little bit of work to find the right parts, but there’s a few select vintage cars we will work on in our shop and they’re kind of fun. Although I’ve kind of made myself the vintage guy here now because I kind of grew up with these cars, a lot of my newer, younger guys are like, oh how do you fix that? I go, I’ll just take care of it, it’s easier.

Mark: So some fun.

Bernie: Yeah exactly

Mark: So if you have a vintage car in Vancouver and you want Bernie to work on it, bring it into Pawlik Automotive, he’ll look after you. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 or check out our website, tons of videos on there, Youtube channel, got four years plus of videos, lots of controversy, check it out Top Local Rankings, sorry Pawlik Automotive on Youtube. Thanks Bernie 

Bernie: You’re welcome Mark

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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