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Turn Signal Lights Do Not Operate (Intermitently)

allchecksallchecks Posts: 25
edited March 2014 in Pontiac
2000 Grand Am. Occasionally, but becoming more regular, the turn signal lights do not flash when the turn signal lever is used. Brought them back today by turning the hazard lights on. At first they didn't flash, then they did. Then the turn signal lights began flashing again when the lever was used. The lever itself is solid, no play in it.

Assuming no short, no grounding problem, is this a hazard warning switch going bad? If yes, looks like (from Haynes manual) the center instrument panel trim bezel must be removed, then the switch. It looks like it will take some careful prying, but it doesn't look complicated. Is that correct? Or, am I completely missing the problem?

Anyone with experience know the best place to look for a short or bad ground in this system? This car only has 37K, is clean and undamaged and I do not suspect either. Or, any recall or technical bulletins for someone like me who is only 1K out of warranty under which I could get GM to do it?


  • swschradswschrad Posts: 2,171
    try a new flasher first, that's only a couple bucks, because that sounds like the issue. once you get 'em flashing in the driveway, check first to see if all the bulbs are flashing... one or both bulbs out on a side means not enough current to make it work. if they are all flashing, replace the flasher.

    there is a possibility that you also have load relays in a fuse panel someplace that actually blink the lights, as I do in my exploder. if so, the relay contacts may have gone to heck. but since the grand am has no pretentions of being a tow car, I'm betting on the flasher module rather than a multipurpose switch.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 57,371
    In any diagnosis, go from the simple to the complicated. So the flasher is a good starting point and a likely suspect.

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  • jgmilbergjgmilberg Posts: 872
    If you go back to the dealer telling them it has been an on and off issue it should be covered by your warranty. 1K over is still fine for a fudge factor, most dealers will do warranty repairs up to 39K as customer statisfaction, just to keep you coming back to buy another car from them. My friend had his seat repaired under warranty @ 41K, so just get it back to the dealer fast. The sooner the better.

    For some reason I remember there being problems with the turn signal switch. I am doing some poking around to see what I can find out. I will post again if I find anything out.
  • burdawgburdawg Posts: 1,524
    The problem your having is almost always caused by the combination (or multifunction) switch in the steering column being intermittent. If you back at earlier posts in the Grand Am or Alero topics you will see it's been discussed before. This has been a known problem on these models. It usually affects turn signals, hazard flashers, and high beams. Just the way you described it, non-working turn signals that start working when you operate the flashers, sounds very familiar to me.
  • swschradswschrad Posts: 2,171
    the flasher is a "wear" part that is made to be easy to get to, and cheap. there is a reason things are engineered that way; it's the most common failure outside bulbs in turn signals.

    it is not commonly appreciated that the electromechanical flasher module needs a certain amount of current to heat up the bimetal arm of the flasher, which opens the contacts, and once it cools off the cycle repeats. if you have one or both turn signal bulbs out, there is often not enough current (high-load flashers may get past this issue) to make the bimetal strip heat up and break the contact. the super-fast flash when putting on trailers is similarly a signal that there is too much load, the flasher heats up almost right away, and barely conducts electricity long enough for drivers to see the lights flash.

    after replacement, cutting through the can around the base for inspection will, I betcha, reveal a crack forming in the bimetal strip where it bends when flashing. this intermittent is about to become a "no flashing anytime, period" when that breaks. if the flasher can is plastic, replace with the same... it's because the clip that holds the flasher is grounded, and the next failure can blow the fuse, cause a quite big spark, and burn a hole in the flasher can when the same thing happens next time.

    been there, done that, have left a lot of blood behind pawing around the steering wheel shaft area behind the dashboard when I can't find the flasher can in the fuse tray.

    try a flasher first. check the bulbs next if the problem continues. if a test wire to the bulb and grounding the base doesn't product light on all the "button" contacts (or wire clip contacts in the case of Ford Bulbs From Hell) of each turn signal bulb tested, replace that bulb.

    only after THAT will I look at the more-expensive, more of a RPA to replace, combination switch. unless there is smoke from the combo switch area, as I had recently in my car, from a wire pinched in assembly and finally shorting out.

    have come across a LOT of bad flashers over the years, and only one bad combo switch.
  • jgmilbergjgmilberg Posts: 872
    I did some digging through the service manual and if you lose both left and right turn signals and the hazards work all fingers are pointing to the "mulitfunction switch"

    If you get a solid turn signal, meaning that the lights come on but don't flash look at the bulbs, or the flasher. If you get nothing at all then get to the dealer FAST while you can still fight them over the grace period if nessassary.
  • burdawgburdawg Posts: 1,524
    I forgot to mention before that the intermittent multifunction switch can also cause the brake lights to not function.
  • cdw324cdw324 Posts: 2
    It may be too late to help, but my 2000 GA had intermittent turn signals just like you describe. The dealer replaced the switch under warranty and no problems since.
  • IT IS YOUR FLASHER. I have a 2001 Grand am and just had mine replaced about 2000 miles ago. I only had 29000 miles on the car when the light started to malfunction. Sometimes it would work, sometimes it wouldnt. I brought it in under warranty and they said it was the multifunction switch. After they pried off my steering column and replaced that, within a few hours it started happening again. Sometimes when I used the hazard switch and then tried the blinkers it worked for a little while. I brought it back up while it was malfunctioning and the repair man messed around with the switch and fixed it. It hasnt happened since. He said the flasher had a short in it. So bring it up and have them check that.
  • dhedhe Posts: 2
    almost same as people are talking here. sometimes i have to press the hazard button for several times to have my signal light working. sometime even i did not use the level to turn on the light, i can here the blinking noise just like you are using the signal lights. can any body tell me where is the flasher?
  • swschradswschrad Posts: 2,171
    some are tucked up under the dash, some have it in the fuse box, some put it in east noplace and laugh at you when you ask the service guys to please fix it for 3 hours of labor.
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