Break Down Story Number 18

Break Down Story Number 18.

No Head Lights

The trusty old Triumph MK I has been a reliable car over the years with only a few Break Down Stories to its name but it’s only a matter of time with old cars.

March 2022 I set out on a road trip to Coffs Harbour but not via the freeway. I was on a mission to find a scenic two day route over back country roads, both bitumen and dirt to Coffs Harbour for a car club run. The route would take me through Karuah, Bulahdelah, Gloucester, Walcha and Armidale and then on the second day from Armidale, through Ebor, Dorrigo and Sawtell.

The weather was not co-operating with rain, rain and more rain which made the trip a bit more of a challenge. With the back windows down about an inch and the front quarter windows open about the same the car did not fog up as long as I was on the move. The wind screen wipers were doing there job but the poor old Triumph wasn’t exactly water tight, not bad leaks, just enough for things to get damp. Once I got over the mountains low cloud added to my visibility problems. With the altitude the poor old Triumph became a bit asthmatic and I found myself having to drop back to third gear at the first sight of a hill.

But all in all the Triumph ran well for the whole trip except for the first night. I got to the Motel a bit late as I had stoped to visit an old school friend along the way but all was well. Having settled into the Motel I then drove into Armidale to purchase something to eat, again no problems. I got back to the Triumph after buying some fried chicken from a well known eatery and was about to drive back to the Motel when I realised that the head lights were not working.

As luck would have it I was parked under a street light so I could see to try and fix it but as bad luck would have it, it was still raining. Now to continue the story we need to go back about six months to the Evan Green Rally. I was on my way home having done some filming of the rally when I realised that the head lights were not working. But I was not far from home and I managed to make it home before it got to dark. It turned out to be the head light switch and I could not find a replacement so I decided to rewire the head lights through another switch.

There is a switch on the dash of these old MK I Triumphs that I have never known what it’s for, there are wires connected to it but nothing happens when you turn it on. So I decided to use this switch for the head lights. I removed the wires from the back of the switch, there was no power in them but I taped them up just in case. As I did not know the power capacity of this switch I decided to wire the head lights up using a relay so that the power going through the switch would be just switch power, telling the relay to activate. All went well the head lights worked without problems but I don’t drive the old Triumph at night all that often, so the lights had not been tested other than turning them on to make sure they worked.

So here I am on the side of the road outside a well known chicken shop, in the dark, in the rain with no head lights. I am not with the NRMA road side assist with the Triumphs (only the Toyota) as I work on the premise that, ‘if I can’t fix it then the NRMA can’t fix it’. All the Triumphs have an extensive tool box and spares box in their boots to cover most break downs.

I removed the switch from the dash and checked for power, there was power in one wire and not the other which is how things should be. I touched the wires together but the head lights did not come on. There could be a number of reasons for this. With those wires still connected the next check would be to see if the power was getting to the relay and that the relay had power. But with the rain coming down and everything getting wet I decided to abandon my attempt to find the problem and just hot wire the lights.

I pulled one head light out and connected a wire (part of my emergency kit are wires with alligator clips on both ends) from power to the head light. This made the head lights come on so using gaffa tape I replaced the head light, closed the bonnet and headed back to the Motel. By the time I did all this and got back to the Motel the chicken was cold and I was just a bit wet.

The next morning I put the old Triumph back together and as I did not expect to be driving in the dark that day I made no attempt to find the problem and just continued on my road trip.

I had some time the next day, it was still raining but the car was under cover so I thought I would have a look at the wiring with the hope of finding the problem. The two wires I had pulled of the back of the switch were still just hanging down under the dash so I connected them together and the head lights came on. So I reconnected the wires to the switch and turned the switch on and yes the head lights came on.

So what was the problem? I don’t know.

So ends another exciting break down adventure, tune in same duck time, same duck channel next time for more Triumph break down stories.

Jim Pope