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ZAMM Fanatic
2,730 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
The first step in effecting ANY auto/motorcycle repair is to VERIFY the customer complaint.

So what do I do on my OWN vehicle?

Yep. Blow right past verification.

After ransoming my Chevy pickup out of the shop (new ball joints, pittman, tie rod....hmm, handles a LOT better...) first thing I notice is my turn signal is flashing fast.

Usually means a bulb is out. But it's both sides. Usually BOTH (or all 4) bulbs don't go out at once. I can immediately turn around and take it back to the garage.... but decide to keep going.

Very annoying to drop a car off at a garage and pick it up with a NEW problem it didn't have before. Esp when you're catching a ride, 40+ miles to drop off/pick up...

And it's been raining cats and dogs,

AND I've got some really ugly trailer hitch wiring the PO installed, including the dreaded 3M Scotchlock connectors. (insert photo of these abor*tions)

So it MIGHT NOT BE THEIR FAULT.... although it PROBABLY is...

Back to verifying the complaint.

With the fast turn signal, and the way other drivers were riding up my azz when I made a turn, even signalling my turns by hand....

I ASSUMED that turn, brake, AND parking lights were all out.

Pulling into the Post Office I almost asked an elderly, ahem, "person" to verify my tail lights for me, but ... the thought of trying to explain right signal, left signal, 4 way, park, backup, and decipher [the] delayed responses,

So this morning start tearing into the loose, corroded, poorly tape wrapped, half-azzed trailer hitch wiring LOOKING for any obvious problems.

My ASSumption (yes, you know what you are when you ASSUME something) was that I had a loose ground connection to the entire taillight section, causing all lights to be inoperative. A ring terminal screwed to the body somewhere near one of the taillamps....pulled loose, rusted off, whatever.

I checked fuses first, cause it only takes 30 seconds. No separate taillamp fuse. No gay electrons. (They're the ones that blow the fuzes what do the Caitlyn electrons do --- go both ways? No, that's bi, or AC/DC. Wait, that's a rock group. Switch polarity and become positrons?

But I digress...

So I'm utterly CONVINCED that the repair shop somehow mangled the ground strap to the body, (up in the engine bay) or otherwise SOMEHOW disconnected the ground connection to my taillights, because they're all not working,

Except I didn't verify the "complaint"....keep reading.

I check the engine to body ground strap up in the engine bay, VERY NEAR to where they were doing suspension work, and corroded as it is its connection to the firewall is, buried behind some piece of AC gear and virtually impossible to view or access FEELS intact.

Well, there's more than one way to skin a cat.

If the ground connection's really my problem, all I've got to do is add a replacment ground, tie anywhere innto the taillight harness and everything ought to come alive again. Siimply hook a grounded test lead up to the ground pin on the trailer hitch and everything ought to come alive, right?

Dang, I seem to be having trouble GETTING a good ground anywhere on this rusty undercarriage. Can't seem to make the turn signal light up no matter how deep I probe the damn connector....

And listening to the "Key in ignition" chime and fast flash is REALLY starting to get on my nerves... decide to take a break, get a Dr. Pepper.

Caffeine seems to calm my nerves....

So at some point genius here tries the 4-way flashers, backup lights, and parking lights.

At least Einstein here remembered to set the parking brake before putting it i n reverse and climbing out

Guess what. Backup lights work, parking lights work, it's just the turn and brake lights that are out.

Which mean's it's not a single lost ground killing everything.

Now it's time for me to get on the web, pull up a wiring diagram on a '96 K1500, and figure out what could be screwed up that would ONLY kill the
brake and turn signals, but NOT the parking and backup lamps.

Or climb onto Google and look for a "Silver Bullet" --- a common failure / repair of this particular problem on '96 K1500 pickups...

(Nope, it's not TWO burned out bulbs, checked that, since it's again, a 30 second check)

By now you should be seeing if I had MERELY VERIFIED THE CUSTOMER COMPLAINT, which was "NONE OF MY TAILLIGHTS ARE WORKING" I would
have already been at this stage 2 hours ago.

Yeah, so I don't care WHAT problem the customer TELLS you they have, what problem they BELIEVE they have, START ALL DIAGNOSIS / REPAIRS by VERIFYING the complaint, either with the customer in tow or by yourself.

So do I take myself in tow to verify my complaint, NEXT TIME?

Now, if you don't like these bloody long diatribes of how I @#$ up auto and motorcycle repairs, and just want to INSULT me for sharing MY mistakes and screwups, my lessons learned, (while keeping silent about your own x'ups.... Yeah. Why do you even read what I post? Go find someone you agree with and read THEIR stuff, eh?

I can only HOPE that I actually HELP one or two people out there, if only by providing an excellent example of WHAT NOT TO DO.


Retired twice: Navy and as a govt contractor
14,370 Posts
Long post with good information but no resolution I could find

American Legion Rider
23,697 Posts
Yep, once again a lot of words and no real information. Do I have to assume you went back to get it fixed or is there going to be an episode two with some actual useful information. On another thread no doubt.:thumbsdown: What a clown.:D

Premium Member
8,987 Posts

I am in the process of installing a new chart plotter, radar, antenna, AIS receiver and mast head light on my sail boat. Other than the mast head light they all have to talk to each other. The four NMEA wyres do not match for colour.
I will not be calling you for any advice.

Unkle Crusty* Notice how short my message is, but it has so much info.
The other Wade has written some tutorials that might help. The bit about using a large screw driver to cross hot wyres should help.

ZAMM Fanatic
2,730 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
What Kool Hand Lucas the Electrician would say...

Yeah, the REAL USEFUL information in that post is:

VERIFY THE CUSTOMER COMPLAINT before you start effecting diagnosis or repairs.

The actual problem isn't resolved (yet), Critter. It's been rainin' too much. Instead of splitting wood I"m digging runoff ditches these days. .

I thought I repeated it ENOUGH TIMES to get it across, but apparently it went OVER SOME HEADS...

The actual cause/resolution of the turn signal problem is unimportant, compared to the time you/I/we will save if we always:

VERIFY THE CUSTOMER COMPLAINT, EVEN IF YOURE THE COMPLAINER, before you invest time and effort tryiing to diagnose/SOLVE the problem.

Have I gotten that across? VERIFY THE COMPLAINT, FIRST. Not second, third, or after all your attempts at diagnosis/quickN easy repairs FAIL. The things you are "sure" must be causing it.

As for the problem itself, I'm still working on it when time and weather permits.
Struggling to get the dash far enough apart to be able to probe the directional switch connector... might need to pull the lock cylinder to ge tthe trim off.

I'm sure ODE could tell me, but won't. :biggrin:

I downloaded a wiring diagram off the web (should have been Step #2 after VERIFYING THE COMPLAINT

So let me reiterate for anyone who missed it again..

Begin all diagnosis by VERIFYING THE COMPLAINT
Next DOWNLOAD A SCHEMATIC if it's an electrical problem

The schematic will allow someone with reasonable electrical EXPERIENCE to immediately rule in and out certain causes, possible SEE things like the fact that the BRAKE LIGHT is wired THROUGH the directional switch, so a single point of failure there can cause BOTH problems..

Third, check google for "Silver Bullets" for your particular vehicle (the #1 silver bullet on THIS one seems to be WORN OUT directional switch)

Fourth, and ONLY forth, goeth foreth? after examining the wiring diagram (schematic) and determining LIKELY causes...

like failed bulbs, a missing ground connection, failed switch, cut/chafed wires between switch and rear of vehicle (actual tail lamps)

THEN get out the meter, start taking panels off, climbing under vehicle, pulling taillight lenses off to probe signals, unwrapping ugly trailer hitch wiring (well, I was gonna clean that up anyway...SOME DAY...)

In other words, instead of WASTING TIME looking for a quick answer...


and THEN....


Next weeks lesson: Why you CONFIRM the Repair actually CORRECTED the problem, instead of just

ASSuming that it did.

ASSuming that replacing the one broken part will fix it.

B'cause (there may be MULTIPLE broken parts, MULTIPLE causes of the problem, the new part may immediately FAIL AGAIN because of an UNDERLYING cause...)

B'Cause you MAY HAVE INDUCED ANOTHER problem by fixing the first one you saw...

So I'm looking/waiting for a good, ACTUAL EXAMPLE where failure to confirm the repair bites me in the azz as hard as you guys do....

Kool Hands Lucas: "What we have here is FAILURE to CONFIRM"

so let me again repeat, NEXT WEEK'S LESSON will be about the importance of CONFIRMING the repair, and not about a '1996 K1500 and what specifically caused or corrected the problem... although I know your curiousity is killin's mine. Like to have this FIXED.

It will be about the importance of VERIFYING the repair made.

Over and out.

BTW, this is NOT Hotel California. You can check out of this thread anytime you like.

But you won't. Bunch of bored, grumpy old men sitting around like Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon raggin' on the OP.

Premium Member
8,987 Posts

I do not view any of these sermons as lessons. I view them as rants.
I have worked under some excellent tutors, I think I know the difference.
If you followed your own instructions, your problem would have been fixed long ago.
Sometimes it makes sense to ignore the old, and replace. Imagine paying for the repair guys time. Something you have railed against before.

Always a good plan to insult your fellow forum members. I try to address the message and agree or disagree. I try to not insult the messenger, even if I get dumped on. It is the Elinor Roosevelt and Dali Lama way.

Unkle Crusty*

ZAMM Fanatic
2,730 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
To finish the story, the failure was in the circuit boards / connectors WITHIN the taillights themselves. Apparently it's a common failure on this era Chevy trucks.
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