Frequent tail-light failures? - Nissan Versa Forums
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post #1 of 9 Old 02-28-2017, 03:18 PM Thread Starter
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Frequent tail-light failures?

Calling all Versa electrical experts!!

I love my 2007 Versa hatchback, which I've had about three years now, but there are a couple of things that drive me crazy. One is (I bet you can guess) the darned TPMS indicator light that never goes out.. another is the rear wiper that I cannot figure out how to fix.

But the worst is the very frequent tail-light issues I've had, and that's what prompted me to join this forum and ask for help!!

Here's the problem: at least a dozen times since owning this car, I've had to remove either the left or right taillight assembly in order to fix one of the bulbs. (My 10mm crescent wrench and 10mm deep socket get a lot of use!!) Over and over again I lose the turn signal, the reverse lamp, or some brake/taillight functionality (usually that means that the brake light works when the headlights are off, and the taillight works when the brakes are not being used, but the light goes from dim to off when the headlights are on and the brakes are applied).

At first I was just replacing the bulbs ($$$$) but soon I realized that the bulbs were usually fine - all I had to do was re-seat them or jiggle the wiring harnesses and it would start working again.

I'm retired and living on a next-to-nothing income; I can't afford to have my car re-wired, but these frequent recurrences are getting annoying (and clearly there's a safety issue driving a car whose brakelights, signal lights, or reverse lights can fail at any time..)

Am I the only one having this problem with the Versa or is it a common problem? And is there an easy solution or am I going to have to bite the bullet and have the wiring harnesses replaced?

Many thanks!!
Hal in Fort Lauderdale
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post #2 of 9 Old 02-28-2017, 04:54 PM
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It sounds like part of the wiring harness is shorting out somewhere or have a bad ground connection. You don't happen to have a trailer light harness tacked on there do you? Those often end up causing ghostly problems like that. I've never had my tail light assembly out and it would probably be way different than yours anyways so I don't have a lot of specific advice, but bulb wiring is fairly straightforward. Each bulb needs one ground and one or two incoming 12v sources (if it has one or two filaments). If just removing the assembly without messing with the bulbs makes them come on, probably an issue with that end of the wiring harness. If you specifically have to wiggle the bulbs, then the wires might be ok but check your corrosion in the bulb sockets and maybe try a little dielectric grease. If you have a multimeter you can poke around make sure all bulbs have reliable ground and check the correct voltage is coming in for each function/filament. If you are getting 9v somewhere you should be getting 12 then its shorting out a positive wire somewhere, but what you describe is very consistent with bad ground issues.
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post #3 of 9 Old 02-28-2017, 05:49 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you for your excellent suggestions.. No, I don't have a trailer-light harness, and everything on this car is 100% stock. I imagine it's very possible there's corrosion in the bulb contacts (I live 2 miles from a rather large body of salt water known as the Atlantic..) so I will look into the dielectric grease suggestion. And yes, I have a multimeter, so I'll definitely do some poking around to check voltages. (If it turns out I'm getting less than 12V I'll post here and ask for more help! If it's a bad-ground issue, how would I detect that with a multimeter?)

Fingers crossed... thanks for your help!!

:-)
Hal
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post #4 of 9 Old 02-28-2017, 07:39 PM
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Bad ground check = find the ground contact in socket and find a good local ground like unibody anywhere close there with paint scraped off and put red VOM lead on ground contact at bulb and black lead on the unibody and then VOM on 'ohms' and then read the amount, you want as close to zero as you can get.

Commonly rear lighting grounds are pretty close there somewhere in rear of car, could be bad at the ground point. Or you can simply run your own ground to unibody anywhere in there you want to.

Look inside all the bulb sockets and pry the contacts closer together with a knife point or other pointed edge, the contacts tend to relax with heat and time to open up and then the bulbs don't make good contact right there at the socket itself.
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post #5 of 9 Old 03-01-2017, 02:51 AM Thread Starter
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thank you.. sounds like I have a project for tomorrow morning!!

will report back with results..

:-)
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post #6 of 9 Old 03-01-2017, 03:03 PM Thread Starter
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Ok, I went exploring inside my tail-lights this morning and here's what I found!

First, it turned out I had two lamps malfunctioning: the left turn signal and the right reverse-light. So I got to pull apart both tail assemblies.

The left turn signal started working again as soon as I pressed on the bulb. I inspected the contacts in the socket and they appeared completely clean and free of rust/corrosion. I checked the ground - zero ohms. I guessed that the center contact was too far recessed into the socket to make a solid connection, so I bent it upwards to improve connectivity (but it's just a matter of time before the spring steel loses its spring and I wind up having to go through this process again..).

Likewise, the right reverse lamp responded to a gentle push, but in this case the center contact did show some corrosion, so I cleaned it all up, applied some dielectric grease, and reseated the lamp. Fingers crossed that it won't fail again..

Of course, as long as I had everything open, I checked the other light sockets.. the only anomaly I found was in the right tail/brake-light. This socket has two center contacts plus the ground contact on the side (it's of course a dual-filament bulb, displaying a bright light for the brakes and a dimmer light when the headlights are on). After inspecting the socket (ground showed zero ohms, no corrosion found, contacts were appropriately springy..) I re-inserted the bulb and ran through the test sequence and found that it wasn't working properly (the brighter brake filament never came on). Experimentation showed that if I untwisted the bulb a couple of degrees back from its locked position, everything worked. I thought maybe the contacts in the socket had gotten misaligned so I tried realigning them, without success. So I reinstalled the taillight assembly with the brake-light bulb partially twisted in its socket; it's working fine for the moment, but I expect it to jar loose again the next time wheel meets pothole.. Obviously I need to replace the socket entirely, but that does not look like a simple task..

It's a good thing I've gotten pretty skilled at removing/reinstalling the tail light assemblies, because it appears that today's project won't be the last time I'll have to do it!!
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post #7 of 9 Old 03-01-2017, 08:06 PM
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Sounds like you got a combination of moisture and vibration going on. Id get some of that electrical grease from the auto store and if the bulbs use pins vs twist in Id try bending the pins out so they make more friction when installed.

Have you ever just replaced the bulb vs reuse it? Im anal about bulbs and once they start to tint or mirror over I replace them even if they still work.
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post #8 of 9 Old 03-02-2017, 12:11 AM
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If you are using bulb types with solder buttons on the bottom rather than the wires running at the bottom sides then the solder buttons flatten out over time with vibration to then be shorter in height and then sometimes do not contact well then. About the only thing to do then is change the bulb to get a taller button there.

I have never had a rebent contact quickly foul to not work again, typically they last for years until possibly needed to be done again. Bulb heat damage is typically a time based thing.

Just be glad you don't have crap lens assemblies like Ford uses, the plastic bulb sockets melt directly to the lens to weld together and great fun getting them apart to go back together again to work right without buying new taillights. I often have to cut the socket loose with a Dremel. Ridiculous.

You can use simple like wheel bearing grease as silicone or dielectric grease if it is a transparent grease with no opacity to it. Been doing so for 30 years. Same on battery terminals.

SAVE THAT CASH, they are quietly figuring out a 1000 other ways to take it away from you.
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post #9 of 9 Old 03-05-2017, 03:14 AM Thread Starter
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These are push-and-twist style lamps, with a soldered-type tip and small retaining pins that stick out radially from the top of the bulb's metal base.

And sure, I've replaced the bulbs with new ones (over and over and over) - the problems seem to occur just as often with new bulbs as with old.. Pretty sure the problem is with the sockets, not the bulbs.. corrosion in some cases, bent spring steel in others, and probably just loose connections within the sockets as well. Start with what's probably cheap & flimsy sockets, install them in a car that will sit in the South Florida sun all day and won't ever be more than 3 miles from the salty ocean, and then drive the car over those bumpy South Florida roads & railroad crossings for years.. I suppose I'm lucky the sockets don't fail MORE often!!

Thanks to all for your suggestions.. I will post here the next time I have a failure!!
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