Thursday, August 14, 2008

Tech Tip: Horn Wire Replacement

Your car's horn is its most important communication device. The horn alerts our fellow motorist that we have something to communicate. The message may be a simple hand gesture or it could be a warning of impending disaster. In either case, a horn that does not work results in a "failure to communicate." For any driver of a car with a non-functioning horn, this failure to communicate may result in an accident which could have been prevented. As the passing of time has affected all of our cars, it is important to remember that some of our nonessential accessories, such as our horn, are very essential to our driving safety. If your horn is not in working order, do yourself and your car a favor and get your horn fixed before it is too late for your car, and possibly yourself!


The horn on the 1955-57 Thunderbird is activated by a horn button which is located in the center of the steering column underneath your steering wheel's horn ring. Over time, your horn button may develop an electrical short or the horn button spring may wear out. In either case, the result is a horn that does not sound when needed. Before deciding to replace your horn button, check to see if your horn relay, located in the engine compartment, is functioning. A simple, but not full-proof, way to check your horn relay is to listen for a clicking noise when you have someone else press on your horn ring. On 1955 and 1956 Thunderbirds, the horn relay is located on the left front inner fender well. On 1957 Thunderbirds, the horn relay is located on the right front inner fender well. If you hear a click from the horn relay, your problem is not with your horn button. You may have a malfunctioning relay or a short in one or both of your wires leading to your horns. If you fail to hear a click, then you may have a bad horn button.

The horn button for the 1955-57 Thunderbirds is located at one end of a long horn wire. This wire runs from the horn button, down the steering column. It exits at the base of the steering column by the steering gear box located inside the engine compartment. The wire continues from the base of the steering column and ends with a plug which plugs into the main wiring harness located on the inner fender wall by the battery. The horn wire and button come as one complete part. As a result, a bad horn button requires the replacement of the horn wire as well.

To replace the horn button, first disconnect the battery. From inside the car, press down on the center of the horn ring and twist to the left. Your horn ring should twist right off. Once you have removed the horn ring, the horn button will be visible in the center of the steering column. Now that you have one end of the horn wire in sight, namely the horn button, you now have to locate the other end in the engine compartment. As stated above, the horn wire comes out of the base of the steering column by the steering gear box. Once you have identified the wire, follow it to the point where it plugs into the main wiring harness. Unplug the horn wire from the wiring harness. You now have both ends of the horn wire located, disconnected, and exposed. Using a minimum of 4 to 5 feet of fine picture wire or some other strong, single filament wire, fasten the picture wire to the plug end of the horn wire. It is best to twist the picture wire two or three times around the last two to three inches of the horn wire. Give the two wires a good pull to make sure they will not separate. You will be using the picture wire to trace the path of your old horn wire up the steering column.

With the two wires attached, push the horn wire up the steering column. This should send the end with the horn button up and out of the steering column. From inside the car, pull on the exposed horn wire until you have removed the complete horn wire and have reached the picture wire. Make sure you still have picture wire visible at the base of the steering column in the engine compartment. You will need this end of the picture wire to pull your new horn wire down through the steering column.

From inside your car, with picture wire in hand, remove the old horn wire. Take your new horn wire and attach the plug end to the picture wire in the same fashion as you did with the old horn wire. Make sure you give the two wires a good pull to test how well you have tied them together. Apply a small amount of vaseline to the plug end of the horn wire. This will help the wire pass through the steering column. By pulling on the end of the picture wire located inside the engine compartment, you will pull your horn wire down through the steering column. Once the plug end is visible, pull on the horn wire until the horn button is seated in the center of the steering column. Remove the picture wire from the horn wire to the wiring harness. Reattach the plug end of the horn wire. Reinstall your horn ring and reconnect your battery. Hopefully, you have successfully re-established your line of communication with the rest of the driving world. Congratulations!

I wish to thank all of our "tech tip" contributors for their ideas and clippings. I hope they know that without their help, this column would not be possible. This month's "tech tip" idea is from our very own Thunderbird GURU, Mr. Ken Smizinski.

Source: CTCC Tech-Tip Manual 1993-1997

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For a 55 you have to take out two screws on the back side of the horn ring. Pushing down and turning counterclockwise only works on 56 and 57 from what I've read.