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  #1  
Old June 17th, 2019, 11:09
br1anstorm br1anstorm is offline
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Erratic turn signal flasher relay

I have a strange problem on my stock 1993 XJ. The turn flashers are behaving erratically.

I've done a quick forum-search and was astonished at how many issues there seem to be with turn signals/hazards/flasher units. But none seems to show the same symptoms as I have.

When indicating to turn either left or right, the flashers go bright-bright-dim-dim-nothing-bright.....and so on.

I did the obvious checks. The hazard circuit works fine: regular bright flashes from all four bulbs. So the bulbs are all fine, their connections are fine, and the hazard relay unit evidently works.

So I assumed the original turn signal flasher unit (relay) in the fuse panel was simply tired or worn out. It's a Wagner 552, two pins.

I got a cheap standard (unbranded) replacement, and fitted that. Dang me, the new flasher unit performs exactly the same: still the erratic flashing pattern when turning left or right.

So I'm baffled. I understand there are two types of flasher relay unit - thermal and electro-mechanical - and that they are interchangeable. No idea which type my original unit or the new one might be.

What else might be causing this problem? What else can I check?
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  #2  
Old June 17th, 2019, 11:26
asymptonic asymptonic is offline
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Re: Erratic turn signal flasher relay

Could be the actual turn signal stalk in the multifunction switch or its connector contacts? If you do replace it, I recommend the Mopar one, the aftermarket I got was terrible.
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  #3  
Old June 17th, 2019, 11:59
br1anstorm br1anstorm is offline
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Re: Erratic turn signal flasher relay

A quick follow up. I tried another trick picked up from a thread in this forum.

I swapped over the hazard flasher unit (Wagner 224 - which is a 2pin circular blue plastic drum-shape module) with the turn signal unit (Wagner 552 - a 2pin shiny aluminium drum-shape module).

Well..... the turn signals flashed nice and bright and regular, both left and right.

And the hazards ..... didn't work at all.

So the original Wagner 552 turn-signal flasher relay seems definitely to be faulty. The weird thing is that I then put my shiny new unbranded flasher unit into the hazards socket. Didn't work. Is the new one faulty too? Very odd.

But at least this confirms that it's not the multi-position steering column switch assembly that is to blame.
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Old June 17th, 2019, 16:39
asymptonic asymptonic is offline
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Re: Erratic turn signal flasher relay

Nice. The new one could certainly be faulty or just not built to spec. If its easy enough just try another one and if it doesn't work look for a better quality flasher.
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  #5  
Old June 19th, 2019, 06:12
br1anstorm br1anstorm is offline
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Re: Erratic turn signal flasher relay

Oh dear. This problem gets more puzzling.

On the evidence so far, I have proved that the Wagner 224 (blue plastic casing) flasher unit, which originally controlled the hazard lights, is working properly. It makes the hazards flash; and if plugged into the turn-indicator circuit, it makes the left or right indicators flash properly and regularly.

The original Wagner 552 (aluminium) unit for the turn indicators was making them flash feebly and erratically. So I replaced it with a new unbranded unit. This was no better, and produced the same erratic flashing. When I tried each of these in the hazards circuit, neither made the hazard lights flash.

So..... I got another new flasher unit. This one is labelled 'electronic' and 'heavy duty'. Guess what? When I put it into the indicator circuit, it doesn't make the turn lights flash at all. And when I put it into the hazards circuit, it either illuminates all four lights permanently (no flashing) or doesn't light them up at all.

What is going on? The Wagner 224 flasher module operates either the hazards or the turn indicators perfectly normally as it should (which suggests that the bulbs, wiring and connections are all OK). The original Wagner 552, the aluminium unbranded replacement, and the heavy duty electronic unit, don't work the turn indicators (either erratic and feeble or nothing) and they don't work the hazard lights....

I can't keep getting more and more replacement flasher units until - like a lottery - I find one that works. (Wagner modules seem not to be available in the UK market). On the evidence so far, I can't see exactly where the fault lies, nor how to fix it.
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Old June 19th, 2019, 11:24
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Rob Mayercik Rob Mayercik is offline
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Re: Erratic turn signal flasher relay

Any chance of getting some OEM ones out of a junkard?
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  #7  
Old June 19th, 2019, 12:56
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Re: Erratic turn signal flasher relay

The most common problem is the ground. When the ground has excessive resistance the flasher can get erratic. Corrosion can also be an issue, either on the hot side or the ground side.

Another issue can be matching the flasher unit to the number and wattage of the bulbs. The universal units seldom work out well. The flasher unit on some imports is a mismatch anyway as the side marker lights are disabled on some import models.

Just a couple of things to look at if it isn't an easy fix.
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Old June 19th, 2019, 14:48
br1anstorm br1anstorm is offline
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Re: Erratic turn signal flasher relay

Thanks for those helpful thoughts. On the junkyard option, not much hope - finding an XJ of about the right vintage in a UK junkyard is needle-in-haystack stuff..... but I will hunt around.

Checking the grounds of the circuit(s) is a logical route to follow. But I confess I'm just not exactly clear where any ground-connections might be. All the turn indicator bulbs have two-wire connections, so the grounds must be (or could be) anywhere else in the vehicle. I don't think there's any corrosion around or behind the fuseboard panel into which the relay modules fit. All the bulbs do light up: I admit I haven't yet gone around the vehicle and dismantled all of the light-units and examined the bulb-sockets and wiring connections....

And it's not as if one bulb, or one side, flashes erratically (which would suggest a suspect or corroded contact). If the problem was a slightly bad ground connection somewhere, how is it that the original hazard relay unit (the Wagner 224) not only makes all the hazard lights flash correctly, but also makes the turn indicators work perfectly when plugged into that circuit? To me that says that the circuits (and the ground connections) are good. Meanwhile neither the original (faulty?) turn-signal relay nor the two different new ones can make either the hazards or the turn-indicators flash properly, if at all. That seems to point to the relays themselves not operating properly, though it still seems long odds that three different units (the original and two replacements) should all be incapable.

Although I'm in UK, my Jeep is a stock LHD US-spec vehicle. Maybe the new universal units I have tried are incompatible with the number or wattage of the bulbs, or the wrong spec. But something like a flasher relay unit or module is surely neither complicated nor unique? Rock Auto and other sources seems to suggest that any of the different manufacturers' units are all suitable and interchangeable.
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Old June 19th, 2019, 16:24
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Rob Mayercik Rob Mayercik is offline
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Re: Erratic turn signal flasher relay

Did this erratic behavior start recently, or has it done this for as long as you've owned the vehicle? If it's always done this and you're not the original owner, maybe the type-552 never belonged there in the first place and someone just jammed it in there to fill the hole. I know you don't want to keep buying parts, but it seems like the quick fix would be to get another 224 and use that, since you already know that one does the job for turn signals too.

Does anyone know if there was any change in the flasher parts over years, or if the flashers from the later models are the same? It's not like the factory ever equipped an XJ with LEDs...
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  #10  
Old June 19th, 2019, 20:23
asymptonic asymptonic is offline
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Re: Erratic turn signal flasher relay

Quote:
Originally Posted by br1anstorm View Post
That seems to point to the relays themselves not operating properly, though it still seems long odds that three different units (the original and two replacements) should all be incapable.

I'm with you here. If the grounds were bad I don't believe any relay would produce the correct behavior. The relay is the issue, the question is why. Either the demands of the circuit are different from what the relay is speced for (e.g. non stock bulbs) or the relay is out of spec, imho.
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Old June 20th, 2019, 12:36
br1anstorm br1anstorm is offline
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Re: Erratic turn signal flasher relay

This is turning into an interesting discussion!

Rob - I've owned my stock XJ from brand-new. 26 years and some 160k miles, but mostly on-road (or when off-road in desert sand, not mud and rocks). So it's been well-treated and maintained. It is now basically showing signs of age: I've replaced the usual things but nothing serious. Both those Wagner flasher-relays (the 552 in the turns and the 224 for the hazards) are the original factory fits from new. The erratic behaviour started just a few months ago, not just suddenly one day. We just became aware that the turn flashers seemed a bit irregular. That's why I thought it was just the turn-relay (the 552) dying of old age!

It does look like a relay issue. But to find two different and supposedly compatible new replacements, one looking identical to the 552 and one electronic heavy duty (with clear plastic casing) producing almost exactly the same erratic flashing pattern (or nothing at all) seems bizarre. If I could find a Wagner 224 - like the one which still works well - I'd slot it in. But they are hard to source over here (and a quick check suggests that Rock Auto doesn't list the 224, which is also surprising).
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Old June 20th, 2019, 13:58
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Rob Mayercik Rob Mayercik is offline
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Re: Erratic turn signal flasher relay

Hm, well that eliminates the "previous owner goofiness" theory and validates that these are indeed the original units.

Thinking about it a bit more, it's probably still worth checking the grounds - remember that the turn signal only blinks one side of the vehicle, while the hazard circuit has to blink both sides, so that probably means that the 224 flasher there is rated to a higher current capacity since it's driving twice as many bulbs at one time. With a wonky ground, maybe the turn signal circuit is pulling more current than is normal, enough to make the 552 act up but still within the tolerances of the 224.

Even though all the bulbs are working, it's probably worth checking all the grounds anyway, as well as pulling each bulb on these circuits and checking the socket contacts for oxidation/corrosion.

Since you're running a 93, you have the old-style sockets like my 92 has, and if you've got any rust issues in the rear quarter panels, then there's a better-than-even chance that those sockets are corroding, since the connection points where the wires enter the sockets aren't weather-shielded.

With my truck, I did have corrosion issues on those sockets due to rust issues in the rear quarter panels, so I know they can get bad. I never saw erratic operation like you're describing, but I did have sockets fail completely or rust up so bad I couldn't get a bulb out, so your symptoms don't seem unreasonable for corroded sockets.

If your tail light sockets are bad, an alternative to direct replacement is grafting the 97-01 style sockets onto your harnesses like I just did. The brake/tail and turn sockets will slot right into our tail lights, but the reverse socket doesn't due to it being two-tab (and ours are three-tab). The newer sockets are weather sealed, and are "lower profile" since the later models don't have the cutouts our sockets sit into, so it makes fitting our lights back onto the body easier too once you figure out how to rotate each of the three into the right positions. For all six positions (brake/tail, turn, reverse on each light), you'll need 3 harnesses. If you use the 4th position for rear fogs, then a 4th will be needed. I converted a 3rd brake/tail socket to two-wire by tying the "minor" wire (tail filament) to ground - the two-wire sockets are just 3-wire ones with only the "major" (brake) and ground populated.

The other gotcha is the gaskets - the later ones have a rubber/silicone one, and it's not thick enough for our housings. That's easily solved, though, by reusing the foam seals from the older sockets, either on top of the rubber ones or in place (whichever gives a snug fit and still permits you to rotate into a "locked" position.

Still it's not a bad job to do if you've got any experience with wiring and take your time to be sure you don't mix up the brake and tail wires.

Oh, and if you do this then you only need one bulb type for all the converted positions - simpler for carrying spares.
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Old June 20th, 2019, 14:32
br1anstorm br1anstorm is offline
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Re: Erratic turn signal flasher relay

Rob - that's a really coherent and persuasive diagnosis. The point about circuits pulling more current than normal because of dodgy connections seems credible. Since swapping around the relays hasn't solved the problem but just revealed some possible clues, clearly it makes sense to check out all the bulbs, sockets and light fittings.

I changed/replaced both front turn bulbs some years ago as the originals were white and I had to put orange ones in to make it legal for UK. I've had the little front corner ones in and out several times in recent months when doing other stuff. I haven't opened up and looked at the rear light units in years, if ever.

I'll work my way round all four corners of the vehicle with some electro-contact spray in hand, and see what all the connections and wiring look like. More info to follow when I've done that over the weekend....
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Old June 21st, 2019, 13:57
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Rob Mayercik Rob Mayercik is offline
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Re: Erratic turn signal flasher relay

Sounds good. Hopefully this will turn up something that points at a cause.
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Old June 26th, 2019, 06:40
br1anstorm br1anstorm is offline
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Re: Erratic turn signal flasher relay

Well here's an update - and the mystery is still not solved!

I've been round all six of the bulb-connections. The two front corner ones inside the orange plastic reflectors are clean and sound. The front flashers (which in my Jeep are re-wired into what was originally the white sidelight units below the headlamps, and now have orange bulbs in them) are also fine - but I gave them a squirt of electro-contact spray anyway.

The rear lamp assemblies were dusty inside, but the body-panels are not at all rusty, there's no worn or damaged wiring-insulation and all the rubber seals are good. I took out and checked the turn-indicator bulbs. One had a little bit of rust around the bulb-base and the socket, so I cleaned it all off nice and shiny and then gave both a spray.

So.... I reckon the wiring circuits, ground-connections and bulbs are as sound as they can be.

After all that I tried the turn-indicators and the hazards again. The problem remains. The blue Wagner 224 flasher relay, originally for the hazard circuit, operates the hazards fine; and when swapped into the turn-indicator circuit, works the turn signals equally well. But none of the other three flasher relays I now have (the original Wagner 552 turn-flasher, the unbranded aluminium universal replacement, and the 'heavy duty' one) works properly in either circuit. Either nothing happens, or the lights flash erratically - either staying on, not illuminating, or flashing sporadically. Seems very weird.

If I could get hold of another blue Wagner 224 relay I'd put that in, so that both circuits were using that particular unit. But it does seem hard to find.

The only other point (which may be obvious...) is that there is clearly a link between the two circuits, because if either flasher unit is removed, the other circuit doesn't function at all. I am also beginning to wonder if there might be a bad connection or a short somewhere at the back of the fuse mounting board - because "wiggling" the relays in their sockets does seem to affect whether they operate or not. Sometimes they click, even though the lights don't flash. It's not easy to remove that fuseblock to look at the wiring behind it...

Electrical problems, especially when intermittent, do seem hard to diagnose!
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