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1983 Cadillac Sedan de Ville
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Discussion Starter #1
Greetings to all. So I bought my first Cadillac on Wednesday night. Its a 1983 Sedan de Ville, 87k (Records and its condition prove its not 187k...lol) So far I really love the car; and knew its major fault when I got it...(no blower motor operation) but it was a deal and the interior looks nicer than some of the cars at the lot I work at.

When I bought it; I did notice the high beam headlights didn't work; no indicator on the dash when I pulled the switch or anything...not even the telltale indicators on the fender. But I hardly use them anyways, and both were cracked and were starting to collect water. But the low beams were ok and functioning. After the 30 minute drive home in the dark and rain, the headlights were flickering off and on...and I smelled a burning smell; so I killed the headlights and drove home with the parking lamps on...being stealthy and illegal...I know.

So today at work; I went to our parts department and ordered two new high beams; and bought new low beams as well..so all 4 would match brand wise; and be new and clean inside with bright even output. Or so I thought. I put in all four on my lunch break; tested the low beams...good. Still no highs...thinking its the dimmer switch. Oh well...project another day, right? Sorta smelled that burning sensation very briefly; but thought it was my imagination...I tend to be too panicky about small stuff.

Fast forward to tonight at seven when I left work. Go out to my car all proud, hit the switch. Nothing. No lows...no highs...if I hold the dimmer way back I could flash briefly...that's it. So another journey home in the dark...but on highly lit roads. Anyways; anyone have ANY odeas on what to check? Replace? 4 new sealed beams and none work? I never saw smoke when I smelled that scent; and logically should've investigated it more; but its my only means of transportation. Please help...I don't wanna have to give it up already... Any help is greatly appreciated!!!:cool:
 

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Orange And Purple Lights.
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6,632 Posts
Well, welcome to the Fourms at least!

The burning smell could mean that a wire could be shorted and grounding (As wires have a very unique smell when that happens) but this makes little sense, as they are fused and should not burn out like that. Also, did you check the fuses? I imagine that's the first guess to start, especially since the high-beams do not work altogether. I am not sure if this could make a difference, but if the high-beam switch is in the ON position (regardless of you not getting any power) perhaps someone may have a better idea if THAT may affect the other lights as well, as they share common live wires (presuming the De Ville is wired like the Brougham, which it surely must be) because without indicators or the lamps going on, it may be easy to misjudge if the switch is engaged. So if perhaps the fact that the highbeam switch is ON (In spite of it's dysfunctionality), correlates to the other bulbs turning off, maybe that affects it.

Also, as a future note, if the you know the bulbs are not going on, no point in checking the telltales on the fenders. These are Fibre Optic, so even if the lamp system worked perfectly, if one bulb was burned out or even not plugged in, the telltale would not light, as it has no source to make it do so.

Honestly, I am not sure as I have never had this issue and I could be WAY off, but someone here must know. Until then, try checking the wiring and the fuses for clues. That's what I would do at least, because electrical problems are not nearly as difficult to spot as the world makes them out to be.
 

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1983 Cadillac Sedan de Ville
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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks! If it wasn't 20 degrees outside right now I'd dig into it more tonight... I'm pretty used to simple electrical problems; I've owned a few Jaguars. Lol. But this issue threw me for a loop. Didn't know if it was common or what. For other readers of this post who may ask; I do not have auto headlights or auto high beams. I see AutoZone in my area has a new headlight switch for $12 and a new dimmer for $10. Both in stock...so maybe that'll be plan B if fuses check out. I know the bulbs are good...just bought 'em 9 hours ago brand new! Anyone know what fuses to check? Or where a fusible link may be? I have an owners manual...and funny enough; it says in there if headlights flicker; take to dealer right away. I can only imagine what'd happen if I took a 28 year old Caddy to a dealer... Lol. Plus I spent all my savings to buy the beauty. Anyways, if anyone else has tips or advice; I'm open to all suggestions!
 

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1970 calais coupe
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346 Posts
Welcome to the board....don't be discouraged by minor issues.

You will get there and sooner than you think.

There is a wealth of knowledge and goodwill on these pages.

I hope you get your lights sorted soon.
 

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2014 ELR
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10,384 Posts
It's the dimmer switch on the top of the column. Under twenty bucks, and easy to change. You take off the lower dash trim, then the two big nuts that hold the column up. Lower the column to rest on the seat, then find the switch. Held in by two nuts. Unplug the old harness (note that the burning smell was likely those wires, inspect closely), then install new switch. Center so the actuating rod is in the right location. Pull out the little clip that locks the switch.

Here's what to replace:

 

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1983 Cadillac Sedan de Ville
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Discussion Starter #7
Thank you so much! A local parts store had a brand new one for only $5. Then after $15 for a couple tools that either I've lost or were never returned...and a couple hours I have it all in order again. Had to make my own pigtail to connect to the dimmer switch...the old one was a mess of burnt wire and a big glob of melted plastic over the old dimmer switch; which was also burned. So hopefully my harness holds up. I can only assume that broken bulb the other day shorted out or something when all the water got in. Thank you all!
 

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2014 ELR
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Glad to help. The wiring melts because GM used small gauge wiring without a relay. The full headlight voltage passes through all the wiring and switches. You can add relays to protect the wiring, and you will benefit from much brighter headlights, too.
 

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68 DVC, 96 FLTWD Brgm, 11 CTS Premium (two)
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Glad it all worked out.

I guess GM carried on with the too small wire strategy in the PASS-KEY harnesses in the 90s. I had 3 cars have the wires break - and when that happens the gold keys are now useless...
 

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1995 FWB 130.*** miles
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2,288 Posts
Glad it all worked out.

I guess GM carried on with the too small wire strategy in the PASS-KEY harnesses in the 90s. I had 3 cars have the wires break - and when that happens the gold keys are now useless...
Yep, wires fail inside ignition lock.
 

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Orange And Purple Lights.
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As usual, Jay is the man.

Also, on an unrelated note, provided your owner's manual is designed anything like the Brougham's (Just an awkward guess, based on no real logic) your fusebox should be shown and labeled somewhere around page 100. Given as your car is a Deville, I am probably WAY off and should just shut up now.
 

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1983 Cadillac Sedan de Ville
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Discussion Starter #12
As usual, Jay is the man.

Also, on an unrelated note, provided your owner's manual is designed anything like the Brougham's (Just an awkward guess, based on no real logic) your fusebox should be shown and labeled somewhere around page 100. Given as your car is a Deville, I am probably WAY off and should just shut up now.
Lol. Its all good. My owners manual has info for all the Devilles, Fleetwoods, and commercial chassis... Anyways, nothing was found on the headlights in term of a fuse. I guess the breaker is supposed to be in the switch itself. But after day 2 of my "homemade" pigtail; it seems to all be ok. Next issue to dig into is my lack of a blower motor...next weekend's project I guess is already planned!
 

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1995 FWB 130.*** miles
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Glad to help. The wiring melts because GM used small gauge wiring without a relay. The full headlight voltage passes through all the wiring and switches. You can add relays to protect the wiring, and you will benefit from much brighter headlights, too.
The headlights of my FWB are deem. Replacing the bulbs did not help at all. I am wandering if the related wiring and the switch are on their way...

How are your headlights, the other 1993-1996 Fleetwood owners?
 

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2014 ELR
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Huf, it's not the wiring going bad (well, it could be getting crispy around that dimmer). It is just too small, and too much resistance. It's like trying to drink a milkshake through a straw that is too small. If you want to check it, measure the voltage right at the battery, and then measure it at the headlight. Bet there is a big drop. Adding a relay harness will give you full battery voltage. You would also have the ability to safely run some serious higher wattage bulbs (like 80/100), and you won't complain about dim bulbs then ;)
 

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chevy 350 powered 86 FWB, 00 safari h.t. 66 toro, 83 lesabre
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thanks for the info jay.
what kind of relay are you talking about though? is it something I could snag at the junkyard?
my headlights are so dim its not even funny. the prev owner had them pointed directly at the ground in front of the car in the middle, and it was sorta bright, so I readjusted them to proper distance and position (since what good is illuminating 5 feet in front of you?) now they might as well not be on at all.
 

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chevy 350 powered 86 FWB, 00 safari h.t. 66 toro, 83 lesabre
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I do have at least one halogen bulb (says halogen on it.) all other bulbs are old USA made wagners (I think they're halogens, but I'd have to check). the lights arent very bright. the halogen is a hair brighter than the other bulbs, but not much (maybe because its newer?).
the headlights are about half as bright as the ones on my safari van (and it only has 2 bulbs, not 4)
the alternator that is on the car is 70 amps (I think the original was 100 amps) but even with the 100 amp alternator, the lights werent any brighter. I'm not sure if I need to have them professionally aligned or what, because the lights seem to be in the right spot (about 20 feet in front of the car on the ground, pointed towards the middle of the car) but the light doesnt seem to make it to the ground (if that makes sense)
 

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Go with at least two brand new low beam halogens. It will make a big difference. Aim them properly, too. Check your pattern on level ground against a wall. The right side should be higher than the left. This may help...
 

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1995 FWB 130.*** miles
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No, not a junkyard item. If you are good with wiring, you can build your own. However, for the price they sell for, you might just want to buy a pre-made:

http://suvlights.com/index.php?cPath=24_73&osCsid=18cfd72912a765172d07c1d8df172df4
This is the harness for our cars, different options for the early sealed beam cars

Do you have halogens on your 86? Makes a good difference.
Will try in a month or two. Thank you for the links, Jay. The headlights of my Fleetwood are much weaker than ones on my Seville. Does not GM have some standards for the headlight brightness?
 

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2014 ELR
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They have standards for saving money, for sure. Think about the hundreds of thousands saved by not using relays, and by using small gauge wiring for high draw items.
 
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