Imperial Home Page -> Repair -> Electrical System ->Horn
Tip from Greg:
On my last outing in my '66 Crown convertible, I was frustrated by the horn not working. When I arrived back home the fun was about to begin. I have been a electronic technician, an electrician and am now a Quality Control Inspector, and felt totally qualified to trouble shoot this minor problem. I did the usual procedure for non-operable horns, that is removing the steering wheel and cleaning the horn contact ring with crocus cloth. Still no horn. Then I got a clip lead and grounded the horn wire at the ring contact, horn blew. An ohm meter was then employed to check the column ground, zero on column ground. I didn't know where the column was grounded and consulted the service and parts manuals, no help. I started looking and found that the column terminates at an isolator under the hood connected to the steering gear box. This isolator has a ground wire connecting the column and the gear box, THE GROUND WIRE WAS BROKEN. Don't ask me how this happened but it did.
Tips on horn diagnosing- by Chris
Diagnosing a horn is pretty easy, since it's one of those "digital" electrical items that doesn't require advanced tools or meters. By digital, I
mean it's a two-speed model, on or off!
Troubleshooting consists roughly of these steps (Dick B, please scold me where necessary for any ill-advised trial and error I might encourage):
Check the fuse. If anything else runs off the same fuse, does it work, too? (Fuse sockets can get loose or corroded, too... it's not always the fuse that lets the circuit become open at the fusebox.)
To see if the steering wheel switch is the problem, you can remove the center pad (or sometimes the entire steering wheel... you'll need a puller but
everyone should invest in this simple tool) and jump the contacts with an insulated screwdriver or length of wire. Note "insulated" so you don't get a
shock! If the horn honks when you do this, the problem lies in the steering wheel switch. Note: Many horns ground when you close their switches, and the power lead is always hot.
To test the horns, you can simply apply 12 volts directly to them. (Those tiny jumper cable sets you can buy for $12 at Pep Boys have other uses!) If they honk, they're good!
Relays can usually be bypassed by disconnecting them and jumping the right sockets together on the connector. If you don't have the wiring diagram, some trial and error with a piece of insulated wire (bridging random sockets... there are usually only three to choose from) is usually harmless here, though it might cost you a few fuses. Remember, you have to connect the terminals AND hit the horn button to complete the circuit... If you can get it to honk this way, it's likely a bad relay.
There are really only six things that can cause the horn not to work:
1. Bad horn(s)
2. Bad switch in steering wheel
3. Bad relay
4. Blown fuse
5. Broken wire
6. Hearing loss
Follow-up from Dick:
Only comments I could make are:
1. You are not going to feel much of a shock from 12 volts. If you just happen to get across the relay coil pull-in circuit in the instant that the circuit has just been interrupted, you might barely feel a little tingle, but trust me, it ain't gonna knock you over! and;
2. I'd add a #7 on the list of possible problems: An ungrounded steering column. On the 68, and on the 81' - 83's, I have found that the wire from the dash metal to the steering column mounting bolt is sometimes misplaced, or broken, or not making clean contact with bright metal. Thus the whole shebang is not grounded, and the horn grounding contacts send the electrons off into never-never land instead of completing the circuit to ground. You can troubleshoot this by noting that if you ground the horn contact in the steering wheel center to the chassis ground (use the "-" terminal on the battery to be sure) the horn will blow, but grounding it to the metal parts in the steering wheel mounting area does not, you've got a floating column.
Follow-up from Elijah:
I will, however, add one small, easily-overlooked item -- the tiny spring in the steering column that allows electrical contact from the steering wheel to the steering column.
A couple of years ago, I worked on the horn on my '71 for a few hours to find the problem. I eventually discovered that this small spring had collapsed! This spring simply makes contact between a wiring terminal (with the wire coming from the horn switch/rim blow switch) and a metal "donut" in the steering column, from whence the wiring continues on down to the relay. In my car, this spring had collapsed, so no electrical contact was possible. After pulling the steering wheel and locating the problem, I replaced the faulty spring with a spring from a ball point pen. Three years later, it still works!
Tip from Gregg:
If your car will not start and you know the problem is with the battery, make sure and check the ground. To repair my charging problem, I took apart the marine style battery cable (positive) and replaced the old 12 gage ground with a new piece and replaced the skinny 16 gage wire I had crimped onto the new negative cable with the 12 gage also. When it STILL didn't start, I relocated the ground for the negative cable from the fender to the cowl-to-fender bracing. Then it cranked well.
Tip from Ed (1981-1983):
As I reported yesterday I repaired the horn buttons on my '82 and added a ground wire to each of the buttons to assure a good ground, yet the horn was still intermittent. Suspecting the ground clip that Dick B. mentioned in a previous mailing, I worked on that today. The steering column is grounded by a small metal clip that is attached to the left bolt that attaches the column to the dash. There are two of these bolts and the one on the left has this special clip on it for grounding. I tested the ground path with my voltmeter and found that the bolt and the nut on it provided very good continuity to ground, but the odd washer that Chrysler chose to use on these bolts did not. I found that the material these washers are coated with is nonconductive, thus interfering with the path to ground! It's inexplicable to me why they would have used a non-conductive washer on an assembly that is intended to provide a grounding source! So I replaced that washer with one large regular metal washer and cleaned all of the surfaces with CRC Electical Contact Cleaner. This seems to have corrected the intermittent horn problem, as it now blows reliably every time.
Question from Jan (1955):
For my 1955 Custom Sedan I need some horns. Of the three only the short one works. I bought two on ebay and only the short one works. Anyone have some or know of any?
Reply from Ernie:
These horns are easily repaired. The most common problems are corroded contacts and poor connections where the coil windings wrap around the post. Just pull off the cover and take a look around, simplicity itself.
Question from Tony (1956):
Does anyone know how to repair the horn ring on the '56 Imperial? Do you know how these horn rings come off without damaging it more, or the steering wheel??
Reply from Arran:
My suggestion would be to take the horn ring to a chrome shop and see what they can do about repairing it. These horn rings, which were also used on the Chryslers, seem to be prone to breaking, almost like a design defect. Almost every 1956 Chrysler or Imperial that I have seen for sale seems to have this broken. Ironically the older style horn ring, like what is used on my car, seem to be almost indestructable as junk yard cars and derelects often have them intact. This, and the fact that they were used for four or fives years straight, seems to make the 1951- 54 type quite pletiful in comparison.
Getting into the issue of reproducing parts it would be a smart business move if someone could come up with a way to reproduce the 55/56 rings as there would be a fairly decent demand for such a product. Of course someone in the Walter P. Chrysler club might already be making them as even Windsors suffer from the same affliction.
As far as removing the ring, the instructions that I have on removing a horn ring are for a Plymouth or Dodge. If the Chrysler/Imperial one is similar then the first step is to remove the medallion in the center of the wheel. The way that it is done on the Plymouth or Dodge is to press down on the medallion and turn it counter clockwise about 1/8 th of a turn, it should then pop out. Under the medallion is a rubber washer and a ring shaped spring that will lift out and under those should be some screws. Undo these screws and the horn ring should lift right off. Again this is for a Plymouth or Dodge, if the Chrysler/Imperial ring is held on in a radically different manner please chime in and explain.
Question from Brad (1957):
I need the schematic for connecting the three horns up to the relay. Each horn has two electrical connections, my guess is that they are daisy-chained together in some fashion.I have a '60 FSM, will this work?
Reply from Philippe:
About three horn, I've also have this option (don't know if it was really an option). If I remember well, the two electrical connection on each horn are connected together inside so you connect the wire coming from relay to the 1st horn, then you put a second wire from the other connection of the 1st horn to the 2nd horn, then etc... The three horns arethen wired in parallel
Question from Philippe (1957):
I am having some problems with one of the horn on my '57. It's an Autolite. This horn blows one or 2 times then fails. After a while (2 or 3 mn) it blows again, 2 or 3 (short) times. I removed the cover and tried to adjust the small screw: it blows again then fails, I unscrewed a little the adjustment screw and got the same results. I've spent 1 hours w/o good results. It seems that when the resistor is too hot then the horn fails. What's the purpose of this resistor (0.5 ohm)? Protection? Seems that with temperature, the value of the resistor changes so the adjustement is wrong. Could I short the resistor (and adjust the sound) w/o burning the coil? Note that the 2 other horns work well.
Reply from Arran:
This is anoying problem that happened to me on a few old radios, works fine for a while, and then misbehaves, in a few cases it was a resistor changing its value. Replace that resistor, preferably with a wire wound one of the correct wattage and resistance, and you won't have the problem anymore. It is obviously there for a reason, don't short it out.
Question from Kaleigh (1958):
Is a '58 suppose to have 3 horns or 2? Mine only has 2 on the driver's side, but there is mountings on the passenger side. Is this an option?
My Imperial has 3 horns (2 "small" on driver side and a long "trumpet" on pass. side). I think all '57 Imperials had 3 horns, Chrysler (and others) had 2 or (optional) 3 horns.
The 3 horn setup was an option for several years. The 3rd horn is larger then the other 2 & the sound is something very fitting an Imperial. I had a 60 LeBaron parts car that had the 3rd horn, but it was far too rusted to save it.
Question from Frank (1961):
I am missing my Hi horn and want to replace it with original type. My car only came with two horns. Does the opening of the high horn face the center of the car or toward the grill? My Lo horn faces center. The replacement Hi horn I have faces forward and hits support brace for the nose. Are there different horn/mounting bracket orientations?
Reply from Tony:
The horn setup is the same for all 1961 Imperials, but utterly unique to that year alone - The 1960 Imperial horns had totally different brackets, due to the difference in the shape of the front of the car that year, and 1962 and later Imperials lacked the "trumpet". There were two vendors that supplied the "Lo" and "HI" horns for 1961:
Sparton and Auto-Lite.
Sparton - Chrysler part number
HI - 2197 125
LO - 2197 125
(these interchange with ALL 1961 Chrysler products except for Valiant)
Auto-Lite - Chrysler part number
HI - 2197 112
LO - 2197 111
The "Trumpet Type", bent like the letter "L", 20.5"/52.07cm in length and is built by Auto-Lite, and its Chrysler part number is 2198 035.
On my 1961 Imperial Crown convertible, the "LO" horn is on the driver's side, and the outlet faces forward. The "HI" horn is on the exact other side, in a mirror-image, with the outlet facing forward. The trumpet's tube and bell are in the center of the grille, with the outlet facing to the passenger's side of the car. Here's a quote from "WHY I LOVE MY IMPERIAL" articles: "Among my favorite 1961 Imperial accessories are the factory-equipped "triple trumpet" horns. This means that my car has the standard "Hi" and "Lo" horns, with an added monstrosity of a horn in between them. If it were straightened out, it would reach nearly two feet. When I got my first '61, I used to commit the worst kind of noise pollution. I'd be at a busy intersection, with people walking across the street in every direction. The light would change to green, and I'd sit there, waiting. After a few moments, the little econobox behind me would emit an asthmatic little "Meep!", and I would reply with MY appallingly loud and deep horn. At that moment, every head within a hundred feet would frantically start rotating, looking for the freight train."
Question from Greg (1961):
The horn blows on my '61 Imperial when the steering wheel is turned 180 degrees which, I think, is due to the fact that the spring gadget no longer holds the chrome horn ring in place.
Two questions: is there a special tool required to get the steering wheel insert off so I can get to the horn contacts etc., and can anyone recommend a vendor that might have the stuff I need to rebuild the contacts, spring etc.
I haven't worked on a '61 steering column, but when I fixed the horn contacts on my '71 Imperial a few years ago, I used the spring from a ballpoint pen to replace to rusty/collapsed contact spring that was living in the column.
I had a similar problem with my '61. The actual cause was a loose indicator switch unit. This metal unit is attached by one shoulder bolt behind the steering wheel and over the years it wears down. When this happens it allows the unit to wobble back and forth just enough to ground the horn ring at the back of the steering wheel.
The cure is to remove the wheel (any parts shop should be able to sell you a puller, or you could hire one) and fit a thin washer between the shoulder bolt and the indicator unit. If the washer is too thick it will cause the indicator to lock up when you retighten the shoulder bolt. After this repair your indiicator mechanism should have nice crisp feel to it and there should be almost no lateral movement in the lever
You can test to see if this is the cause of your problem by waggling the indicator lever back and forth as you turn the wheel. In certain positions you should be able to get it to blow or cut out just by moving the lever.
Question from Kenny (1964):
The horns on my '64 Crown will not hook, but when I jump power from the horn to the ground on the door they honk, but the could it be that the grounding terminal on the steering wheel has came loose? Also at the rear of the car, the backlights don't come on when in reverse and the the outer most lights don't light when you step on the brake, have park lights on, nor when the turn signal is on; this is happening on both sides, the big lights work but the smaller ones don't, any fix-its???? When I turn the head lights on should the front park lights turn off? And when the blinkers are on does this year supposed to make a sound or anything warning that the signal is on because mine doesn't and it also doesn't if you leave the lights on and open the door or leave the keys in the ignition.
Reply from Chris:
Horns: Either your horn relay is bad (under the hood next to the power brake booster) or your steering wheel contacts aren't contacting.
Regarding your taillights: Only the inner bulbs blink on the taillights. The outer bulbs are single filament and are just running lights.
The problem with the backup lights is either the switch (activated by pushing "R"), the wiring connection inside the trunk (remove black cardboard panels surrounding trunk latch to gain access), or the bulb and/or socket assemblies need repair/replacement. I'd start checking these three items in reverse order.
The parking lights go off when the headlights go on.
Apparently you have a very quiet flasher assembly - the 1" round canister beneath & behind ashtray. Buy a louder replacement.
There is no warning buzzer for lights left on. Nor warning buzzer for anything else in the car.
Question from Johan (1965):
My horn doesn't work. There is no grounding in the steering axle. How do I get grounding in the steering axle?
One possibility is the spring that makes the connection from the steering wheel to the steering column. This little spring lives inside the steering wheel and makes contact with a fixed ring inside the steering column. These springs can collapse or even disintegrate, thus losing contact.
I've replaced them with the spring from a cheap ballpoint pen, which has worked fine.
Note that you will have to remove the steering wheel to get access to the spring.
sometimes the steering columns in Chrysler products for some reason unknown to me lose there ground, to see if this is the case take a length of wire and touch one end to the metal part of the column under the dash and the other to a good ground under the dash such as the park brake mechanism or ignition key etc and try the horn while doing this, if it works then run a wire from one of the column mounting bolts to a good ground under the dash, also check your fuse and check to hear your relay clicking when you push the horn button.
Question from Kevin (1965):
I have a '65 Imperial that the horn does not work on. I found the relay on the firewall next to the A/C circuit breaker. I grounded the relay at the S terminal and the horns blew. I took out the screws holding the horn switch to the steering wheel and removed the switch. I then removed the steering wheel only to find that when i touched a screwdriver to the contact switch and the plate the horns worked. the spring on the contact is fine and is touching the copper plate on the back of the steering wheel. The only thing I can find wrong is that the rubber between the plate and the steering wheel hub is dried out. I am wondering if this could be the problem. Any help would be greatly appreciated as to where I might get that piece of rubber.
Reply from Kerry:
It sounds like you have a problem with the horn not being able to ground itself when you press the horn ring. Since it works when you short it to the hub, it must be something in the horn ring assembly. I would not suspect the rubber bushing because it that had failed the horn would honk all the time. I suggest you take the horn switch off and lightly sand all the contact areas to make sure there is no corrosion that could be insulating it. I had this exact problem with my 54. It would honk once in a while if I held my mouth right. When I scuffed up the metal ring that actually makes contact with the metal ground of the shaft, it now works perfectly.
Question from Jim (1966):
The horn used to work but quit. Applying power at the horn activates it so I'm thinking horn relay if I could find it.
Horn relays do fail, but it is rare. See next paragraph for how to check one out. More likely, the problem is at the steering wheel. If you can remove the center trim from the steering wheel and inspect the horn contacts, you may be able to spot the black wire coming from the horn relay. Take a test lead and ground this wire, the horn will probably blow. (Your car may require the key to be on, I am not familiar with 65's). If this happens, then investigate the horn blowing mechanism at the steering wheel, and follow your nose until you see what is not making good contact. It may simply be because of non-use, in other words, you may only have to clean the contacts. If grounding the black wire does not blow the horn, you need to locate the horn relay itself. It will be somewhere under the hood, probably near the left side front of the engine compartment, but possibly in front of the core support. Locate it by following the wire from the horns. The horn relay is a black rectangular can about 1" by 2", with 3 wires going to it. The 3 terminals are labeled "H" (the wire to the horns), "S" (wire to the steering wheel switch) and "B", wire to a source of 12 volts. When you find it, temporarily ground the S terminal, you should hear a click at the relay, and the horns should blow. If you do not, verify that there is 12 volts at the "B" terminal. If there is, you do have a bad relay. They are available at any NAPA store, cheap. I do not know the specifics of the 65 manual, but in general, they are very complete as to wiring diagrams. Emissions equipment vacuum diagrams came into currency much later than 65, so you are probably going to have to go on common sense, here. There should not be a great number of vacuum hoses, I don't think, except in the AC control system, and those are covered in the manual.
I had trouble with my '66 Imp horn, too. The problem turned out to be the connection at the steering column isolator. The horn ring gets its ground through the steering column, that column is jumpered across the rubber isolator where it makes contact to the frame through the steering gear box. You might check it out the isolator is on the engine side of the firewall.
I had some difficulty last year in getting the horn working on my '71 Imperial. In the case of my car, the fault was in the steering column -- there's a small metal spring inside the column (spring is inside the column beneath the steering wheel, and turns with the wheel -- touches a metal plate that is stationary in the column) that acts as a contact when the horn ring is depressed, and this spring had collapsed. I replaced it with a spring from a ballpoint pen, and the horn works perfectly now.
The horn relay on the '66 is either near the battery or just forward of the radiator wall on the driver's side forward of the battery. Rectangular and about 2" long and 1" wide and has three prongs coming out of it into two connectors to the wiring harness. Should be the same on your '65. If in doubt, trace the wires coming directly off the horns back down the wiring harness and the first component you will come to will be the horn relay.
Question from Tim (1967):
Is there any reason why I shouldn't replace my '67's malfunctioning horns with the ones from a '68?
Reply from Chris:
They should interchange fine. Note which is which from each pair (upper vs lower), as each year uses both a high-note and low-note horn (not two of the same horn per car). But you probably knew that...
Question from Chris (1968):
Does the '68 have a third-note horn? Does a '68 have one more note or horn than a '67??
Reply from Dick:
I am not certain it is authentic for '68, but I know that in many luxury cars the third note was an option. I have it on my '68 and my '81's, and the '79 Eldo and '89 Continental that my wife drove had it, as does my '47 Packard. I know in Packards it goes back to at least '41 in the 180 series. It would take a salesman's data book to check this out, I suppose. Yes, it is an additional trumpet, tuned to harmonize with the standard two horns and make a major chord, quite pleasant, and much more penetrating. Note each luxury car's horn, they usually sound much richer, that is the reason.
Question from Elijah (1971):
The horns on my '71 have not worked since I got the car. Since I've moved into a metropolitan area, though, I suddenly feel the need for them to work. What I know so far is this -- the horns themselves do function. All wiring from the horn relay to the horns is intact -- connecting a jumper wire to the #3 relay contact (which goes to the horns) causes the horns to sound. The horn relay itself is new. I have inspected the wiring under the dash, and everything appears to be intact. The car has the rim-blow horn ring, and the rubber on it is hard as a brick. I have dismantled the steering wheel, and connected one of those cheap, tacky aftermarket horn buttons (don't worry, it's not permanently attached). However, it appears that no power is coming into the steering column. So -- is there something I'm missing here? Where could the wiring be faulty in the column?
Pressing the horn completes the circuit by grounding - the wire in the column is NOT a power source. Identify this wire at the relay and then be sure it is in fact grounded by pressing the horn ring. The relay responds to this grounding, and sends power to the horns.
Circuit has 2 parts.
First part: +12v fed to a relay terminal A. From relay terminal B circuit continues up steering column to rim blow (or horn switch). Rim blow connects circuit to steering column ground. Steering column is mounted on insulating nylon slides to facilitate collapse in the event of an accident. Thin metal clips fit over the nylon between the column and body to complete the circuit. Many times these grounding clip are not properly connected. Check for continuity between steering column ground and the body.
Second part of circuit: 12V fed to relay contact A. Contact B runs to each of three horns, wired in parallel. Note that there are two switches. The one on the steering wheel and the relay. Check both halves for proper operation. The relay protects from sending the high current required to the column and horn switch.
Aside: Years ago I vented frustration in my '78 LeBaron my hitting the center pad of the steering wheel to blow the horn. Over the years the column slipped forward a bit and the ground connection clips "disconnected" - no horn. Until I crawled under the dash to fix the problem properly, horn operation could be restored by lightly pulling BACK on the wheel while pressing the button. Pulling back moved the column enough for the ground clip to do their job.
Follow-up from Elijah:
I purchased a wheel puller a couple of weeks ago, and since I had a free day, I decided to give it a whirl. Using a multimeter, I had tested and verified the circuit continuity all the way to the steering column, so I knew the fault had to be somewhere in the column. At the same time, I also planned to attempt to repair my key-in-switch buzzer, which sounded whenever the door was opened, regardless of whether the key was in the switch or not.
After pulling the wheel and removing several parts, I got down to the nitty gritty, and made two discoveries:
1. The key-in-switch buzzer, composed of a small plastic body, two metal contacts, and a tensor spring, was toast. The plastic body was shattered. I removed it, and plan someday to replace it with a functioning one.
2. The horn malfunction was due to a faulty spring. There is a spring-loaded contact that is a part of the turn signal switch assembly. This contact is intended to touch a plate that turns with the steering wheel, continuing the circuit up to the rim-blow switch. Over the years, this spring had lost its tension and flattened, failing to keep the contact touching the plate. After a bit if fiddling and cutting, I replaced this spring with a spring from a ballpoint pen (appropriately enough, a pen I got from a recent car show advertising Mopar Performance Parts!)
Question from Elijah (1971):
Having recently made some repairs within my steering column to make my horns functional, I have now discovered that one of the horns is not sounding. Although I was initially delighted a couple of weeks ago to get a "toot" from under the hood for the first time since I've had the car, I thought that the sound was a little weak. So I did some simple testing (remove one wire, blow the horn; remove the other wire, blow the horn) and discovered that the top (high note?) horn is not sounding. I have tried turning the adjusting screw, and get an amp range of 7 to 12. Once below 7, the amps just drop. The factory manual specifies a range of 4 to 6 amps. So, do I just need a new horn (and anybody got an extra?), or is there some way to repair the one I have?
Reply from Dick:
Once the horn is to the point that it draws current but does not toot, you'll be better off to replace it, they are cheap. If no one comes forth with a spare original horn, you'll find that the ones stocked at the NAPA store will work and sound just like the original, although the mounting may be a little different. I have used their horns on 3 different cars, and surprisingly, the note is just the right frequency to match and sound right. It usually is the high note horn that goes bad, by the way, but they have both.
Follow-up from Elijah:
So the horn which is not working is the one on top. Is this the high note horn? How can I tell which is the high and which is the low? As soon as I know, I'll trot on down to the local NAPA and pick up another!
Reply from Tony:
Easy enough - Look at each horn - One is stamped "HI" and the other has "LO".
Reply from Dick:
Tony is right. But, in case you cannot find the label, look at the serpentine sound path. The "LOW" will have a much longer path to the open air from the center than the "HI" note. (This is the resonating chamber which determines the frequency of the sound waves.)
Question from Robin (1972 Rim Blow System):
Just wondering if anyone has a solution to the dried up and hardened rubber that I would like to replace on the steering wheel rim to get my horn working again. Actually I have this problem on my '72 Imperial and on my '70 AMC. On one car the rubber is completely gone and on the other it is so brittle that trying to remove it results in small chunks in my hand.
Good news! There is a chap in the Mopar crowd that restores the rim-blow wheels and he advertises in Mopar Collectors guide, Mopar Muscle and Mopar Action. All are hobby magazine that can be purchased or borrowed. I do not know the man's name. Only rim blow I ever had was on a Cougar.
New reproductions of the "Rim Blow" horn switches are available from :
12636 Waddell Creek Road
Don't expect these to be cheap...
Question from Mike (Rim Blow System):
I have a question about the horn on my '70... It must have the infamous "rim blow" system on it because I see no horn button... I also haven't been able to blow the horn... ( not that it's a big deal ) Maybe I'm doing it wrong or it doesn't work ( my guess is it don't work ) ... First, how is it supposed to work ( I don't have an owner's manual for the car yet ) ? Second, If it don't work is it worth fixing? or would it be better to just put a horn switch someplace in the car ? Third, If I was to put a different horn switch in the car, where would be a good place to put it?
Does an annoying buzz come from under the dash when you open the drivers door with the key in the ignition? If not, the key buzzer/horn relay may be missing or defective. You see, the same component is used for these two purposes. It's a rectangular metal box (about 1"x2") that plugs into the fuse panel toward the top edge of the panel face. Three terminals if I remember correctly. Someone having problems with the horn self-activating (not uncommon and extremely unpleasant when it happens at 4AM) may have pulled the relay.
> First, how is it supposed to work ( I don't have an owner's manual for the car yet )?
With your hands on the wheel in a normal driving position, simply press a thumb against the inner diameter of the wheel (against the rubber strip). The switch consists of two long strips of copper separated by a narrow gap inside a grooved rubber tube. Pushing against the tube causes the copper strips to connect.
> Second, If it don't work is it worth fixing? or would it be better to just put a horn switch someplace in the car?
I replaced the rim blow switch on my 70 for $75.00.
> Third, If I was to put a different horn switch in the car, where would be a good place to put it?
You could transplant a steering wheel from any Chrysler product with the same column configuration (straight or tilt vs. tilt/telescope).
Another option (not perhaps the most attractive, but quite effective as a temporary fix):
On the back of the steering wheel will be two screws that hold the center cover in place. Remove those two screws, and you will see the two contacts for the horn. Buy a generic horn button (I hate those things, but again, it's just a temporary fix), connect the wires, sneak them out the bottom part of the steering wheel, and then attach the horn button to the back of the steering wheel using one of the screws used to hold the center cover in place. Now you just have to remember which side of the wheel this button is on, and you can easily stretch your fingers around to hit the horn.
As a temporary solution, this works pretty well because 1. you now have a functioning horn, and 2. you've done no damage to the steering wheel (we've all seen what horrible things people can do with those generic horn buttons!) and you can easily remove the horn button when you get a replacement rim blow switch.
I have another idea which I haven't tested yet, but which might work: silicone grease. Silicone grease will soften old, hard rubber, so maybe a good application of this stuff over a few days or a week or two would do the trick??????
Most likely problem here would be the horn relay. Follow the wiring back from the horns to a small box . this is the relay. sometimes just unplugging and replugging in the wires will make it work. if not try changing the relay. Shouldn't be hard to find one. If the problem is in the steering column, that's more difficult.
If you look at the inside of the rim of the steering wheel, you will see a skinny rubber seal - it will probably be flat and feel hard to the touch, since it has most likely dried out. What to do about it? I hope someone else knows, because I have the same problem on my '71. The idea behind it was it would be safer to use than a regular horn button because you could keep both hands on the wheel and sound the horn by simply squeezing your fingers. Unfortunately, they all seem to dry up with age.
Question from Rob (Rim Blow System):
Is the horn on the steering wheel? It really doesn't feel like a pressure pad...horn's probably broken anyhow. I'm not stupid just uninformed.
The horn on your '72 is a bit sneaky. Look closely at the steering wheel -- see that black rubber strip that runs around the inside of the wheel? That's your "Rim Blow" horn! The idea was that you could just squeeze the wheel to blow the horn, so that you wouldn't have to remove your hands from the steering wheel. Unfortunately, this rubber usually hardens over the years, making the horn inoperable. Chrysler still has the replacement rubber strips (with copper contacts inside) in stock, but it's kind of a bear to replace. Who knows, though? Squeeze the wheel and see what happens!
The "horn" pad in the middle of the steering wheel actually has nothing to do with the horn. Instead, look at the inside diameter of the steering wheel rim. You'll notice a black rubber strip goes all around the wheel. Just push against it (or squeeze the steering wheel rim between thumb and forefinger) and the horn should sound. The problem is that the black rubber gets dries out and gets hard as it ages. This can cause the two strips of copper inside the "switch" to short out and activate the horn continuously. If you squeeze the rim and nothing happens, somebody has probably pulled the horn relay. Look under the dash for the fuse panel. It's mounted on the firewall above your left foot. The relay plugs into the panel. It's a metal box about 1"x2" and has three terminals. The rim blow switch is replaceable (with difficulty). I've done them. The switch costs about $75 (NOS).
Question from Brad (Rim Blow System):
I've been reading the posts from this thread this morning with interest. I have the rim blow horn and it does not work. The rubber strips are soft and appear to be in good condition. I picked up on the previous thread about the horn relay possibly being bad. I've called around and NAPA has these for $8.99. The PN is HR-139. Of course they had to order it for me. I'll see if this solves my problem and post it in a few days.
If all else fails, and you decide to put a replacement switch in the car. May I suggest that you try what I have done in one of my other cars-- install the new button under the carpet just below the dimmer switch. This will eliminate that unsightly button and it works well with your left foot!.
The horn won't work unless the door buzzer relay is plugged in. This is a rectangular metal box with 3-4 prongs that plugs into the top right of the fuse panel. Many people remove them to stop the annoying buzz. Mine was off but still under the seat. When I plugged it in everything worked except the buzzing drove me nuts. I opened the case and put a piece of tape between the points. Volia! Horn works and buzzer doesn't. Did the same thing with the seat belt buzzer. If you simply unplug the buzzer the car won't start but tape on the points stops the buzzer, allows the car to start, and keeps the seat belt warning light working.
Question from Zack (1974):
A while ago, my horn died, and I discovered it was because the plastic grounding ring in the wheel broke. Without it, the horn sounded continuously, so I disconnected the horns. Well, I replaced the ring, reconnected the horns and it doesn't work. I really do not think the problem is in the wheel. Could it be a horn relay problem or an electrical problem? What could have happened while the horns were disconnected that now is keeping them from working? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Any chance that you could have shorted something in the repair process and blown the fuse? The horn relay (assuming it's the same fuse box used in '76) has its own fuse.
The horn circuit is very simple.
The horn relay has 3 wires on it.
One (labeled "H") goes to the horns themselves and has 12 volts on it only when the horns are sounding. If you have 12 volts on that wire when you press the horn button, the horns will sound unless they are defective or not grounded.
One (labeled "B") goes to a source of 12 volts, which is always present unless the horn circuit fuse has blown. Some cars require the key to be on for this 12 volts to be present, but I doubt this is the case for your car.
One (labeled "S") goes to the switch contact in the steering wheel. If this terminal is grounded, and if the relay is OK, the horns should sound. If this isn't happening, the most likely place for trouble is right within the steering wheel grounding provision, but possibly also in the wiring from the steering wheel to the relay. There are a couple of connections to inspect - one on the steering column under the dash, the other at the bulkhead connector on the firewall. You will need to refer to your shop manual to find which wire is which in these connectors. When you find the proper wire under the dash, ground it, that should make the horn blow. If it does, you know the problem is at the steering wheel itself - just follow the wire to where it comes up the steering column, and ground it up there at the top of the column. If the horn blows, you know everything else is OK and the problem is right in your steering wheel. There is a possibility that the grounding wire from the steering column to the dash support bolt has become disconnected - this will interrupt the grounding path from the column to the body, and must be repaired.
Question from Ed (1981-1983):
The horn on my 82 is very intermittent, and I recall that Dick B. gave some brief advice on repairing the contacts in the steering wheel hub previously. I have replaced all three horns, which were faulty, and I have also replaced the horn relay (which was not faulty, it turns out.) I'm sure the trouble is in the hub of the steering wheel. Can someone provide the correct, detailed procedure for repairing this? How do you get the vinyl center pad, with the Cartier crystal, off. Does it just pry out? I'm reluctant to just "go at it" with a screwdriver for fear of damaging this pristine piece.
I went through this when I changed the wheel on my '81 last fall. You can pretty much "go at it" though I think I'd use a putty knife with the blade wrapped in electrical tape, or something of the like. The center piece is rubber-like, and held in place with metal spring clips, and the whole thing slides out quite easily.
On the steering wheel, that middle part just pops right out. Everything else is the same as on any other car.
The horn switch on these cars is an extremely poor design. They offered an all-metal replacement, but it didn't fit right. The sponge deteriorates with time and the horns may not operate at all; or, like on my '81, they were partly "on" all the time, creating a small resistance that ruined the battery, (finally smoked the horns), but you can make an acceptable repair by using a new piece of resilient sponge, transfer the contact buttons over to the new pieces and clean any sticky adhesive from the contacting surfaces.
Follow-up from Ed:
Are you referring to the actual horn switches under the buttons on the spokes of the steering wheel here, or the contacts under the center-hub pad of the wheel that has also been referred to. My '81's horn work perfectly, but my 82's horn buttons are very sticky and are intermittent in operation.
Reply from Bob:
I'm referring to the two aluminum bars, in the spokes and the contactors underneath them - that's where the spongy material with the buttons are.
Question from Davis (1981):
Where can I find a third horn for my Imperial? I am talking about the horn mounted in front of the right front wheel well.
I don't know where you'll find one of these, but I spent several hours on mine - completely disassembled it, cleaned out the rust, reset it and it works great. A lot of work, but still original and sounds fine along with the other two.
I found that NAPA sells a 3rd note horn which is tuned exactly right for the 81 - I installed in on my car and no one will ever know the difference!
Be sure you make them understand you are looking for the third note - not just the normal high tone horn.
Question from Scott (1981):
The insulators on the horn bars on the steering wheel of my 81 Imp have rotted away and continual contact is made all the time. I have taken the horn bars off and wonder if any one has had the same problem and has a good fix for this. I understand the parts are no longer available from Chrysler.
Bad news, I have tried for the past year to find replacements but have not yet. I installed a Grant steering wheel for now but plan on installing a wheel from an 87 New Yorker which while not an exact match is in good condition. If you decide to replace the wheel be careful when using a steering wheel puller, do not hit the steering shaft with a hammer as you can damage it. The first owner of my car used a hammer and I had to replace the entire column due to the damage he caused.
I have replaced the foam on mine with thin pieces of felt - it is working fine after 7 years now. It is painstaking work, but nothing worse than many other things we have to do to keep the old ones running.
I have slit pieces of foam weatherstrip and placed two or three pieces between the contacts. It works fine so far.
Question from Mike (1982):
My horn buttons stick and horns blow continuously. Are the buttons repairable or are new ones available?
The insulation which keeps the two metal strips apart is a cheap open cell foam, it deteriorates with age. If you take the switches apart, you will see the problem immediately. I have rebuilt mine using thin felt - so far (14 years), they are still working well.
The contacts are held apart by a sponge rubber material that deteriorates over time and allows the contacts to touch all the time. You can take some thin weather-strip and experiment a bit with where to place it to keep the contacts apart. It is an easy repair. Remove the center steering wheel decorative trim and remove one screw for each horn button. You can then see what needs to be done.
Question from Leo (1981-1983):
I have a couple of problems I though perhaps someone could help with. First, the horn on my 83 works intermittently and only when it feels like it, never when you really need it. Every time I try to check it out it is working. Secondly, I have a buzzing emitting from behind the dash panel towards the left side. It sounds like a relay making and braking very fast. It decreases in volume when I turn the lights or another high draw electrical item on. Sometimes it comes and goes with the curves in the road and bumps. HELP!
Do the buzzing from under the dash and the horn operation/inoperation seem to be related? The horn relay is located on the fuse block, in the precise area you describe, so perhaps your horn relay is stuck. However, I genuinely believe that your horn ailments lie elsewhere. My '81 horn used to come and go as you describe, and now my '82 does the same. You will find that there are some contacts within the steering wheel hub that wear out. This is not the contacts under the horn button, but within the wheel. I got my 8's horns working flawlessly by correcting this problem, though that was years ago, so I don't remember the details of it. On my 82, I have changed all three horns, since they were either inoperable or sounding like weak, miserable cows that had been hit by a train. I also replaced the horn relay, yet the intermittent problem persists. I am sure that when I get around to it, I will find that it is also those contacts within the steering wheel. In any case, I would definitely investigate the source of that buzzing right away. If you have a relay sticking, it could cause an electrical fire under there. Inspect the fuse block area, paying close attention to the Illuminated Entry Delay relay, which I had problems with some years ago too.
The horn blowing contacts are in the spokes of the steering wheel, and are often the culprits in this type of problem. If you pry off the center pad, you will see a pair of wires connected to the spokes, with one wire going to the structure of the wheel, and the other going out to the spoke area. If you momentarily connect the wires together, the horn should blow for as long as you make this contact. If it does so solidly, every time, your problem is in the spoke assembly.
If it does not blow reliably under this test, your problem may be in one of many other places. The most common of these other places is a poor ground to the steering column itself. If you remove the dash trim panels, you will see that one of the two bolts that hold the column to the dash assembly has a special added delay that provides a ground path from the column to the structure of the car (at the dash bracket). These develop oxide and crud over the years, and make the horn intermittent. You can temporarily clip a test lead from the ground contact on the steering wheel to a known good ground (I use the metal dome light switch in the door jamb) to see if this brings your horn back to life. The cure is to take the connection apart and clean it.
Much more likely, though, is that the insulating foam sandwich in the spoke assemblies has deteriorated to the point that contact is a sometime thing. Be grateful, a more common symptom when this stuff fails is to have the horn blow constantly. This often has a deleterious effect on your neighbors tolerance of your hobby.
This insulating foam assembly in the spokes can be replaced with a sheet of thin felt, punched with a paper punch in the correct pattern, and held in place with upholstery adhesive. I have repaired four of them this way, all successfully. Just use your common sense and good eyesight. You will also need the dexterity of a neurosurgeon, but I am sure you can muster that, right?
Back to the initial test - if you find the problem is elsewhere than the spokes (bypassing them as in the first paragraph does not make the horn blow consistently), and fixing the grounding of the column doesn't do it, your problem could be in the wiring, the horns themselves, (but this would mean all 3 horns are acting up at once, not too likely), or most likely, in the horn relay. This is located in the fuse panel.
You have already taken the cover off the under-dash area to troubleshoot the clicking you describe in your initial message, I assume. Thus you are familiar with the layout of the fuse panel. By the way, if any of the following: your glove box light, your cigar lighter, or your power antenna are working, you know the horn fuse is OK, so don't bother looking at that. The horn relay is the only large plug-in device on the fuse panel that has 3 terminals arranged so they are parallel to each other. The other large devices on the panel are the turn signal flasher, which has only two terminals, and the time delay relay, which also has 3 terminals, but one of them is at right angles to the other two. The horn relay should be readily available at your friendly local parts store, but don't run out and buy it until you are sure that is the problem, they seldom fail, and you are very likely to be disappointed.
Tips from Dick Benjamin:
The horn blowing contacts are in the spokes of the steering wheel, and are often the culprits in this type of problem. If you pry off the center pad, you will see a pair of wires connected to the spokes, with one wire going to the structure of the wheel, and the other going out to the spoke area. If you momentarily connect the wires together, the horn should blow for as long as you make this contact. If it does so solidly, every time, your problem is in the spoke assembly. If it does not blow reliably under this test, your problem may be in one of many other places. The most common of these other places is a poor ground to the steering column itself. If you remove the dash trim panels, you will see that one of the two bolts that hold the column to the dash assembly has a special added clip that provides a ground path from the column to the structure of the car (at the dash bracket). These develop oxide and crud over the years, and make the horn intermittent. You can temporarily clip a test lead from the ground contact on the steering wheel to a known good ground (I use the metal dome light switch in the door jamb) to see if this brings your horn back to life. The cure is to take the connection apart and clean it. Much more likely, though, is that the insulating foam sandwich in the spoke assemblies has deteriorated to the point that contact is a sometime thing. Be grateful, a more common symptom when this stuff fails is to have the horn blow constantly. This often has a deleterious effect on your neighbors' tolerance of your hobby. This insulating foam assembly in the spokes can be replaced with a sheet of thin felt, punched with a paper punch in the correct pattern, and held in place with upholstery adhesive. I have repaired four of them this way, all successfully. Just use your common sense and good eyesight. You will also need the dexterity of a neurosurgeon, but I am sure you can muster that, right? Back to the initial test - if you find the problem is elsewhere than the spokes (bypassing them as in the first paragraph does not make the horn blow consistently), and fixing the grounding of the column doesn't do it, your problem could be in the wiring, the horns themselves, (but this would mean all 3 horns are acting up at once, not too likely), or most likely, in the horn relay. This is located in the fuse panel. You have already taken the cover off the underdash area to troubleshoot the clicking you describe in your initial message, I assume. Thus you are familiar with the layout of the fuse panel. By the way, if any of the following: your glove box light, your cigar lighter, or your power antenna are working, you know the horn fuse is OK, so don't bother looking at that. The horn relay is the only large plug-in device on the fuse panel that has 3 terminals arranged so they are parallel to each other. The other large devices on the panel are the turn signal flasher, which has only two terminals, and the time delay relay, which also has 3 terminals, but one of them is at right angles to the other two. The horn relay should be readily available at your friendly local parts store, but don't run out and buy it until you are sure that is the problem, They seldom fail, and you are very likely to be disappointed. I went through this when I changed the wheel on my '81 last fall. You can pretty much "go at it" though I think I'd use a putty knife with the blade wrapped in electrical tape, or something of the like. The centerpiece is rubber-like, and held in place with metal spring clips, and the whole thing slides out quite easily.
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