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Goofy Steering Column Switches


slowbert

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I am restoring my 1972 2002. The PO yanked out the left hand steering column switch, which originally just was the high/low beam. 
 

Originally, the turn signal was on the right side, which is not conventional and (for those who happen to use turn signals) can break off the left switch when trying to use the turn signals. 
 

(I grew up in New England and never use turn signals - unless I want to infuriate other drivers, but that is neither here nor there.)

 

Anyway, I bought a left hand column switch from a later model (unintentionally) that includes both turn signals and high low beam. 

 

My questions:
 

1. What is the history behind these goofy switches and when did they change?

 

2. Is there a ‘simple’ wiring diagram for swapping from the old style to new style left hand column switch?

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The long, involved answer for changing the turn signal lever from right to left side of the column:  in 1973 car makers (pretty much) worldwide decided to standardize locations of certain controls starting in 1974, one of which was the turn signal lever.  The decision was to put it on the left side, primarily because many cars with both manual and automatic transmissions had the shift levers on the right side (which goes back to the first column shifts--automatic and manual--around 1939 or so).  So, BMW, like other manufacturers switched to a left side turn signal lever.  Since column mounted dimmers were already on the left on most cars (except the US, where most were still on the floor in 1974) they combined turn signals with dimmer/flasher controls.  This freed up the right side stalk to do all the wiper controls, vs the '72'73 setup which used the column stalk for wiper on/off and wash/wipe, but relegated speed controls to a dash knob.  Kinda unwieldy.

 

Pre-1972 cars used the right stalk for turn signals and wash/wipe only.  Wiper controls were selected with a dashboard knob.  So there are really three different right side stalks, and two different left ones.

 

mike

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1 hour ago, slowbert said:

Is there a ‘simple’ wiring diagram for swapping from the old style to new style left hand column switch?

Not really...you'd have to move some (but not all) the wiring from the right side socket, then obtain the female socket from a squarelight, figure out the wiring harness and then move those turn signal-related wires from the right to left sides.

 

Much easier way is to simply move the 72/73 turn signal lever stalk to the left side, and the dimmer/flasher lever to the right side.  The wires are long enough, and the mounts are the same.

 

The easiest:  get used to having the turn signal on the right.  I switch back and forth from my '07 Nissan to my '73 all the time, and almost never grab the wrong lever.  It becomes habit.

mike

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'73 Sahara sunroof-Ludwig-since '78
'91 Brillantrot 318is sunroof-Georg Friederich 
Fiat Topolini (Benito & Luigi), Renault 4CVs (Anatole, Lucky Pierre, Brigette) & Kermit, the Bugeye Sprite

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I always thought the ‘72 right side wiper switch with the dash mounted speed selector was bizarre. Not the height of German engineering, but I assumed it was an accumulation of weird regulations and simple technical debt. 
 

I also agree that I could get used to the right hand side turn signals. Besides, I hardly use them in reality. 
 

My thinking was to make the drivable by other people in the family, such as one of my kids who will eventually inherit the car - or the poor sod who buys it at the estate sale. 
 

I am inclined to mount the square tail turn signal on the left side and build new connectors on the wiring harness and switch. 
 

I have to say it pains me to have square tail parts on my roundie as a matter of principal. 
 

Have other people done this modification too?

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I always felt the mult-function lever on the right was more ergonomic than on the left.  For driving on crooked, hilly rods, shifting gears, turning corners the left hand was always on the steering wheel.  Right hand was for shifting, steering, turn signals, wiper operation and washer operation.  It wasn't necessary to swap hands on the wheel.

I wouldn't put it past the government to have mandated the change, sort of for the drivers that couldn't cope.

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7 minutes ago, jimk said:

I always felt the mult-function lever on the right was more ergonomic than on the left.  For driving on crooked, hilly rods, shifting gears, turning corners the left hand was always on the steering wheel.  Right hand was for shifting, steering, turn signals, wiper operation and washer operation.  It wasn't necessary to swap hands on the wheel.

I wouldn't put it past the government to have mandated the change, sort of for the drivers that couldn't cope.


Agree 100% 

 

I really like the right hand switch on 2002s. 

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8 minutes ago, Lorin said:


Agree 100% 

 

I really like the right hand switch on 2002s. 


I agree as well. The only thing you really need on the left side are high low beams and the turn signals. You need those while shifting up or down. 
 

The right side is ok for wipers. 
 

I’m thinking of leaving the wiper multifunction switch on the right side but only connect the wipers to it.

 

 I’m trying to work out how to wire this up and still make it reversible to the ‘stock’ design. Any ideas are welcome on how to do this. 

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3 hours ago, jimk said:

I always felt the mult-function lever on the right was more ergonomic than on the left. 

Apparently so did many other auto makers--at least in Europe.  My 1950s vintage Renaults, 40s vintage Fiat Topolinos (and their successors, Fiat 600s and 500 Nuovas) and even my Sprite all have turn signal levers to the right of the steering wheel.  

 

I believe they ended up on the left side on American cars was that the first column shifts came out about 1939 or so (both standard shift and the brand new Hydromatic).  Those column shifters were on the right, since most everyone driving a LHD car had a shift lever sprouting out of the transmission tunnel and were used to shifting with their right hands. 

 

The first blinking turn signals (semaphores never caught on in the US) were introduced around the same time (1939/40) so it was logical to put the turn signal lever on the left so it wouldn't interfere with the shift lever.  

 

In Europe, column shifts on manual transmission cars (the vast majority of European cars were so equipped well into the 1970s) never really caught on; manual transmission cars had floor shifts.  The old style semaphore turn signal switches were usually centered in the dash, so were operated by one's right hand.  When flashing turn signals started to become common in Europe, it was logical to place the lever on the right side of the steering column, because people were used to activating turn signals with their right hands. 

 

Another long, involved explanation...but you asked.

 

mike 

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'69 Nevada sunroof-Wolfgang-bought new
'73 Sahara sunroof-Ludwig-since '78
'91 Brillantrot 318is sunroof-Georg Friederich 
Fiat Topolini (Benito & Luigi), Renault 4CVs (Anatole, Lucky Pierre, Brigette) & Kermit, the Bugeye Sprite

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17 hours ago, slowbert said:

(I grew up in New England and never use turn signals - unless I want to infuriate other drivers

 

This makes me curious. I partly grew up in New England and bought my very first car there while in college. Where is it exactly that one only uses turn signals to irritate other drivers lol...

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22 minutes ago, kiva667 said:

This makes me curious. I partly grew up in New England and bought my very first car there while in college. Where is it exactly that one only uses turn signals to irritate other drivers lol...

 

In New England (read: Boston), using a turn signal always invites other drivers to cut you off.  The rule is look, maneuver, *then* signal if you want to flip them the bird for not cutting you off.  There is a reason for the term "Massholes," but at least they are up front about it.

 

In Seattle, the rule is signal first, maybe bother to look, then get angry and flip people off when there is no room to maneuver.  Very passive aggressive. And they like to drive the speed limit in the left hand lane.

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