Headlights, indicators, wires and shrinkwrap

Backing away from the front of the car I pulled out the headlight and indicator elements from the “Lighting” box and familiarised myself with the layout. Well, that’s what I should have done. Instead I jumped in and started inserting bolts in holes and tightening nuts without really thinking too much.

Dreadful first attempt at indicator assembly.

Dreadful first attempt at indicator assembly.

Future builders, please learn from this, and don’t make silly mistakes like I did when assembling the indicators. I took the picture to the right to send to Derek to request a new indicator unit as the pillars that the lens screws into were both split in manufacture. I didn’t notice until I’d made this hash of fitting the bolts. There are at least three things wrong with what I’ve done. It’s almost like I was trying to find ways to mess it up. It’s here to remind me I need to plan ahead and think.

Realising this after I’d sent Derek the photo (indicator replaced next day by the #legend) I stopped myself and returned to the manual to figure out the wiring and work through the Daniel French post detailing a neat way to approach the wiring.

Back to the manual

Back to the manual

Some time later and I have a good understanding of the wiring, what steps I’m going to copy from Daniel and how I’ll modify the technique to my liking.  I realise I’m finally getting into the swing of the build proper: visualising the outcome before fitting pieces together, and less diving in to bolt things together before then having to disassemble my hard but rushed work.

I modified Daniel’s technique in a couple of ways. I used shorter lengths of shrinkwrap and there was no way I was getting 7.5mm diameter shrinkwrap over the rubber backing of the indicator. No amount of wiggling would work, and 10mm proved required a little stretch before it would stay in place to be shrunk. I also decided not to use Loctite on the grounding screw, and with good reason. I must have had the screw tightened and undone about 6 times when playing about with the wires.

An important point in the placement of grommets when installing the lights. You need one for the chassis mount and one for the headlight bracket. There are two places on the bracket where a grommet could fit: at the base, in contact with the chassis grommet, or in the stem where the wires enter the stem to head through the chassis and into the engine compartment. The stem is the place to put it. Be prepared for a battle. The hole is neither round nor the metal of even thickness around the edge of the hole. As it’s also cut at an angle to help the wire position, and a tight squeeze to get the wires in, there is not much space for a grommet.

Factory build tip from Derek via fellow builder Martin: cut the grommet into two and get each half into position, held with a spot of superglue. You need to be sure of your wiring being ready and complete for fitting first though. Adjustment would require a full strip-down and re-build of the wiring.

So, headlight bracket built, wiring sorted, all there was to do was put the bracket on the car and tighten the nut. Then I’ll be ready for the uprights.

LHS headlight bracket mounting holes

LHS headlight bracket mounting holes

Pushing the wires through on the left hand side, I shoved the bracket u-shaped flange over the chassis mount and stood back. The bolt was not going through there.

After thinking about it for a while, and calling on Derek, I planned to run a drill through the misaligned holes as per his advice. By this time it was quite late in the evening, so I resolved to tackle it tomorrow and pop a message on Blatchat to see if the communal knowledge could help me out. Jim123 (thank you Jim) pointed out that if I open out the u-shaped flange at the base of the bracket a touch, I can manoeuvre the holes into alignment and get the bolt through. It worked perfectly, although did require me to break down the headlight from the bracket again while I tweaked the flange.

Re-assembled, the brackets are all ready to go on: re-wired and re-shrinkwrapped. It’s been a bit of a long, drawn out process but it’s all part of the journey. I’m now clear to proceed, having done one of the more fiddly and time-consuming jobs at the front of the car. I’m now waiting on the front uprights arriving, having been delayed by stock shortages at Caterham.

2 thoughts on “Headlights, indicators, wires and shrinkwrap

  1. Hi Rob,

    I’m having the same problem with an Academy Car at the moment. Sorry to be
    pedantic, but by U shaped flange are you referring to the metal tab at the base of the lamp bracket the locates under the wishbone mount on the chassis?

    A bit of re assurance would be appreciated right now as I’m on the back foot with my build schedule!

  2. Hi Andy,

    Yes, exactly that. If you are near the start of your build, you may not yet be used to the “adjustments” you sometimes need to make to get the parts to fit. The brackets are tough and will take some force to bend to your will, but we are only talking millimetres.

    This tab was stopping me aligning the bolt holes, so once tweaked in a vice with a pair of pliers, the holes lined up perfectly.

    Good luck and let me know how you get on.

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