1929-1936 Headlight Conduits & Wires
By Stephen Kassis
Headlight wires in 1929-1936 Chevy cars & trucks are nearly always a problem and must be replaced when restoring the vehicle. The wiring inside the headlights was a cloth or rubber covered wire that, after 85+ years, has become brittle and cracked. This leaves bare wire exposed, creating a danger of shorting out the electrical system. Rebuilding these small harnesses is a tedious job and requires patience.
Each wire has a small tack soldered into the end of the wire as a contact nub. Start by removing the sockets and wires from the headlight reflectors and buckets. The socket in the headlight bucket is held in place by a bend-over tab. Bend the tab out and this allows the socket to be slid out. The reflector socket had two different types of retainers. The early (1929-1930) type was a spring loaded clip. In 1931-1936 the retainer is a looped spring.
Once the headlight harness and sockets are removed, you can start the disassembly of the harness. Heat the tip of each wire with a soldering iron while holding it steady with needle-nose pliers. Save each tack for use when assembling the new harness. One method to consider is to build the new harness as you disassemble the old one. As you take each wire off, install the new replacement wire.
There are two types of headlight internal wiring harnesses two-wire and three-wire. The two-wire harness is used on headlight reflectors that have only headlight bulbs mounted in the center of the reflector. The three-wire harness is used on headlight reflectors that have both a headlight bulb in the center and also a parking light socket mounted at the top edge of the reflector.
Be sure to save all of the hardware as you disassemble the wire harness. If any of the insulators are broken or missing, replace them with new insulators. The parking light uses a one-hole insulator as it uses a single contact bulb. The headlight uses a two-hole insulator for dual contact headlight bulbs. The main headlight bucket socket uses two 3-hole insulators.
If you don’t have the patience or time to rebuild your original headlight wiring, pre-assembled harnesses with sockets are available. Also available are the stainless headlight flexible conduit sets for 1929-1936 cars and trucks. These sets come with headlight, horn and tail light conduits for one vehicle. One thing to note if you own a 1929 or 1930 car or truck – Early wiring harnesses came with wire wrapping directly on the headlight wires. This type does not use a separate conduit. However, conduit sets will fit these early vehicles by removing the wire wrapping.
If you are replacing the headlight conduits, consider headlight wire pigtails. These make installing the new conduits quick and easy. Pigtails come in two wire or three wire configurations.
There are many headlight hardware pieces available to help you restore your headlight internal wiring. If you are working on a 1929 or 1930 headlight, we offer a rebuilding service. This requires sending us all of the metal socket pieces and allow 3-4 weeks.