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Old 09-19-2012, 11:27 PM   #1
Nebraska03
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1997 SL2
Default '97 SL2, High Mount Center Brake Light Problem

Hello everyone,
I have a 1997 SL2 with 182,500 miles on it. Runs great. *knocks on wood.*

Over the past few years, I've noticed on several occasions that when I check my lights to see if bulbs are burned out, the high mount center brake lights will sometimes be "out." The weird thing is that they're not really out, I just have to twist the bulbs in the slot ever so slightly, and they'll come back on. I wonder if it's not a problem with a grounding wire, but then of course, usually only between 1 and 4 bulbs will be out, so two of the six will still be working. It's usually random too, no regular pattern to which go out and which do not. I've replaced some bulbs, but that doesn't seem to change anything. I am considering going to the local parts yard and pulling a new center brake light unit from another S-series sedan and seeing if that helps. Here are some pics of the problem.

The first pic is from outside (I used a piece of 2x4 to push the brake pedal down for the pic).

The second pic is from the inside looking at the open panel for the center mount brake light, (after taking the pic, I twisted the bulb ever so slightly and it came back on).

The third pic, is the same as the second, but the bulb that appeared burned out, is now working, and also, I turned the flash on my camera.
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Old 09-20-2012, 03:57 PM   #2
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1997 SL2
Default Re: '97 SL2, High Mount Center Brake Light Problem

I guess I should be asking, "has anyone else had this problem, and if so, does anyone know what causes it, or does anyone have a solution for it?"

Bulbs not working, even though they're not burned out and appear to be making contact with the part that the positive and negative tabs touch, that is.
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Old 09-20-2012, 05:24 PM   #3
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Default Re: '97 SL2, High Mount Center Brake Light Problem

I've never had this problem, and my center stop light doesn't even look like that. But, it appears from the photo that the bulbs are in a printed circuit board with a single hot and ground wire that feeds all bulbs. That indicates that the problem is in the board or the bulb sockets. Seems the sockets are working loose, rotating a little, or just making marginal contact. All I might suggest is taking the bulb sockets out and hitting the contact points with some fine sandpaper to improve the continuity and maybe adding a little dab of dielectric grease to the face of each socket before twisting it back in place.
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Old 09-20-2012, 07:26 PM   #4
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1995 SW2
Default Re: '97 SL2, High Mount Center Brake Light Problem

i imagine what's happening is that vibration is causing the sockets to very slowly back off. not sure about those specific sockets (my first gen sw2 doesn't use the same third brake light hardware), but on some sockets of that style there are little tabs that contact the traces on the circuit board. you may be able to bend the tabs up a little bit so that the sockets grip the board a little tighter.
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Old 09-20-2012, 11:39 PM   #5
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Default Re: '97 SL2, High Mount Center Brake Light Problem

I have no clue why Saturn chose to use these weird bulbs for center brake lights. They're called PC175 bulbs and they're made by Wagner. Trust me, they are a pain in the behind to find. You never see them on auto part store shelves. I was lucky enough to get a few spares at a local Pick-n-Pull Yard near me. The best part was that i put them all in a sandwich baggy, and when I brought them to the counter (probably 40+ that I pulled), the guy at the register couldn't find them in their inventory for pricing. So I offered to get my multimeter out and stand there and go through all the bulbs to see if they worked, just to be honest about it... He looked at me and said, "ughhh... ummm... $5..." I think only 5 or 6 didn't work.
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Old 09-21-2012, 12:00 PM   #6
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Default Re: '97 SL2, High Mount Center Brake Light Problem

There's a good thread in the Mods forum, started by rc1488, for LED conversion. Never worry about burnt out bulbs again.

i agree with the others, seems to be a problem with the contacts
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