C3 Corvette: Manual Headlight Assembly Operation

If your C3's headlight assemblies fail to go up and down when you operate the headlight switch, there's a simple workaround. Corvette engineers designed the system to be operated manually in case of a vacuum or actuator failure.

It's not a difficult procedure, although based on the terrain your vehicle may be parked on, as well as how dirty the assemblies may be (remember, these things are exposed to weather and road grime), you may get a little dirty. Also, try to protect your eyes somehow in order to prevent injury by falling debris.

Above: You don't have to "wink" at everyone if one of the actuators is inop.

Above: Red arrow points to the exact place you want to push or pull
to raise or collapse the headlights.

I made a short YouTube video that shows you exactly how this works.

So now you know how to manually operate the headlight assemblies in case you wanted to drive your Vette at night but the assemblies would not open. Plus, being able to manually operate the headlights allows you to work on the system without having to use the bypass switch under the dash.

Besides, as a C3 owner, you need to know these little tricks.

Needless to say, you may want to get the system working properly in order to avoid having to resort to manual operation, but first, you have to figure out what's causing the problem.

If it's something simple you may get away with a repair that does not require having to remove the hood and/or the headlamp assemblies, which may be the case if you have to replace one or both of the actuators, for example.

And so you know, in many cases you can repair the original vacuum actuators by using a repair kit that provides new seals. I believe headlamp assembly actuators were identical for 1968 through 1982 models.

If the headlight problem is caused by a faulty headlight switch, you will have to (at minimum) loosen the driver's side of the dashboard in order to be able to remove the switch, which—by the way—has a little release button that must be pressed in order for the switch stem to be removed.

If you are replacing the headlight switch, make sure you get the correct one for your car as I believe there are differences between some of the year models, and also take photos or make a diagram as to how to reconnect the vacuum hoses so the headlamp assemblies operate correctly.

Above: Many switches have been destroyed by failing to press the stem-release button.

You must press and hold that button (see red arrow in the photo above) as you pull the knob all the way out in order to release it from the assembly itself, then you can remove the switch by unscrewing the collar that secures it to the dash.

And be careful as you work in this area as many of the plastic parts get brittle with age, and the last thing you want to do is break parts that are, otherwise, perfectly okay.

If you need to remove and replace the headlamp system vacuum hoses, there are plenty of routing diagrams available online. And you want to get the correct set of hoses for your model year.

I hope this helps, and thanks for following my '76 Vette Blog!

Product Links... (#sponsored)

• How to Restore Your C3 Corvette: 1968-1982
• 1968-1982 Corvette Restoration Guide, 2nd Edition
• Corvette Black Book | 1953-2019
• 1976 Corvette Service & Overhaul Manual
• 1976 Corvette Service & Overhaul Manual CD-ROM
• 1976 Corvette Dealer Sales Brochure | GM-Licensed Reprint
• 1976 Corvette Stingray Owner's Manual | GM-Licensed Reprint
• 1976 Corvette Assembly Manual