Tuesday, April 28, 2020

How to Repair The Upper Horn Contact Assembly

Having an inoperative horn is not only inconvenient, but also unsafe.

There are many reasons why the horn may not work; from old and broken horn assemblies, faulty wiring, bad fuse, to a shorted horn relay.

However, in my case, the horn worked... as long as you pressed the horn button precisely on the right spot, so it boiled down to poor or improper contact at the upper horn contact assembly.

The diagram below shows an exploded view of the 1976 steering column components, which differ from pre- and post-76 columns due to the "distinctive" steering wheel.

The rest of the internal components are—for the most part—identical.

As I've mentioned before, my steering column came from a 1978 Corvette and I covered the rebuild and swapping process in a series of articles.

Here's a video that illustrates the issue I was having.


Since the horn works, I attributed the problem to the contact assembly which is easily accessible once the horn button is removed, so the first thing to do was to disconnect the battery to get this project underway.

However, as I was looking over the diagram above, I noticed the "note" they wrote stating that both sides of the telescopic lever hub must be free from paint. So I'll have to look into that during disassembly since I painted the steering column and other components when I rebuilt it a few years ago.


The first step is to remove the horn button, which I prefer to do by simply pulling on it instead of using tools that may damage or scratch the components.

Once the horn button is out of the way, you gain easy access to the upper horn contact assembly which is secured to the column by three screws.

The photo on the right and the one below, show the contact assembly during the process of reassembly, hence the plastic rivet pins sticking out.

I decided to take the assembly components apart since they can build a layer of surface rust over the years, which may impair proper function.

Taking the contact assembly apart for inspection, as well as proper cleaning, is quite easy and a good idea if you plan or need to repair your car's horn components.


I made the step-by-step video below of the disassembly process using an aftermarket horn assembly. Avoid using cheap Chinese parts at all costs and refurbish the factory horn assembly if possible.

If yours is damaged and the nylon rivets are missing, buy the right replacement parts or take them off of an aftermarket assembly. The insulator and nylon rivets are there to allow contact of the metal parts only when the horn button is pressed.


I am not sure as to the number of shims you will find if you take apart yours. In my case, there were three. The purpose of the shims is to allow for proper clearance between the horn button and the telescoping lever. And again, I am using my 1978 T&T (tilt and telescopic) steering column for this article. Standard columns (non-T&T) will be a little different.


The shims also had a very thin coat of surface rust which was easily removed with a light sanding.


The photo above shows the correct order of how the horn contact assembly connects to the pin with the retainer in place and the spring that sits in the channel within the steering hub. The channel is part of the lower contact assembly as illustrated in the Corvette assembly manual.


I also took this opportunity to repaint the horn button. However, removing the plastic emblem is only a good idea if you are planning to replace it. If you do this, you may also have to epoxy the new emblem in place. In my case, all I did was mask the emblem and spray several coats of SEM Landau Black paint, which yields the correct factory sheen.



The hub telescoping lever was also cleaned and sanded and received a few coats of texture paint as a base, followed by SEM Landau Black as a topcoat. I usually use truck bedliner paint since it has a nice textured finish which looks very close to the "camera-case" finish used on vehicles.

The center portion of the lever was masked and left free of paint as noted in the factory assembly manual.


When reinstalling the hub lever, you must find the "sweet spot" to ensure the lever has enough travel to both lock and unlock the telescoping action within the allowable range of motion. This is, as far as I can tell, a trial-and-error procedure, and it always seems to take me several tries before I am happy with the results.

Also, the "star bolt" shank has a shoulder for the lever which allows you to find the best spot for the set screws. So during reassembly, make sure you pull the lever into the star bolt shoulder as you thread in the screws.


With the hub telescope lever secured in place, you can now reinstall the horn contact assembly, but take your time as several things are happening at the same time during the installation of this part which makes it challenging.

The shims must be held in alignment with the contact assembly, which must also be positioned so the contact tab is aligned with the spring-loaded pin inside the hub, while you insert and start threading the three screws that secure the assembly to the hub.


The photo above shows the horn contact assembly installed and aligned properly so that the tab (red arrow) contacts the spring-loaded pin (blue arrow).

Again, take your time during this step, and don't lose your cool.

Also, if you need to buy a new aluminum pin from an auto parts store, it may be longer than necessary. This is not a problem as they can be easily cut to size with a pair of wire snips or a hacksaw.


Once the horn contact assembly is firmly (and properly) secured in place, you are ready to press the horn button into position, and the job is done!

The last step is to check that the telescoping lever is working properly, reconnect the battery, and test the horn.

If everything was done properly, the horn should now honk whenever you press the button.


I hope you find this article helpful if you decide to take yours apart in order to clean the upper horn contact assembly and/or properly connect the spring, pin, and pin retainer.

Thank you for following my 76 Corvette Stingray Blog!


Product Links... (#sponsored)

1969-1974 Corvette Horn Contact Kit - Tilt and Telescopic Column
1975-1982 Corvette Horn Contact Kit - Tilt and Telescopic Column
Dorman HELP! Horn Contact Pin, Spring and Retainer #83230
C3 Corvette Horn Contact Shim
C3 Corvette Horn Contact Retainer
1969-1975 Corvette Horn Button - Tilt/Telescopic Column Black
1977-1982 C3 Corvette Horn Button Cap - Black
1978 Corvette Horn Button Kit (Anniversary)
1980-1981 Corvette Horn Button Kit
1982 Corvette Horn Button Kit
1977-1979 Corvette Horn Button Emblem
1982 Corvette Horn Button Emblem
C3 Corvette Horn Set High and Low Pitch with Welded Brackets
• SEM Landau Black Color Coat Paint #15013
• Dupli-Color Truck Bed Coating Paint | 16.5 oz. 2-pack

• How to Restore Your C3 Corvette: 1968-1982
1968-1982 Corvette Restoration Guide


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