85 S-10 Pickup Electrical Problem


Old 08-27-04, 08:21 AM
ikleiman's Avatar
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Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: USA
Posts: 92
85 S-10 Pickup Electrical Problem

I have an S-10 pickup which has had this problem since I got the truck about 3 years ago. When the lights are on, the power inside the pickup goes funny as if the power is shorting out or losing its ground(?). What happens is that the dash lights go out, the radio goes off, the cab light doesn't work, fuel level indicator drops, the bright lights indicator comes on, and the turn-signal indicators come on. I used to be able to slam my hand on the dashboard to get the dash lights back, but it doesn't always work any more and works less and less well.

Fortunately, the outside lights (headlights, turn signals, brake lights, parking lights) all continue to work as they should, so I am able to drive the vehicle. I just can't use the radio, see the dash, or use the cab light when this happens.

The problem seems to be worse when it is very cold (winter am) and when it is muggy (last night). The problem seems to have a threshold of power usage. For instance, the radio may be working and then I use the turn signal or brake, and the power to the radio goes off. Sometimes the radio cycles between on and off as (I am assuming) the power usage fluctuates with the demands of the radio itself.

I am an amateur in this, but would like to fix it or have it fixed. Is there an obvious solution? Is there something I can check relatively easily myself? Can I get it fixed by a mechanic without open-ended money dumping into the problem?

thanks for any input you might have.

Ian K.
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Old 08-27-04, 01:29 PM
Trying2Help's Avatar
Join Date: May 2001
Location: USA
Posts: 715

Electrical problems can be a real pain to locate. I sounds like you may have a defective light switch. I had one where I would lose all lights, headlights included for a short period of time and than they would come back on. I know this isn't your case, but you do lose the cab light, dash lights and these are controled somewhat by your dimmer switch.

If you were able to get your dash lights to come on by hitting the dash, it tells me you probally have an loose connection somewhere or a wire shorting out.

You could try to turn everything on and than reach up under the dash and move some of the wires around. See if you can get to a bundle that causes the problem to come and go and start looking real close at those.

There could be a damaged bundle in the steering column.

Look to see if someone has rewired stuff under the dash, they may have screwed it up. It should look fairly neat under there, if not some one has been there before you.
Old 08-27-04, 04:54 PM
Desi501's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Boynton Beach Florida
Posts: 2,207
I'd start looking it over real good for a body ground that's either broken, loose or not connected at all. It may be under the dash or it may be under the hood. Just look all over for wires that look like the should be connected to the body. Check near the battery also but the fact that banging the dash helped may favor that area.
Old 08-27-04, 04:58 PM
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Pittsburgh,Pa
Posts: 2,417
Remove all battery cable connections(both ends) clean or replace cables as needed retighten when done.Then clean the ground from the negative battery cable to the fender.I would also suggest running an extra ground from the battery to the firewall.See where this gets you first.Do you have a wiring diagram and component locator for the truck to find the other body grounds inside the cab.Also make sure the engine to body ground strap is ok along with the engine to frame ground strap.That's where I would start.

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