Project Justy: Even Your Horn Can Wear Out


On my first night drive with my Subaru Justy, a friendly motorcyclist pulled up next to me and said I don’t have any marker lights. My brake lights worked fine, which was somewhat comforting, but any co-spatial event in this tin can is unlikely to end well for me. I had to avoid driving at night until I could sort out this wiring problem.

The parking light switch on the steering column was totally nonfunctional, leading me to believe that some part of the combination switch on the steering column was faulty. The combination switch operates the lights, wipers and washers, and turn signals. New replacements are available for $150, regardless if OEM or aftermarket. I decided I’d troubleshoot the wiring and relays before placing an order, but I’d have to hurry. The winter solstice was approaching, so the days weren’t getting any longer.
Service information is hard to come by for this little car. I did get some help from an overseas Justy fan on the Subaru Justy forum (a fair number of the members seem to be from former Eastern Bloc countries), but the diagram he had was for a pre-facelift model. It showed no relays. I hoped my ’91 was different and ordered a knockoff service manual on eBay. It had no wiring diagrams. I went to my local library, but the volumes of Chilton manuals were no help either. I crossed my fingers and ordered an amalgam Subaru manual by Chilton. Despite it covering many models of Subaru over many years, it actually had the diagrams I needed.
That manual helped me confirm that the problem was in the switch, and by this point the cold weather (in Florida, this means anything below 55 degrees) made the turn signal self-canceling feature misbehave as well. And the horn wasn’t working. I could’ve rigged a toggle switch to operate the marker lights, but since half that combination switch was misbehaving, I decided to order a replacement. This will surely help this car’s selling price when it hits the Scottsdale auctions in 2045.
When I finally removed the original, saw why the horn didn’t work. As the steering wheel rotates, a springloaded brass post stays in contact with a metal ring on the wheel, completing the horn circuit’s ground. On my Justy, this post had worn out — the new one was twice as long. Brass shavings were scattered everywhere. I don’t know how many wheel rotations the post was designed to endure, but I speculate that it’s a high number. But as I begin to question the seller’s claim of 120,000 miles on this car with a 5-digit odometer, I remember that Justys aren’t known for lasting long enough for two odometer rollovers.
In fact, they’re best known among owners for their poor oil pump design.
Photos Copyright 2015 Hooniverse/Alan Cesar.

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  1. mdharrell Avatar

    "…but the volumes of Chilton manuals were no help either."
    And so these words from the LeMons forum circa 2010 remain true:
    "Agree with Murilee [factory shop manuals only], but if that's not available, in this order: Bentley, then Haynes, then conventional wisdom, then what the homeless guy under the bridge recommends, then coin flip, then Chilton, then reading entrails, then the AllData website."
    You lucked out with the compendium manual.

    1. Van_Sarockin Avatar

      Praise Allah! Some guides are much better than others. But most, if not all, tend to fade out before you get to the tricky bit that's going to take you the next five years to figure out. Or you can bust it. That's often a shortcut. I've also noticed that on old cars, the parts supply often narrows, so your specific replacement part is now certified to fit and work on any US made V-8 engine, between 1954 and 1965. Back in the day, there would have been at least 85 non-interchangeable options.

  2. wunno sev Avatar
    wunno sev

    Even your horn can wear out
    <img src="; width="500">