Friday, April 19, 2013

Finding a fix for broken Royal Enfield turn signal stalks

Oh no! This time both rear turn signal stalks broke, leaving the lights dangling.
Broken turn signal stalks are as certain as oil spots on the garage floor for older Royal Enfield Bullets. I've whined here before about how the plastic stalks seem to crumble, leaving the lights dangling by their wires.

My 1999 Bullet was fine when I left for the British Car Show in Boca Raton, Fla. Feb. 10 but when I got to a parking place at the show both of my rear turn signals had snapped. Of course, people passing by on their way to the show asked about my Enfield.

It was embarrassing.

"Did you hit a bump?" one fellow asked.

"The motorcycle is made of metal," I replied, "but the DOT safety equipment is plastic."

The obvious solution is to buy better after market turn signals. But I am stubborn. And cheap. And, besides, I now have a box full of perfectly fine turn signals and their bulbs, all with snapped stalks.

I've accumulated a box full of turn signals, each with a broken stalk.
The temptation was to find a way to attach the plastic heads of the turn signals directly to the tail light housing, without the weak stalks.

It appeared that all I would have to do would be to trim off what remained of the broken stalks and drill two holes on each side of the tail light housing to accept the screws that formerly attached the stalks to the heads of the turn signals. These would now hold the turn signals directly to the housing, without the stalks.

With age the stalks become so delicate they literally crumble.
It was almost that easy.

I did anticipate that I should buy longer screws (1.5-inch long No. 8 machine screws were perfect) to give the screws a bit more purchase on the plastic heads of the turn signals.

The head of the turn signal, with the stalk trimmed off.
I also realized that the base of the plastic heads were not contoured to fit flush with the gently curving metal of the tail light housing. This meant that a bit of the screws would be seen between the housing and the turn signals. I slipped black rubber faucet washers onto the shiny screws to provide a bit of camouflage.

Surprise! Turn signals are not interchangeable.
Choose left and right signals so drain hole is at bottom.
I failed to appreciate that eliminating the stalks would bring the turn signals into close proximity with the flat back plate of the tail light housing. I could just barely wiggle the lenses off the turn signals to attach the wires. You wouldn't want to have to remove the tail light housing and take off the turn signals just to change a bulb.

So I used a hack saw to remove the plastic tab from one side of each lens. This gives me a little more wiggle room to get the lenses off with everything else buttoned up and in place. The screw at the back of each turn signal still holds the lens on tight.

I cut the tab off  each lens to ease removal in tight space.
Surprising, even to me, is that I failed to realize that with the turn signals now tucked in tighter to the tail light housing, the flat back plate would obscure part of the signals. Luckily that plate is cut down at the top, leaving most of the lights visible.

Tucked-in turn signals peek around tail light back plate.
The result is not too bad looking, I think. It remains to be seen if it is strong enough. And this fix doesn't answer what I will do when the front turn signal stalks (inevitably) crumble.
Effect on the road is little changed, I think.


  1. Anonymous4/19/2013

    Go with a round taillight and we could do the m-i-c-k-e-y m-o-u-s-e song...

  2. Anonymous4/22/2013

    your turn signals are now probably too close to the tail light and out of DOT spec. Will Florida DMV or law enforcement or inspection agents (if you have to inspect your bike) care?

  3. Anonymous4/24/2013

    Hey Dave!! Yooper John here. I just placed two sets of turn signals on e-bay. Thanks for pointing out the drain holes, but I got lucky as both sets had a left and right!! The snow is mostly gone so ride on up!!


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