Wig wag option

Jean-Marc Dugas

PCS Member
I am thinking of adding a wig wag option to my 54XL. Would anyone have the hardware that allows for the lights to function as wig wags?
 

Paul Steinberg

Administrator
Staff member
Super Site Supporter
I suggest that you make up plug adapters to mate up to the factory headlight pigtails, so you don't have to cut the original wire harness. You can purchase the pigtails from your local auto parts store, or take them from a junk car, along with enough wire to do what you want. Using male stab on connectors to jumper from the factory headlight plugs to the headlights, you can tie in the headlight flasher. Using this method, you can remove it from the car at any time, without damaging the original headlight harness.
 
Time may be leaving my memory a bit foggy on when wig-wag first began coming into use but I'm thinking it wasn't in the era of 6 volt lighting systems.

Beyond the lack of need because drivers in general weren't idiots, there are 3 problems building a 6 volt alternating system, all revolving around the current being switched.

1st, a 6 volt headlight consumes twice the current a 12 volt filament does, necessitating a large surface contact. This can be accomplished with a headlight relay if you can still find one but you better buy 10 because they don't last long in flasher service.

2nd any tungsten filament lamp has a short duration overcurrent spike from cold to full on. Rule of thumb here is 10x running current, a lamp that draws 10 amps running will suck near 100 amps for a fraction of a second coming on.
You can actually see it on an analogue ammeter.

3rd if I haven't introduced sufficient brutality into your life, understand there are 4 stages in a switch's action. On going to off is the most brutal on contacts because arcing across the contacts happens in that phase. While arcing isn't much of a problem in the headlight switch due to number of cycles in normal use, it becomes a nightmare when flashing lights on and off.

None of the above should be taken to mean it can't be done though. We have some marvelous switching transistors in 2021 or you can hunt up a 6 volt windshield wiper motor and build a motor driven flasher.
PS: stock up on 6 volt headlight bulbs, they don't live long in flashing mode.
 

Rick Franklin

PCS Member
Time may be leaving my memory a bit foggy on when wig-wag first began coming into use but I'm thinking it wasn't in the era of 6 volt lighting systems.

Beyond the lack of need because drivers in general weren't idiots, there are 3 problems building a 6 volt alternating system, all revolving around the current being switched.

1st, a 6 volt headlight consumes twice the current a 12 volt filament does, necessitating a large surface contact. This can be accomplished with a headlight relay if you can still find one but you better buy 10 because they don't last long in flasher service.

2nd any tungsten filament lamp has a short duration overcurrent spike from cold to full on. Rule of thumb here is 10x running current, a lamp that draws 10 amps running will suck near 100 amps for a fraction of a second coming on.
You can actually see it on an analogue ammeter.

3rd if I haven't introduced sufficient brutality into your life, understand there are 4 stages in a switch's action. On going to off is the most brutal on contacts because arcing across the contacts happens in that phase. While arcing isn't much of a problem in the headlight switch due to number of cycles in normal use, it becomes a nightmare when flashing lights on and off.

None of the above should be taken to mean it can't be done though. We have some marvelous switching transistors in 2021 or you can hunt up a 6 volt windshield wiper motor and build a motor driven flasher.
PS: stock up on 6 volt headlight bulbs, they don't live long in flashing mode.
he doesnt have a 6 volt system
 

Abe Bush

Moderator
I know it's common for everyone and their brother to add wig-wags to their rigs and coaches, but at least in in the upper midwest where I grew up, wig wags weren't even seen prior to the very late 1970s and becoming more common in the early 1980s. I never once saw wig wags on a professional car ambulance while it was in service. I know it was an option prior to the early 80s, but my guess is that they were pretty rare, at least in the midwest. I have seen photos of Chicago Fire Department M-Ms that had red headlights, but I don't know if they actually blinked or not as I never saw them lit up.
 
Cops had them first here in the mid 60s just after removing rooftop sirens with built in showers. Some overpaid politician made the decision flashing headlights along with 25 watt electronic sirens were a good idea. After about a year of demolition derby on the streets the whole RPD fleet had flashing headlights and an extra switch on the dash. The idea was sold on Rochester having a huge deaf population.

Sheriff's garage climbed on the bandwagon and Vern was sure he could vary the flash rate using heater switches just like he used on them barber pole lights that replaced the roof sirens. Note: the Sheriff was running 6 cyl Chevy Biscaynes with 3 on the tree. It took a few years for all the cars to get the headlight thing.

City Fire Dept shop (Rochester still built their own) figured out a flasher & a couple relays could put on one hell of a show, either wig-wag or on/off on the high beams and wouldn't share the wiring diagram. Interagency cooperation at its finest.
As car stereos became more common the theory you can never have enough flashing lights marched along in lock step.
Some people even went to sawing holes in ambulance front fenders to install flush lights so the car could be seen exiting an alley between buildings.

Package shelf lights hooked to the tail lights became the new thing for cop cars. Then somebody discovered they couldn't be seen with the trunk open so inside trunk lid lights had to be added. Since I had a bucket of free lights and some free time I had both amber turn signals and red stop lights on the shelf of my Duster. Drove a few people over the edge trying to figure out that controller.

It was a fun era. And then came Halogen lense roasters.
 

Abe Bush

Moderator
Cops had them first here in the mid 60s just after removing rooftop sirens with built in showers. Some overpaid politician made the decision flashing headlights along with 25 watt electronic sirens were a good idea. After about a year of demolition derby on the streets the whole RPD fleet had flashing headlights and an extra switch on the dash. The idea was sold on Rochester having a huge deaf population.

Sheriff's garage climbed on the bandwagon and Vern was sure he could vary the flash rate using heater switches just like he used on them barber pole lights that replaced the roof sirens. Note: the Sheriff was running 6 cyl Chevy Biscaynes with 3 on the tree. It took a few years for all the cars to get the headlight thing.

City Fire Dept shop (Rochester still built their own) figured out a flasher & a couple relays could put on one hell of a show, either wig-wag or on/off on the high beams and wouldn't share the wiring diagram. Interagency cooperation at its finest.
As car stereos became more common the theory you can never have enough flashing lights marched along in lock step.
Some people even went to sawing holes in ambulance front fenders to install flush lights so the car could be seen exiting an alley between buildings.

Package shelf lights hooked to the tail lights became the new thing for cop cars. Then somebody discovered they couldn't be seen with the trunk open so inside trunk lid lights had to be added. Since I had a bucket of free lights and some free time I had both amber turn signals and red stop lights on the shelf of my Duster. Drove a few people over the edge trying to figure out that controller.

It was a fun era. And then came Halogen lense roasters.
Walter I'm almost afraid to ask, but what in the sam hill is a rooftop siren with built in showers?
 
Remember Abe, you asked.

You start with a quality high power motor driven siren and connect it with proper size wire to get full torque out of the siren. Figure 6 to 8 months till you have a good set of roof cracks because it was easier to just drill the roof than mount the siren over a crossmember.
Add Bondo & rebolt.
Wait for winter + snow & melted ice.
Generally by then 1 or 2 bolts will be broken but the mechanic won't see them because he don't want to pull the headliner and fix his mess.
Run the car around the clock because the battery is about beat to death and won't start the car without a jump. This allows a good gallon of melted snow to sit on top of the headliner in liquid condition.
Come out of a restaurant where you finally got warm and employ your partner to wring jackets sorta dry before jamming them behind the seat because there is no warm left in the wet jacket. Mutter appropriate oaths as you climb in and slam the door that needed new hinge pins last Summer. Pray to your chosen deity for the hinge to break so you can drag the door back to the barn. Reach for microphone on dash to perfectly align your neck for the shower that is departing the collapsing headliner.

Press microphone button and inform dispatch to send tow truck for scrap vehicle!
 

Tom Nangle

PCS Member
I never saw alternating headlights on an emergency vehicle until 1971. So I haven't put them on my rigs.
Kevin, Chicago P.D. had wig wag headlights on our marked and unmarked squads in the late 1960’s, in addition to the blue Mars roof lights for the marked cars. I think they used a flasher possibly numbered 357, but mechanics and electrics aren’t my strong point by any means. Eventually, the wig wag system spread to the suburban areas. Everybody in Chicago knew that wig wags in your rear view mirror was popo. Hope this helps.
 

Rick Duffy

PCS Past President 2010 - 2012
Kevin, Chicago P.D. had wig wag headlights on our marked and unmarked squads in the late 1960’s, in addition to the blue Mars roof lights for the marked cars. I think they used a flasher possibly numbered 357, but mechanics and electrics aren’t my strong point by any means. Eventually, the wig wag system spread to the suburban areas. Everybody in Chicago knew that wig wags in your rear view mirror was popo. Hope this helps.
Kev, It was a 537 Flasher... worked on a blue grill-light option DIY, to work in conjunction with with a blue Fed-Sig FB-1 teardrop.
 
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