Pop-up headlights are at the heart of corvette C5’s and C4’s character. They add a distinctly retro feel, reminiscent of the 80s and 90s vehicles. It’s quite unfortunate that Chevy had to make the hard decision to let the pop-ups die out after C4 and C5.
As a Corvette C4/C5 owner, you are among the lucky few to still have the pop-up headlights. Yet, it’s not uncommon for owners to report a C4/C5 corvette headlight pop up problem. In fact, the corvette forum is filled with these reports. As the years pass and the C4/C5 gets older, the more of these c4/c5 corvette headlight pop up issues arise.
Usually, the driver’s side pop-up headlight or the passenger’s side will stay down even after flipping the switch. Understandably, this pop-up failure can drive you up the wall. So what do you do if your C4/C5 corvette headlight won’t go down?
The Chevy service manual outlines the troubleshooting diagnostics you should go through when issues with the pop-up headlights first appear. Here are some of the common problems and solutions.
Short Headlight Stops
Problems with the nylon stops can manifest in the pop-up headlight on the driver side not going up when you activate the switch. The headlight goes down without issues and noise, but getting back up is an uphill task.
A little counterclockwise twist on the manual control may do the trick, but for the moment. At about a quarter turn, the resistance usually is snug and then loose. The switch works just fine with the loose part.
A short nylon stop can cause issues with the Vette pop-up headlights. Go over to your local auto store and get a 5/16″ or 3/8″ gas line cut or new nylon stops. You can get them a bit larger and replace the factory nylon stop with it.
Bad Headlight Switch Control Module
Another common issue that might be keeping your C5 corvette headlight stuck up, or down, is a bad headlight switch control module. The contacts in the turn signal switch or the multi-function switch can stand in the way of a functioning pop-up mechanism. Listen for the gears spinning.
Turning the twilight function in DIC settings will usually work if the switch is the problem. If the computer does not flip up the lights, look elsewhere. It may not be the switch.
Test the ground and power circuit of the pop-up control for an open or poor connection.
The twilight function will save you a couple of bucks, but it’s not a long-term solution. The multi-function switch will need some work.
It will cost you some bit of time, but the quick fix will save you a couple of bucks.
Pull the multi-switch, clean the contacts and reset them. Check the door control connection and then the harness connector. Repair the poor connection and then test.
Replace the control module or the multi-function turn signal as a last resort.
If a C5 corvette headlight won’t pop up, the problem may be malfunctioning motors. Check if the voltage is going to the motors before you rush to the auto store. A good reading of the meter will come in handy to pinpoint the issue.
It is always a good idea to recheck the motors, the connections, and everything else before replacing them. Directly connect motors with the 12 volts from the battery. If it moves, then the problem is not the motors.
Check the entire circuit with the meter using the schematics and descriptions.
Bad or Dirty Connections
Corrosion and bad solder joints can cause all sorts of problems for the C5 lights, such as a C5 corvette headlight stuck down. You will need to dismantle the pop-up lights to clean the dirty connections.
You will need easy access to the board to clean the connectors and redo the solder joints. Use steel wool to scrub any rust or corrosion on the connectors. Replace the headlamp opening door if cleaning and resoldering fails.
There are four relay lines controlled simultaneously. Obstruction or too much current driving from the motor can burn one of the wires and cause a C5 corvette headlight stuck up issue. It is a good idea to inspect the associated motors and headlight gears. Burnt wires could be a sign of faulty gears or motor.
Take the control box apart with a screwdriver and pull the board out. This is the component you are after.
Even though the board’s components are not static-sensitive, it is vital to take precautions. Your focus should be the four-pole relay, as most problems are usually here.
Replace the relay wire or reconnect it. If it’s a replacement, it’s highly recommended that you buy a relay socket as well. Plug the wire into the relay socket instead of hardwiring it to the board. Assemble the unit back and see if the lights work alright.
A Gear Issue
Gear malfunctions inside the pop-up can happen when you least expect it. Listen if the motor is spinning. If your C5 corvette pop up headlights motor keeps running, you are dealing with a rare stripped gear failure.
Replace the OEM gears with the bronze gears, but be sure the problem is with the gears before you spend. Use your vehicle manufacturer’s manual to rule out other common culprits, such as faulty bump tops and the multi-function switch.
Rodney brass gear kits are usually excellent replacements for faulty pop-up gears.
Problem with the Bump Stops
Missing bump stops are quite common and can be the main issue for when your C5 corvette headlight won’t pop up. The lights will still illuminate, and the computer is usually free of codes when the bump stops are missing. But what if the bump stops are not missing?
Wear and tear are typical for every vehicle component, and the bump stops are no exception. But how do you tell that the bump stops are the culprit?
Well, you can try by manually backing off the gear one revolution counterclockwise. This only solves the issue for the moment, and you are back to the same problem the next time you want to take your Vette out for a drive.
In such a case, the motor may be over-torquing at the bump stops because they are faulty.
Installing new bump stops is something that you can do yourself when you have some free time. Order a new set and pick an appropriate time for installation.
You may notice slight amounts of play in the linkage to the motor. Tighten this bolt-up and test.
Remember to bulb grease all the fittings before putting everything back after the fix. This prevents corrosion and sparks in the physical connections of the sockets and pins. With time to spare, you can repeat the process with all the electrical connections in your car. Always, prevention is better than finding a treatment.
Alternative solution: Corvette C5 non pop up headlights
What if you don’t feel like troubleshooting your car’s headlights every so often? Perhaps your C5 is your daily driver and you can’t afford to be wasting time fixing headlight issues. If having pop up headlights is not a big deal to you then I advise you to get non pop up headlights for your C5.
You will never have to worry about your C5 headlight being stuck up or stuck down ever again. On top of that, the non pop up lights look pretty sick and they provide better visibility thanks to the LED tech. They are an easy install and need no maintenance. Here is a link to a full quality kit made in the U.S.