1968-1982 Corvette Headlight Vacuum System Repair

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Posted September 14, 2012 by Zip Corvette in Corvette Technical Articles
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When you turn your headlights on in your 68 to 82 Corvette, does only one headlight lock up into place and the other one sits partially open? Do the headlights come up or go down very slowly? Do you have to help one or both headlights up into locked position?

If you can answer yes to any of these questions, the problem can be a damaged Front Actuator Seal. This seal will sometimes get a small hole or tear in it because of age and use. Until now the only way to repair this seal was to purchase a complete new actuator. Well, Zip Corvette Parts, 8067 Fast Lane, Mechanicsville, VA 23111, (800) 962-9632 has come to the Corvette owner’s rescue. They now have this seal so that you can repair this problem without buying a complete actuator.

Our project 73 had one headlight that always had been very slow to open so we contacted Zip Corvette Parts and they supplied us with two new actuator front seals and a complete set of Corvette Color Coded Vacuum Hoses. The whole repair took less than two hours and only normal hand tools are needed. Follow along as we repair the front actuator seal and show you just how easy it is to do.

Click on the images for expanded views – it’s much easier on the eyes. 
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Step 1

01: Here are the Corvette Parts that Zip sent us: 2 new Actuator Front Seals, a Complete Color Coded Vacuum Line Set with Instructions, a Vacuum Reserve Check Valve Air Filter and 4 Halogen Headlight bulbs.
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Step 2

02: Start by removing your Corvette’s right and left grille sections and screws.
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Step 3

03: Actuate the headlamps so that they are partially open. Now remove the long spring on either side of the pivot link pin.
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Step 4

04: Disconnect the 2 vacuum hoses attached to the actuator. Remove the cotter pin and slide the pivot pin out of the actuator rod.
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Step 5

05: Remove the four nuts that hold the actuator into place. Also remove the inner support rod. Now carefully work the actuator out through the grille opening. You may not think it will fit through, but it will. Just keep turning the actuator until it fits through the opening. Note: When you do this, make sure the hood is closed. You do not want to scratch your hood with the back of the headlight actuator.
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Step 6

06: With your Corvette’s headlight actuator on your work bench, start by removing the pivot pin receiver. Hold the shaft firmly in place below the threads and twist off the receiver. It is a good idea to count the number of turns it takes to remove the receiver nut. This way you will be able to return it to the same place on the actuator rod. 
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Step 7

07: Carefully remove the rod dust shield. Clean them in a mild detergent and then put some kind of rubber preservative on them. This way they will stay supple and be reusable. If the dust shield is torn or ripped, new Corvette headlight activator rod boots are available from Zip Corvette Parts: 1968-1982 Headlight Actuator Dust Boot
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Step 8

08: Now carefully remove the actuator front seal retaining ring. This ring is held in place by three very small prongs. Use a small screwdriver to open the prongs so that the ring can be removed from the actuator seal lip. Important Note: Only open the prongs up enough to remove the ring from the seal lip. These prongs are very fragile and they cannot be opened and closed repeatedly. One or two times will be all that they can withstand.
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Step 9

09: The front actuator seal can now be removed.
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Step 10

10: Here was the culprit. This tear caused the one Corvette headlight not to open. The other seal also had a small hole in it so it was also not working properly. That is why it was slow in opening.
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Step 11

11: Clean the actuator front seal lip with something like 3M General Purpose Adhesive Cleaner #08984. This will let the activator rubber seal tightly against the actuator lip.
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Step 12

12: Now install the front actuator seal over the rod and onto the actuator seal lip. A small amount of spray silicone on the rubber seal will ease installation. Carefully tuck it into place using a small screwdriver.
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Step 13

13. Replace the actuator seal retaining ring. Use a pair of needle nose pliers to re-crimp the prongs back into place. After this is in place, re-install the pivot pin nut onto the actuator rod. (You did remember how many turns it originally had) Now replace the Corvette headlight actuators and reassemble the headlight assemblies in reverse of the disassembly procedures.
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Step 14

14: While we were at it, we replaced all of our Corvette’s headlight door vacuum hoses and Ts. The set supplied by Zip Corvette Parts is color coded just like the originals.
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Step 15

15: A vacuum diagram is supplied with each kit but we also suggest using your shop manual for proper routing and color identifications. If you do not have a shop manual, you can purchase one from Zip Products. Update: You can now download all the Zip vacuum hose diagrams from their website here. Click on product documents under the kit that fits your year Corvette for installation instructions.
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Step 16

16: It is a good idea to also replace the headlight vacuum reserve check valve air filter. We felt since we were replacing all of the hoses, this should also be replaced.
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Step 17

17: Before we replaced the headlight doors, we installed 2 high and 2 low beam Halogen lights. The difference from the original bulbs to Halogen bulbs was unbelievable. If you are still using the old seal beam headlights, I highly recommend changing to Halogen bulbs.
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Step 18

18: Here is the finished project. Both headlight assemblies work like they originally did and our Corvette stopped winking at us.

If you need to repair your Corvette’s entire vacuum system instead of just the headlight/wiper door system, you can get a complete Corvette Vacuum System Overhaul Kit from Zip Corvette Parts, which includes all hoses and connectors for the entire C3 Corvette.

1968-1982 Corvette Headlight Vacuum System Repair: Making Both Headlights Open Correctly

Source: Zip Corvette Parts
8067 Fast Lane | Mechanicsville, VA 23111 | (800) 962-9632


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Zip Corvette


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