We have all heard the joke (especially professional drivers and their families) about someone running out of blinker fluid when they fail to use their blinkers when they turn. That led me to wonder if those people that are constantly honking their horns could run out of that too. So after a little research, I did come up with an answer.
Car horns can run out of honks not due to running out of any type of fluid but due to electrical issues. Whether it is the wiring harness or the connectors are corroded, usually, the issue is electrical in nature.
I would like to go over what types of issues can cause a car horn to stop working in more depth and also examine why having a horn in your car can be so vital. Since there are actually a pretty limited number of reasons why a horn would stop working, many people who are not mechanically inclined may even be able to troubleshoot the issue themselves and save money.
Causes of a Quiet or Silent Horn
While some of these issues may come up with the long-term ownership of a vehicle, others you may only expect to experience when purchasing a new vehicle. Regardless of your situation, a horn that has lost its honk will need to be repaired or replaced.
1. Electrical Short or Wire Damaged
This type of issue can come up at any time during vehicle ownership and can be caused by either just normal wear and tear on your car or through damage such as rodents chewing on things under the hood.
Although rodents are not the only cause, they can be the most common, depending on where you live in the country and how your car is stored, especially if your car sets for weeks or months at a time. Other causes can include things like:
- Car fire
- Wear and tear
- Backyard mechanic foul-up
This is a situation that may require an actual mechanic to follow the electrical lines from the battery to the horn to determine if there is damage to the wires and what caused the damage.
2. Wire Damaged Corrosion on Connections
Corrosion on electrical components can prevent the relay of electrical signals, which prevents certain components, like your horn, from working properly. Whether the corrosion is on your battery connections or somewhere along the lines, this should be cleaned. However, the most commonplace is on the battery terminals due to the acid in the battery.
If the issue is the battery, then it is a simple case of disconnecting your battery, cleaning both the battery posts and the cables that connect to the battery of any corrosive build-up to ensure that you have the proper connection required for the electrical charge to be transmitted both into and out of the battery.
3. Blown Fuse
Somewhere in your vehicle’s electrical system for the horn, sometimes inside the steering wheel, there will be a fuse. This may be a tube-like fuse rather than the flat ones used in your fuse box.
If you have a short or a power surge, you may find that this fuse is blown and will require replacement. Typically, if you can find the fuse, you can easily replace it, not requiring a professional.
Inside my truck, there is a fuse box under the hood and one inside the cabin on the driver’s side, under the dashboard. As seen in this video, the horn fuse is on the one inside the truck.
If the issue is a blown fuse and you can get to it, it is probably one of the cheapest fuses since a fuse will usually only run you a couple of bucks to replace.
Often sold in quantity, you may have to pay up to $10 for a set of fuses, which includes a couple of fuses of different amperage. So not only will you get the fuse you need, but also a spare or three.
4. Horn was Removed or Disconnected
While this situation may only happen when you buy a car, it is something that does need to be considered when trying to determine why a horn isn’t working. This can be an especially important thing to check off of your list when trying to determine why your horn isn’t working on a newly purchased used vehicle.
This is more common when someone considers themselves a backyard mechanic and may have replaced the steering wheel or was trying to fix any type of electrical issues within the steering column. Whether by accident or on purpose that it can get disconnected, and it is important that it is reconnected.
If removed, you will need to have a new one installed, or if you have the existing one, have it replaced. While this is not always caused by a do-it-yourself mechanic, that is the most common cause. It could also be caused by someone who knows what they are doing but decides to sell the vehicle halfway through restoration or repair.
So, when determining the reason why your car horn is not working, decide to work on a few steps that you feel comfortable doing yourself, and then get help if you feel it is beyond your capability.
As seen in this video, you can follow the steps from easy to hard, checking the fuse, then the wires and connectors, and lastly, taking apart the horn on the steering wheel.
5. Too Cold
A car horn can stop working if the weather is very cold. In a situation like this, one of the best ways to solve your problems is to let your car warm up and keep it in the garage so it can stay warm.
Why is a Car Horn Important?
Most people tend to take the horn on their cars for granted and may never really use it. It is there for more than just letting your friend know you are out front of their home and you’re ready to go.
It isn’t just for letting your kids know they need to hurry up or they are going to be late. There actually is an important reason for having a horn on a car, and it could save your life.
1. Distance Alerts
Horns are used to alert someone at a distance, and this can include if someone is driving toward your car and could potentially hit you.
You need the horn in your car to be able to warn others that you are there and that they could hit you. This happens quite a bit in parking lots when someone isn’t paying full attention when backing out of a parking spot.
2. State Mandated
Depending on the state you live in, it may be mandated by your state to have a working horn in your car before you can get your car registered or get your plates renewed.
Some states, like my state of Texas, require a state inspection at an authorized inspection location that checks, among other things, that you have a working horn in your vehicle.
If your horn has run out of honk and you are trying to register a newly purchased vehicle, one of the things that can actually prevent you from being able to register the vehicle is not having a working horn.
You may not necessarily need to have one inside the steering wheel, but you would need to have one in your vehicle just to pass inspection.
Texas is not the only state that requires this either. Most states that do require some type of inspection before registration or renewal will also require a working horn.
3. An Expression of Free Speech?
While this may seem a little off the rails here, I did want to include this simply due to the initial silliness of the situation and the serious turn it has taken.
In June 2018, in the state of California, there was actually a lawsuit filed stating that getting a ticket for using a car horn violated the plaintiff’s first amendment rights.
While we may not see a horn as being an expression of free speech, we do often use it to express how we feel. As I mentioned above, you may use it to convey that you are in a hurry, whether in front of a friend’s house or sitting at a red light.
Oftentimes, though, you may honk to support a strike or protest, and this could be considered free speech as well.
When you are having problems with your horn, make sure to check the electrical system for corroded wires, good connections, and your fuses. The horn is an important part of keeping you and others safe while driving.
I use my horn with a short burst to let people know the light has changed or polite ways to notify drivers of what’s going on around them. I only push down for a longer period if an accident may occur. What do you do? Hope you can stay safe and solve any horn issues that you may have.