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Understanding 240 Headlight Relays

     UPDATED: October 28, 2020                       CONTACT       
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Eliminate the 240 Step Relay
Mysteries of the 240 Headlight Step Relay

If you have any comments or if you can improve this information, please feel free to email.


Unlocking the Mysteries of the Volvo 240 Headlight Step Relay.
And Test Procedure.
This relay is rather special in that it has a LATCHING function. 
A latching function works like this: You can click and release a momentary button or switch (such as the 240 high/low beam lever) and the relay will then LATCH (or lock) in the ON or OFF position until the switch or lever is clicked again. For this 240 relay, one click latches it "ON" and another click latches it "OFF."  The latch function is activated by a GROUND signal, which is created by the high/low beam lever.
I have created the diagram PDF (CLICK PHOTO OR LINK BELOW) for anyone who wants to better understand how this relays work. 

I have also added a test procedure on page 2 if you think you might have a broken one.


How to Substitute Available Relays
  to ELIMINATE your Volvo 240 Headlight Step Relay
This modification will accurately mimic what the original Volvo step relay does.  It does not eliminate any need or recommendation you may have for additional headlight relays to feed high current headlights if you have them. Feel free to add those if needed.  This type of setup simply copies the Volvo relay.

<<< Here is the 240 headlight step relay.  The original relay, PN 1307991, is still available as a new part, however as the years go by, they are getting to be more and more expensive.  As original Volvo 240 headlight step relays become more expensive or less common, here I am offering an alternative that you can assemble yourself to completely eliminate the Volvo 240 Step Relay if you want to. This method uses two readily available relays to accomplish the same functions. 

<<< For those of you that are new to this, it's found under your hood on the left inner fender. 

Here's a quick little rabbit trail for owners of OTHER Volvos:
760 and 960 Headlamp Relays

As an example of what can happen to the availability of 240 step relays, which I hope doesn't happen, these images below are of the headlight step relay found in a 1988-94 Volvo 760 and 960 series.  This relay is PN 1392900 and has been no longer available new for many years. 
Used relays are showing up online for OVER $100! 
If YOU can help, I would be happy to work out a similar solution to eliminate THIS relay in other Volvos if someone out there with one of these cars would be willing to lend me a relay for some testing. So far no one has spoken up.
CONTACT ME if you can help with this.
And there is also a Canadian version of this relay for 760/960 models. This photo was sent by Jesse W.  The extra Pin #15 is thought to be for Daytime Running Lamps (DRLs).
PN 3523535

This is a bottom view of the relay plug connectors for the 240 step relay.

Original Volvo 240 Step Relay Circuits.
Wire colors may vary slightly depending on year.
12V Battery (common with 81a).
12V Battery (common with 15).
Signal from high beam lever (negative ground switched).
12V from dash light switch (or from headlight relay in 1986 and later 240).
Dash high beam indicator light (RED/WHITE).  High beam headlamp (RED).
High beam headlamp.
Bulb failure sensor. Then from bulb failure sensor to low beam headlamp.


<<< You will need to locate one of these relays. They are easy to find. You can search for "LR35 relay" or  VW latching headlight relay. 
This is basically a copy of an old VW headlamp dip relay.  Cost will be around $20. This is a special mechanical latching relay that has the latching requirement identical to what the Volvo 240 step relay does. 

You can search, but I have found no available connector plugs that will fit this relay.  Those pins are standard .250 inch (6.3 mm), so simple 1/4 inch crimp connectors will be fine.


1235893 Volvo
                          Tyco Brown Relay<<< You will need one standard relay for this project. 
<<< This relay can be an SPST type as shown in these photos.  40A capacity is recommended. SPST means Single Pole, Single Throw. An SPST relay will usually have 5 pins, with the center pin marked 87b (or sometimes just 87). With this type of relay, pins 87and 87b are common and both give power at the same time.  You may also use pretty much any other standard relay, since for this project, the center pole is not being used.  I offer the brown relay shown here if you need one at this link: https://www.240turbo.com/volvorelays.html#1324749-006brown.

How to Remove Terminals from Original 240 Step Relay Plugs

 <<< Here we have a typical relay socket plug used in Volvos.  NO, This is NOT a step relay socket plug , but it'll work for this demonstration.  
Notice the metal terminals inside the holes? Not all the holes always have terminals.
<<< You'll need a tool for this part... a long sharp pick will do. A micro screwdriver can also be used.  If your tool is not small enough on the tip, a little grinding will fix it as I did on this pick. Even a stiff piece of piano wire can work for this step. 
<<< Now pay attention to the little openings at the top of the little rectangular holes.  That wide spot is where you need to insert your pick.  The idea is to insert the pick in about 3/8 inch (10 mm) or so and push down to flatten the locking tab on the terminal. That locking tab holds the terminal in the socket.  In the next photos, the locking tab will be easy to see.  

If your socket doesn't have a wider opening that you can see, just pay attention to the below pics to know which side of the terminal to insert the pick into to push on the tab.
 <<< In this photo you can see the terminal backing out of the hole after the locking tab was released. 
 <<< Here's a good view of the locking tab on the crimp terminal.  After you depress and release the tab and pull the terminal out of the socket, you may find that your tool bent and flattened the tab a bit too much. If you will be re-inserting this terminal into a connector, the tab may need to be pushed back out so it still engages when re-inserted.  It needs to be sticking out like in this photo to work correctly.  If you accidentally break the tab off, you'll need to crimp on a new terminal.

And make sure the locking tab is on the correct side of the socket hole when re-inserting. As it gets inserted, you should hear a 'click' which tells you it has locked into place. Always make sure by giving the wire a little tug.

And always pay close attention when you plug sockets like this back in to see if any terminals get pushed back out. That can happen sometimes if the tab hasn't fully locked the terminal in place.


To help you understand the idea of how this device will work, here's a simplified diagram showing the functions of the two replacement relays involved.

And here's a diagram that shows the pins in the original Volvo step relay connector and where each circuit goes on the two new relays.

The latching outputs in the new latching "step" relay are poles 56a and 56b. These two outputs will alternate with each tug of the high beam lever.

Here's a link to a page created by a 245 owner who did this mod for his car in 2017. He also added relays for his high and low beams, as well as driving lights.

Here's a printable PFD document that covers the above step relay modification in detail.
Click on image for 2-page PDF.

If you have any comments or if you can improve this information, please feel free to email.


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