Tail light mystery

My '99 Ford Wind star van suddenly developed a problem of having the tail lights, and license plate lights come on when the car is turned off and the ignition key taken out of the ignition. Some times its the amber turn signal lights and not the tail lights, and sometimes it’s only one turn signal light or only one tail light that is on. This happens int he daylight as well as night, so having the lights on or not on doesn’t seem to matter. It also seems that it’s cycling the ignition key to on at least once, and sometimes more than once will get the light s to go off. Of it’s more than once it will change the lit lights from tail light to turn signal light or from both to one or from one side to another. There have been times when cycling the key doesn’t help, so I just leave it and hope there’s enough left in the battery to start it when I return to the car. The dealer where i bought it (Used from a Chrysler dealership - we don’t have a ford dealer in my town) put in a new battery thinking that would cure the problem. I needed a new battery anyway. so that was fine, but it didn’t fix the problem. They’re stumped and so an I.

Any suggestions?

The first place I would check would be the underhood fuse block. There are a bunch of fuses and relays in there, most likely including your headlight and taillight relays. Check for corrosion and any evidence of damage caused by heat, such as melted wires and the like. Unplug the relays to check for corrosion underneath them. Also check underneath the fuse block, where the cable leading from the battery attaches to it. There could be damage here also.

The next place to check will be the fuse block under the dash. This is where your flashers will normally be, so power will be present there, which is apparently causing your problem. Perform checks as above in this area, looking for corrosion, broken wires, etc. Your next place to look will be inside the steering column. Remove the collar behind the steering wheel. This is usually easy to remove with only three or four Torx screws holding the two halves together. Inspect the wiring of the multifunction (turn signal) switch for the same conditions mentioned above.

As an afterthought, does this vehicle have a trailer hitch and towing wiring harness? If it does, this could be a source of problems, although a remote possibility.

Thank you for your reply. I will take a look at the fuse blocks 1st, as you suggest, this week end. I appreciate you taking the time to offer me this help. - Ed

Sorry, I forgot to answer your question. There is a trailer hitch on it, but I’ve never been able to find any wiring to hook up the lights to a utility trailer, which is the only kind I have and pull very rarely. But if the other ideas don’t turn up the fix then I’ll ask the dealer to look for a trailer wiring connection, as you suggest.

This problem does sound to be due to a problem with an electronic control device for some trailer lights.