E-150 turn signal problem

Hi.
I have a 1981 E-150 Econoline van. Lots of overhaul and stuff, and generally it runs well.
Recently, my turn signals and emergency flashers stopped working.
I replaced the flasher module (2-contact kind) with a Kragen high-end "loud" flasher (yellow can; I think it's a relay).
This worked well for a couple of days; then, my turn signals failed again (no light at all), but the emergency flashers kept working. After a little while, the emergency flashers stuck on, then they stuck off. Back to square 1.
I replaced the flasher module again, this time with a cheap one that looked like the original little aluminum can from Motorcraft.
Now, my emergency flashers work fine, but the turn signals don't come on at all.
I am at work; I drove straight there nervously, never turning (just kidding).
I'll try WD-40 on the turn switch (read a posting recommending this) when I get home, but does anyone have any other idea? I suspect my problem might not be a dirty switch.
All the lamps seem OK when emergency-flashing, and I checked them OK while the turns were working briefly after the first module replacement.
All the fuses in the fuse block are intact. I got a voltmeter and measured 12 V+ on both sides of every fuse but one: At the bottom of the block there is a very short fuse labelled "Instr PNL 3A", and it reads 0 VDC on both sides. I don't find this documented anywhere in my lousy Chilton manual, but it may just be an unused circuit.
My cheap Ford instrumentation meters drift around pretty badly, but they always did this. I don't notice any malfunction other than the turn signals.
Any ideas? I removed the plastic covers from the steering column and wiggled the wires everywhere I could reach, buit I'm not a mechanic and that's as far as I could go . . ..
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I would say you have a bad turn signal switch. If I can remember back that far, this vehicle should have separate switches for turn and hazard, and also separate flashers. I don't quite know what you mean by "After a little while, the emergency flashers stuck on, then they stuck off." At any rate the comment about WD 40 was a gag- this is a lubricant that has nothing to do with the functionality of a switch. Also, from this statement,"fuse labelled "Instr PNL 3A", it is for the dash lights and will only have power when your headlights are on. HTH Ted

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Hi Ted.
Thanks for the info. The WD-40 didn't work -- kind of a nasty trick, if it was a joke. I agree that the switch may be the problem; or else an inline fusible link (I hope not!).
Thanks for the Instr PNL info: I'll verify it, but it seems reasonable to me.
To clarify the problem: I installed the first new ($12 !) flasher. Everything worked for a day or two, then the turn signals failed entirely to work while I was in the middle of a trip to work: No indication on the dash; no light. However, my emergency flashers STILL worked (they had stopped working before I installed this first new flasher). After a little more driving, the emergency light indicator stuck lit-up on the dash when I pulled the emergency flasher switch to on. It would not flash (paired-turn signals simply stayed lit). Then, after a few minutes, I tried the emergency flashers again (keep in mind I was driving on the road), and it did nothing. I tried again, and the dash indicators lit up steadily again.
After that, nothing worked any more. I assumed the new flasher relay was sticking because of faulty contacts, so I bought another new flasher, the cheap $4 thermal kind, like the Ford original. Result: No turn signals; emergency OK.
And that's been my current status: The emergency flashers work, but the turn signals do not. I don't think there are two separate timers; just one shared by the turn signal switch and the emergency switch. This is because of the first flasher replacement, which fixed both cases.
I'm going to bring it in to a shop today. I don't know how to get at the turn-signal switch: It's behind a heavy metal "security" shield for the ignition key. Always some kind of obstruction in the name of "safety".
Ted wrote:

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JM wrote:

This is a classic failure mode on the older style Ford turn signal switches. To replace it you will have to remove the steering wheel and work from the top of the column. They're pretty easy, The tricky part is fishing the wiring down through the column. Snip the connector off of the old switch. Attach a string or piece of wire to the old wires and pull it up through the column. Release the terminals from the connector on the new switch, tie your string to them and pull the wires down through. A wrap of tape covering the terminals keeps them from hanging up in the column. Use the wires on the old connector to help you correctly insert the terminals back into the new connector.
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Hi Tom.
I'm saving your instructions for the future -- I hope I never have to use them!
Anyway, before seeing your message, I brought the van into an AAMCO shop where I had had good work done previously.
They replaced the turn-signal "turnbuckle", but it was an expensive job. I wanted the turn signal lever assembly fixed anyway, because it no longer stopped the signal after a turn: It had to be returned manually to the middle position after straightening the wheel. Now everything works.
Here's the kicker: In the course of the repair, a SECOND FLASHER module was discovered! Replacing it fixed the turn signal; the one I had been replacing was for emergency flashing, only!
What a weird problem! Here's my analysis:
First of all, both of the flasher modules must have failed originally at the same time, the one for turn signals INTERMITTENTLY.
I say this, because the first sign of trouble was that neither the turn signals nor the emergency lights would work.
Then, replacing just the emergency-flasher module somehow got the turn signals working again, because replacing that one flasher module with a relay-type apparently fixed the turn signals and the emergency lights.
Then, with the the replacement installed, the turn-signal flasher must have failed permanently (after a day or so, these quit again).
Then, the replacement must have been defective, because the emergency lights failed shortly after the turn signals.
Finally, when I replaced the emergency flasher module with a cheap thermal one, it must have been good, because my emergency flashing has worked consistently since then.
So, AAMCO replaced the turn-signal flasher and the "turnbuckle" wires and switches. And everything now seems to work well.
Thanks to Ted and Tom for the help offered. With 190,000 miles plus, I guess weird problems happen!
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