All About Ford Trafficators

Some may call these Semaphores, but others just call them those goofy signals arms
mounted on the side

By Dean Kirsten

Way before there existed electronic turn signals, and long before we had blinking body-mounted turn indicators, there were hand signals. You remember those, what you were suppose to perform before each turn to let others know you were about to turn in front of them? Yes, the lost art of sticking your arm out the window taught to you by your driver,s education teacher so long ago. But unless you grew up in Europe, particularly England, you never had the honor of learning all about using Trafficators. History shows that these handy-dandy little devices date back to at least the 1930s, but for today, let,s concentrate on the late forties and early fifties eras.

Ford of England, like all British automotive manufacturers had to comply with certain guidelines created by the MOT (Ministry of Transportation), which is similar to our DOT. In the first step to automate the turn signal process, electronic Trafficators were installed on most cars and perhaps on some vans. Austin had them, so they must be cool, right? Ford mounted them on the lower quarter panel (early 1949 and before), or up higher on the center "B pillar from 1949 and beyond. I,m sure the lower mounting position was just too vulnerable to damage, but it may have been to improve their effectiveness in traffic conditions. Retro kits were also available to accessory-mount them to any application, by attaching a supplied metal box to an outside body panel.

Trafficators (Volkswagen called them Semaphores by the way) were basically electro magnets that when energized with voltage, would raise an arm up indicating a turn was about to me made. Once these arms were in the upper position, power would be channeled to the lens area, via a small wire found inside, and a small tubular bulb would light up.

Trafficators for Fords were mostly used on 6-volt cars, so beware. If you plan to use them on your street rod, you will need to run a separate, constant 6-volt power source that bypasses the 12-volt flasher relay (you do not want the power to be on and off for a Trafficator!) You should also know that there are no reproduction parts for these units. New lenses and bulbs are nearly impossible to find, so treasure the good used ones you may have. I have posted three pages of installation instructions for these units on my web site ( These pages will show how to R&R these units from your Anglia or Prefect, and came from Trico.

Trafficators for Ford applications are unique in their overall design and shape. Other styles of Trafficators or Semaphores will not work on the early Anglia and Prefect. This one is from Tex and is wired for 6-volts.

There were three major suppliers: Tex, Trico and Lucas, this one is of course Tex. Brand name were often stamped into the frame mount.

The Trico arms were sometimes chromed, and came in 12-volts for the Ford V-8 Pilot. Rare.

Wiring either uses one wire or two; one wire-style connector is for hot, with the frame-mount grounded (6V positive ground!). The two wire-style still only uses one lead as a hot (with the chassis-mount grounded). The other lead is for the dash indicator light.

The shape of the lens is unique for Fords. Notice the raised rib on the flag-portion.

To access the bulb, remove the small screw found on the far end of the arm. Carefully raise the arm away from the lens. Bulb contacts metal arm as a ground. A small wire clips on the other end for the hot lead.

Small bulbs for a Ford-style Trafficator are mega rare and usually come in 6-volts.

Before you attempt to raise the arm, depress the clutch by pushing down this lever first!

When arm is fully raised, this brass rivet comes in contact with a brass tab to provide power for the bulb. This rivet usually gets tarnished and needs cleaning.

Round field coil is what actually raises the arm up, once the Trafficator has been switched on.

Clutch mechanism should be cleaned of gunk, and lightly greased before use.