Trafficator in the "on" position

Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire Winker

Trafficator in the "on" position

Trafficators are semaphore signals which, when operated, protrude from the bodywork of a motor vehicle to indicate its intention to turn in the direction indicated by the pointing signal. Trafficators are often located at the door pillar.


They first appeared in the 1900s when they were actuated either mechanically or pneumatically. In 1908 Alfredo Barrachini in Rome had added electric lights inside the arms that turned on as they extended but operation was still by a cable system. Electric operation came in 1918 when the Naillik Motor Signal Company of Boston added electric motor drive. This system was superseded by two French inventors, Gustave Deneef and Maurice Boisson, who used a linear solenoid in 1923. The final complete system came in 1927 when Berlin-based Max Ruhl and Ernst Neuman combined internal illumination and solenoid operation.

The shape of the Trafficator arm is closely based upon the shape of the semaphore signal arm used by the Royal Bavarian Railway beginning in 1890. The only difference from the railway arm is that it is halved down its length so as to fit flush with the vehicle's exterior.

They were common on vehicles until the introduction of the flashing amber or red indicators at or near the corners of the vehicle (and often along the sides as well). They have been increasingly rare since the 1950s, as ever-tightening legislation has prescribed the need for the modern type of flashing signal. Many historic vehicles that are used on today's roads have had their trafficators supplemented or replaced with modern indicators to aid visibility and to meet legislative requirements.

Turn indicator stalk Edit

Turn indicator stalk or turn signal lever is the control lever which operates the turn signal or indicator lights on the front, sides and rear of the vehicle.

Since the majority of the world's vehicles are left hand drive, the turn indicator stalks are located on the left of the steering column. This is true for all left hand drive vehicles manufactured by European and North American manufacturers.

For most right-hand-drive (RHD) motor vehicles, the indicator stalk is located on the right of the steering column. This is assumed to be the correct design for right hand drive cars. The indicator stalk should be placed closest to the driver's door. The reason is when the driver intends to turn, the person has their right hand on the steering column and activating the turn indicator and the left hand using the gear shift simultaneously.[1][unreliable source?]

However, European manufacturers used to develop steering columns for both LHD and RHD motor vehicles. Due to cost cutting, these manufacturers assemble the steering column for LHD into their RHD motor vehicle models.[2][3][unreliable source?]

This has the effect of making one perceived the car as European.[4] Some Japanese manufacturers such as Subaru will have variation in the model line up to where the turn indicator stalk is located.[5]


Many other functions have been added to the turn signal stalk. Frequently headlamps and high beam controls are integrated into the turn signal control.


  1.[unreliable source?]
  3.[unreliable source?]
  • The Motor Car — its evolution and engineering development. John Day. Bosch Ltd., 1975. ISBN 0-00-435016-2
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