Sunday, November 20, 2005

All that work for a $10 lightbulb

What ever happened to do-it-yourself car repairs. Sometimes I swear that manufacturers intentionally design cars just so that it's next to impossible to make simple repairs yourself. Now, I'm not trying to replace the engine, or anything like that... I'm not crazy. I just found last night that one of my headlights was out, so logically, this morning I go to the auto parts store up the street and pick up a replacement bulb. I figured, pop the old one out, put the new one in, piece of cake, right? WRONG. A job that I expected would take no more than 10 minutes ended up taking over an hour.

So I pop the hood, use my trusty maglight to scope around for an easy way to replace it. I can see exactly where the bulb connects to the car, the problem is you basically need hands of a 6-year-old to even reach down in there, plus once you do, there's not enough clearance to get the bulb out anyway, because the battery is in the way.

Plan B: Remove the battery. Easy, right? Sure, just disconnect the battery terminals, and loosen the one bolt that holds the battery down, and it just pops right out. Battery terminals... considering I've never replaced the battery the nuts that hold the terminals on were a little tight and awkward, but I managed to get them off with reasonably little trouble. Then that big bolt way down at the bottom that holds the battery on... not such an easy story. I can get a ratchet down there and it just fits in perfectly. One problem... there's no space to TURN the ratchet. Minor details.

It's at this point I second guess myself just wondering if there's an easier way then taking the battery out. So, after messing with my own intuitional instruction manual, I opened up the glove box and found the owners manual and flipped to the page on replacing head lamps. (At least they still put the instructions for this in the manual.) I call it "How to replace the headlamp in 9 easy steps." The first 6 steps involve removing about half a dozen screws, nuts, and bolts and basically disassembling the front corner panel of the car, followed by 3 quick and easy steps to disconnect the bulb and replace it. The additional caveat, "based on the complexity of the procedure, we recommend taking your vehicle in to an authorized service center for replacement." Taking the car into the dealer to replace the headlight? I think not. Removing half the front end of the car just to replace the headlight? I also think not.

I now return to the original plan of removing the battery, this time with a bit more resolve than the last time. Using a creative combination of the ratchet, vise-grips, and crescent wrenches, I managed to get the bolt holding the battery on loosened. From this point forward things become decidedly easier. I removed the battery, which gave me a wide-open reach at the back of the headlight. A few twists and disconnections and the bulb came right out. The new one went in equally easy. Of course, since the battery was now sitting on the floor of the garage, I had no way of knowing whether or not the new bulb was installed correctly and working, but I had hope.

I replaced the battery, reconnected everything and screwed everything back in (albeit this time, not nearly as tightly as it was in previously, because inevitably next week my battery will die or something). Turned on the headlights and it worked beautifully. The only lasting side-effects: my radio presets were all reset, but I'd been meaning to change them around anyway, so it worked out well. All in all, everything's fine but it was incredibly too much work for such a simple task to replace a $10 lightbulb.

No comments: