Wednesday, November 23, 2011
What Happened to Easy?
Like what, you ask?
I'm going to tell you, but first let me ask you a question. How many people does it take to change a light bulb in an automobile?
Three, with at least one having an engineering degree.
Okay, I exaggerate a little; perhaps. That is my car there on the left, a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt. The driver-side headlight burnt out recently. Okay, no biggie, bulbs don't last forever and the car is over 6 years old and has nearly 90,000 miles, much of it drove in dark, rain and other conditions demanding headlight use, like the infernal and eternal road construction zones (don't get me started on that boondoggle or we'll be here all night - with half our road in darkness).
There was a thin rim of chrome around its outer edge. You loosened a screw on the bottom of this rim to loosen it. Then you just popped that headlight out of a socket and pushed the new one in, retightened the screw and let there be light!
Took five minutes and you were good to go.
Okay, here is your modern headlight bulb on the left. Sure doesn't look like that old one, does it? Doesn't look anything like that thing on the front of my driver-side fender either. No, it goes inside that thing.
Nothing to it, you just have to dissemble one-quarter of your car to do it. You don't need your screwdriver, though. No, you need a socket wrench, some kind of prying tool and probably, as I did, a pair of pliers. You can see technology is making life simpler all ready, can't you?
Here we go, first lift the hood, duh! Get your socket wrench, with the proper size socket (in metric units) and loosen two nuts holding the headlight assembly. Find the plug holding the fascia to the front above the grill and pull it out. Fascia? What the heck is a fascia? Well, it's that thin molding they stick over a lot of your vehicle. So we have identified the fascia, where is this plug. It said plug, right. My fascia had two plugs, a little one up front and a larger one toward the engine. I had to pop both of these to loosen my fascia. (You got a loose fascia, sounds like some kind of medical condition to me.)
Be certain by this point you have unplugged the assembly wires from the electrical harness. You don't want to mess up your electrical system during the next steps.
Now with the fascia loosened, pull it back a bit, which actually you can't really do. You just got to let it flap a bit and let it go at that. Grab ahold of the headlight assembly and gently pull out slightly toward the radiator and it will come off the two clamps holding it underneath. Be careful not to break anything or it will get real costly. That last warning was a great tension reducer, yes sir.
Okay I got it clear and out. It was big and awkward to hold. It has more than one lightbulb in it you know. Oh yes, you may have to go through this routine a few more times in the life of the car. There is your hazard light and turn signal to consider.
I carried this thing into the kitchen to replace the bulb. It probably does get simple at this point - you'd think. You got the assembly and you're new bulb and it goes in a socket. Trouble is, you have to get to the socket, which is buried in there somewhere. First there is a plastic locking collar around the bulb. You press down and turn counter clock wise, but you better have eaten your spinach before hand. There is a lot of grunting on this step, plus a lot of fear you'll break the dang collar or bulb. Oh man, don't break the bulb 'cause it says it could explode. Anyway, this is where I got my trusty pliers. Yeah, carefully trying to turn this sucker. It's been soldered in there by time, but I did succeed and got this out. Now I had to wrestle the old bulb up from its hole. Once this was out, there is a socket to unplug.
Now you take your new bulb, which at first doesn't seem to want to settle down all the way in the socket (and remember whatever you do you don't want to break this gas filled little bulb). Next refasten the socket to the back of the bulb and replace the locking collar. Un huh, the locking collar doesn't want to go back in either. Women push babies out easier than this thing pushes back in place. And you got to turn it clockwise when and if you ever get it down far enough. Once that thing turned under it's holding ridges I felt I had conquered Everest.
I carried the reassembled assembly back outside to my car with some trepidation. I had to push this baby back in making certain the bottom lined up with the clamps I can't see. Well, I did it. It was in my fender and the bolt holes in the fender lined up with the bolt holes in the assembly and I got the bolts back it and then the plugs back in the fascia.
All done, so I get in the car, turn on the engine and the headlight on the driver's side does not come on. My car has those automatic headlights. My passenger side came on, but not my new bulb. I turned the lever from auto to on and now both headlights on both side worked. Odd, maybe the auto required a special bulb that I didn't buy? I don't care. I am not tearing that thing apart again. It won't kill me to manually switch on my lights, as long as I remember to manually switch them off when I park.
However, the next day when I went out, both my headlights were coming on automatically and all was well.
And you see how simple it all was.