Monday, November 25, 2013

The one-eyed monster

Come the darker commutes, come the people who are so lazy they can't even change a light bulb. You don't typically notice it until September time, but they're there. The one-eyed monsters - cars running on one sidelight and one full-beam. I've never really understood this. The drivers obviously know one light is out because they're trying to compensate by using the other light on high beam. Day after day, week after week I pass the same four or five cars like this. Why can't they stop at the car place (that they drive past every day, incidentally) and buy a bulb for less than the cost of a fast food lunch? It would take 5 minutes to fix the problem and they'd be able to see much better and wouldn't be pissing off all the other drivers on the road.
I think I know the answer to this. For a long time there was the myth of the unchangeable headlight bulb. "Oh you can't change the bulb - you need a whole new headlight" was the story. That might have been true for one model year of one Talbot made at some point in the 70's, but in all the cars I've worked on in the last 25 years, I've yet to see a single one with a 'sealed' headlight unit.
The modern equivalent, of course, is that "it's so difficult to change the bulb that you need the dealer to do it". When people say that, what they mean is "I'm too damn lazy to try to figure it out". Yes it might involve a scraped knuckle, or undoing a screw to move a piece of plastic out of the way. Yes you might get dirty hands, and yes, reaching around to get the bulb swapped over could be awkward but it's very do-able.
Let's put it like this: unless you've had to change the right side headlight bulb in a 1985 Audi ur-Quattro, you don't really have a leg to stand on in the "too difficult" debate. For the record, the air filter box had to come out to swap the bulb on that side. During manufacture, the box was put in before the engine so the lower bolt was only accessible from underneath the car with a very long ratchet wrench. In addition, the fuel injection system was bolted to the top of the filter cover, so that had to come off first. To get that off you had to loosen the injector rail and to loosen the injector rail you had to take off the cold-start injector and the rocker cover vapour scavenger hose. Once all that was done you still only had about a 30% change of being able to change the bulb. The only true solution was to take off the intake manifold too.