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.


David Mackintosh said...

...yeah... first of all, people are idiots. That answers the big "why".

Second of all it isn't all roses. My two cars are an '08 Yaris and a '10 Mazda 3. When the Yaris tossed its first bulb, of course in the middle of a brutal cold snap, I spent two hours trying to get the old bulb out -- forget the new one in. The fusebox is about a half inch behind the bulb's jack, with a hole barely big enough for me to get my ham hands in at the whole mess. Undoing the fusebox mounts wasn't enough to get enough room for me to get at it. It was only when I was contemplating taking the front lens assembly out entirely that I gave up and made the appointment to pay Toyota $50 to put in a $5 bulb. And that's a week and a half later, even assuming that the first appointment is for a time when we don't need the car.

But in my defense, I'm an idiot -- see point one.

Chris said...

Makes you wonder why they don't give a little more room in there, given that headlight bulbs are a consumable item that will need replacing at some point. My current Range Rover has the same issue on the left-side headlight but luckily I don't have shovels for hands so I was able to go around behind the radiator and pop the dust cap off that way. Once the dust cap was off, there was a lot more room inside the housing to fuss and mess with the bulb.

Mike Visser said...

My Volvo XC70 (2004) you need fairy hands to do the right side bulbs because of the air box as well, left side are only slightly better but still there's a wire harness in the way you can't get rid of. Rear lights are a bit easier, but still makes you wonder if the designers ever had to change a bulb themselves or maybe they have a wager on who can make it worse (I think Audio was winning from your post).

On a related note, has any one noticed more people driving in the city with their high beams (both lights) on at all times? I don't know if it is just where I am (Canada) or something else, but it seems way more common now.

Birger Delrue said...

I never had one , but after seeing the engine bay on a Lancia Delta , i wondered if it was even possible to change bulbs on these. That has to be the most crowded engine bay i've ever seen.