Sunday, June 20, 2010

Shannon Vs Replacing A Brake Light

When it comes to tools, I am a danger to myself and others. Mostly myself, though. I have an inch long scar along my right thumb to show where I learned, a couple weeks before I turned 13, that we shouldn't cut anything with a sharp knife while holding it; I bet most people don't need this lesson. Clearly I'm not to be trusted around tools but my parents keep buying me them anyway, like the new drill I got for Christmas. I don't know why, it's not as though I have a lot of life insurance they could hope to cash in... Anyway, with more frustration and less bleeding than Shannon Vs Installing Closet Shelves, I tackled replacing a brake light this week. I know you're dying to hear all about it!

So, remember how I bought a new(ish) car to avoid having to have things fixed? Yeah, I think that's funny now too. At the beginning of the week two people pointed out that one of my brake lights was out, so there's a problem already. I didn't whip out my warranty booklet because I already knew that it'd cost me a $50 deductible even if it covered it, and hey, I should be able to figure it out on my own. Right? I used to have to replace the right turn signal on my first car every six months, so... But I peered into the rear of the vehicle and noticed that I couldn't see where the lights were. Pulling at the lens cover didn't do anything either. Hmm.

I know. The owner's manual. just tells you how to remove the bulb, not how to access it. Internet sites then. Found some message boards with people asking how to do this, and a not-quite-adequate tutorial for the same. Couldn't believe how much effort was going to be required - you have to remove the entire light housing. Jesus.

Got to work on that Wednesday. The first nut came off easy, but the other one seemed to be covered by one of those foolish things that you screw on instead, a little plastic cap thing. It's way deep inside a hole I can't even fit my hand into, and my hands are little: most women's hands measure 7 inches from the base of the palm to the tip of their index fingers, and mine aren't quite 6". Hmmm. Borrowed at ratchet from my dad (don't worry, I won't get a ratchet set for Christmas. As you'll see he had me buy one this week). Borrowed another one since that one was too big for the space. Dropped it into the abyss between the molding and the car frame.


Thought of several clever things I could have done to keep that from happening, like tying a rope to the ratchet, or taping a ruler to it, or spending $50 to have the bulb replaced... worried about what that would do to the car, and apologized to dad. Went to buy a ratchet set of my own - and tied a shoelace to the ratchet first, but it rained two nights so I put it off. Failed to get the cap to bulge with the ratchet. Used a sharpie on the cap to determine if it was moving, and a better flash light revealed that it wasn't. Gave up for a while. Prayed that I could figure it out, and slept on it.

Returned to trolling those boards this morning and finally figured out that people have a weird idea of what "a clip" is and realized that it's a post, not a cap. Bought a wooden dowel to pry at it. Couldn't budge it. Looked down and noticed another panel...with another nut! Hey! Used my brand new ratchet to remove the final nut and then got back to prying. Failed three or four times to keep the housing from moving at an angle, which only wedged it tighter. Chipped off 0.3" of the end of the light case, oops, hopefully no one else will notice. But then, then it finally came out! Success!

It took less than two minutes to replace the bulb and put the housing back into place. I did not, however, find the missing ratchet. Hopefully it's lying along side of a bumpy road rather than still in the car... And those boards? They say you need to replace the damn bulbs yearly, which explains why a car with less than 12,000 miles on it needed it done already. sigh. I did save $50, though. And hey, now I have the ratchet for next time.

"I think I'm getting to understand. Automatic flash point I see you across the floor. Make all things new." - Taken By Cars, Uh Oh

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