How many potters does it take to change a light bulb?
The answer is, only one. But it takes about one hour and lots of frustration. Actually it just took me over 2 hrs, because I couldn’t believe that such a simple job could be designed to be made to be so difficult and monumentally stupid by a car designer, so I spent an hour on the internet looking up what other people had done to solve the problem.
The problem is that the low beam head light bulb on our car wore out after ten years of use. I have no problem with this. It’s the first thing to have worn out on the car. A Mitsubishi Colt hatchback. It’s been a really good, reliable, fuel efficient, little car. Changing it should be simple. The light bulb can just be twisted and pulled out and unplugged. A new one plugged in and twisted back into the socket, BUT and its a BIG BUT. You can’t reach the back of the head light with your hand. It’s been designed to be located into such a cramped space, that access to the back of the light is not possible from the open bonnet.
The owners manual makes light of this. Just rotate the steering wheel in the opposite direction to make space in the wheel well, remove the liner and replace the bulb as shown in the illustration. It sounds so easy – just do it. The only problem is that it isn’t. It isn’t easy at all! When you get down to it, it is a lot more involved. So I read it up on the web. And yes, it is a lot more involved. Very much more.
One mechanic wrote that it is much quicker and easier to remove the entire front of the car. Front bumper and other fittings , then take out the entire headlight enclosure. It is so simple to swap the bulb once you have the entire fitting in your hands! He claimed that it only took him 1 hr! I doubt that, unless you do it all the time and are used to it.
I decided to follow the manual instructions, and go in the back way, through the wheel arch. Using the added advice from the web chat line and the 15 minute video of high lights on You Tube. I like watching highlights! It’s my favourite way to take in the Boxing day cricket test match too!
So, this is what you have to do. You have to jack the car up on one side, as it is too low and cramped to get in there if you don’t. Good advice from the web. Remove the front tire. remove the wheel arch liner, or at least most of it – about 3/4. This involves snapping off he plastic rivets that hold it in. These all need to be replaced, but the manual doesn’t tell you that. I’m a careful sort of guy and take my time with these things, but I could only manage to salvage one of the plastic gadgets for reuse. It doesn’t help that you have to lay on your back, in a very uncomfortable position, in a restricted space, with all the years of accumulated dirt and sand dropping in your eyes while you work.
Next, you peel back the liner and twist it out-of-the-way. Finally you get to see the back of the head light fitting, but you can only manage to fit one hand up there in the narrow gap.
You simply have to release a wire clip, by twisting lowering and pulling. Simple on the kitchen table, using two hands. But not so easy in the dark, up in the small cramped space allocated. I say in the dark, because when you insert your hand up there, it blocks out almost all of your vision, so the operation has to be done by Braille. Oh! And the other thing that I forgot to mention, is that you are not allowed to touch the light globe with your hands! You must always hold it by the mounting socket only, or it will explode!
I finally get the old unit released so that the fitting can hang down on its connecting wires, to where I can get two hands onto it. I have to wear plastic gloves at this point, to avoid touching the bulb. I swap it over, but it won’t go back in to where it just came out of. It sort of goes in but the wire clip won’t go back into place to secure it. I manage to tear holes in 3 rubber gloves trying to manage this. I decide that there must be a left and right, or up and down option for plugging the bulb into the socket, but it is too dark to see if there is and the wires aren’t long enough to bring it into view. I just take it all apart and try again in reverse. Non of this is mentioned in the manual or on the webinar.
This does work however, I swap my thin sensitive rubber gloves that I can feel through, for a pair of thicker, plastic, work gloves that are clumsy but more robust, and by now I know what I ought to be feeling/sensing through the gloves. The bulb goes in, the mounting eventually goes back in, and the clip finally gets secured. I replace the wheel arch liner with the one remaining good plastic rivet. I can’t drive anywhere in the car like this. So then I hop in my truck and drive down to Mittagong to get a packet of new plastic clips/rivets, but they only come in blister packs off 3! So I have to buy a dozen in 4 boxes. All unnecessary land fill.
I replace everything as it should be, refit the tyre and lower the car back down. It costs as much for the plastic rivets as it does for the bulb. But most of all, I have just wasted 2 hours of my life that I will never get back, and had to drive 100 kms! Someone once told me that the garage charged an embarrassing amount to replace a blown bulb. Based on this experience I can understand why.
Maybe next time, I’ll try dismantling the front of the car and go in that way? At least I’ll be standing upright! There is bound to be a next time, as the car is now 10 years old and the other side bulbs will be getting old too. At least I’ll know what to expect. I’ll buy all the plastic clips as well along with the bulbs. I console my self with the knowledge that I’ve just saved myself a few hundred dollars. This car has never been to a garage to be worked on. I’ve managed to keep it all tidy and well serviced for all these years. It’s all just a tiny part of being self-reliant and living frugally.