2004-11-03

New Headlight Bulb

Yesterday was an interesting day for car swapping. We took my wife's minivan to the shop for some followup repairs on the driver's seat, dashboard lights and vent control. So she drove me to work, and took my Camry sedan.

Her minivan was done during the day. So she went and switched cars, leaving my Camry at the dealer. This way she could pick up the kids and pick me up without a problem. As a family of 5 we can fit in the Camry, but it isn't very comfortable for whoever winds up in the middle-back. Usually it is my eldest son, but as he is almost as big as I am now, it isn't a great option. So she picked me up from work. But she needed to go to work. So I dropped her off at work, and went home for a little while. Just long enough to dial into work to try to take care of a production problem and make dinner and eat before having to go back for my wife.

We went back to pick up my wife, then swung by the dealer where my car was waiting. My wife got in to drive it home. I noticed that one of my headlights was out. So I knew I needed to take care of it soon.

I noticed a new Checkers Auto Parts store had moved into a strip mall along my normal route to work. They had taken over the spot that Zany Brainy had abandoned a number of months ago.

I parked in front and opened the hood. I tried quickly to see if the bulb popped out easily, as I thought it did. But when it didn't, I took out the two little screws with my Swiss army knife. Then the bulb turned and popped out. Doh! So I put the screws back before I could lose them or something could go out of whack.

I looked at the bulb. It didn't look burnt out. I wondered for a moment if somehow the wiring was bad? So I turned the headlights back on and tried the dead bulb in the good bulb's socket. Nope, still dead. Must be the bulb. Interesting that the bases were different - ah, right, I had changed the other bulb about a year or so ago.

I popped into the auto parts store and got the new bulb. It said for low-beam only. Huh? I didn't realize it was a two bulb system. I hadn't seen a second bulb when I took the first out. Well, it had the same number, so I assumed I just missed seeing where the high-beam went, or that somehow Toyota made a low-beam-only bulb act like a dual beam.

The bulb was only 11 dollars and change. Not bad at all. Better than when I used to have to buy the who bulb and lens system. I put the new bulb in, and it worked fine. Then I tried the high beams. They worked too. I went to look at the way the high beams worked. Then I saw that the high beam bulbs are further inside, and are recessed deeper (further forward) than I expected. That is why I missed them.

But the big question is: how come some many dashboard lights have burned out in the Sienna minivan (also by Toyota), yet the Camry that is 4 years older, and twice as many miles, has only lost one bulb in the last few months. And of course the access to the minivan's dashboard lights can't be done easily by the owner. It required the dealer to take apart the dash to get to the lights. Considering how much else is done to make it easier for the owner to take care of on our Toyotas, it seemed very odd that the situation looks like they are going to shorter-lived bulbs that require more work to replace. That is the kind of thing you expect from the 'domestic' cars. We gladly paid a little more for the Toyotas knowing that they are better long term cars, and you normally don't expect to have to pay for lots of odd repairs.

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