Saturday, December 06, 2008

Webs the not-so-handyman

I tackled two nagging problems yesterday - well, I tried to.

Earlier in the week, I bought winter windshield wipers and two new headlight bulbs. I've been driving around for a while with only the passenger-side headlight working. Once in a while, oncoming cars would thoughtfully blink their headlights at me. I thought it was time to rectify the situation, and I needed new wipers as well. And while I changed one headlight, I might as well change the other.

Ideally, I would have set out to do this while temperatures were still above freezing. We have a garage, but we use it as storage. Yesterday was bright and pretty close to freezing, so I trudged into action.

I popped and propped the hood of the van and took a look at the passenger side headlight assembly. The air filter cover is in the way and the manual tells me to remove it before working on the light. It's held in place with rusty screws - or bolts, maybe. I try to loosen them with my Phillips head screwdriver, but these rusty things are in tight and all I'm doing is stripping them. That's not a problem - this is the headlight that works, and if this older bulb isn't as bright as a newer one on the driver side, big deal.

I move across the engine compartment and unplug the more accessible socket on the driver's side. The manual says to squeeze the socket so the clips let go, then pull. I squeeze and pull, then squeeze harder and pull harder but nothing budges. I call Elvi out of the house to have a go but nothing happens when she squeezes and pulls either. We try to lever it out with a screwdriver, but it still stays put. Eventually, I just yank - and it comes out. There are no clips.

The socket's a bit greasy and looks like it's held together with epoxy, but the high beams work so I know it's transmitting current. I pull off the weatherstripping and remove a wire clip that holds the bulb in place. I carefully set aside the weatherstripping and clip. I don't want to lose them in the engine compartment. My old bulb looks fine, but the support of one element has a bit of soot on it. It probably burned out inside the support, I tell myself.

When I bought the bulbs, the big book of bulbs told me I need the 9005 bulbs. The big book was wrong. I drive to Canadian Tire to exchange them for the proper 9003 bulbs. I also buy Child Three a hat and a pair of gloves he badly needs.

Back in my driveway, I put the new 9003 bulb in the headlight. I put the wire clip in place and as I'm about to tighten the screw that holds it in, it springs out and vanishes. I can't see it anywhere. I look inside the engine compartment, I remove the floor of the engine compartment, I even tape a rare-earth magnet to a long screwdriver in hopes of picking up the wire from a crevice. Elvi helps with this, too, but the wire clip has disappeared from this known dimension.

I steam a little then try using the weather stripping, which fits snugly, by itself. It holds the bulb in place adequately.

I reattach the socket and try the lights: nothing has changed. The light is still out. I try the high beams, and two funny things happen. The right headlight beam dims and drops on the garage door to my front, and the left headlight lights up. There's no high-beam light on my dashboard, but there wasn't one before. I've been driving around with one high-beam on. No wonder other drivers were flashing their headlights at me. Both low-beam lights work fine, and probably did before. The socket must need replacing, but that's beyond me. People could die, probably me.

At least changing the wipers was fruitful.

I spent the evening working on my laptop. There's a problem with the power socket. The plug (plugs, really - I tried more than one) won't steadily transfer a charge. The power flickers constantly, changing screen brightness and not allowing me to do anything with it for more than ten minutes at a time. My local shop estimated $140 for the repair but the laptop, an old Dell Inspiron 8100, isn't worth that. The shop said the socket probably needed to be soldered, so I disassembled the computer to see what I could do with that.

The socket is tucked behind the cooling fans, so I'd have to remove those. I unscrewed one of the tiny screws that holds the fans in place - and lost it in the bowels of the laptop. This lost piece of metal remained in our plane of existence, however, I was able to shake it out onto the tablecoth - twice.

I stopped trying to remove the fans, and tried to assess the socket with them in place. It's fixed firmly in place, so I have no idea what to fix. It may be a loose connecting inside the socket, but I can't fix that and it's not worth it to have someone else try. I may just go buy a $150 laptop. This one has reached the end of its useful life.


Post a Comment

<< Home