There was much swearing.
It is incredibly annoying when a very simple job turns into something much more complicated than you expect.
To be fair, I am not much of a mechanic. This is no big secret. I am not much of a mechanic in the same way that I am not much of a rocket scientist, a brain surgeon or a ballerina. It is clearly something that I am just not cut out for.
But you’d think that changing a headlight bulb should be within even my limited abilities. How hard can it be?
The headlight bulb in question is a small but vital component of our aging Ford Ka.
The Ka has been through a lot recently. Having badly failed its MOT last summer it has been SORN’d and off the road ever since. A couple of weeks ago the worst of its woes were resolved by my good friend Matt, who clearly received my share of the mechanical skills when they were handed out.
He cut out all of the old, rusted sills that were the major cause of the MOT failure, and welded in nice new ones.
All that was left to do was to change a couple of bulbs.
So there I was, with my head under the bonnet, poking and prodding around the headlight.
Pull back a retaining clip, push away a plastic cover, and there’s the headlight bulb; so far so good.
A bit tricky getting my hand in there though; there’s not a lot of space.
The bulb is held in with another retaining clip, but it is impossible to get my hand into the space and see what I am doing at the same time. There is much scraping of skin off knuckles as I try to pull, push and twist the clip. Nothing seems to work.
This is where the swearing starts.
Finally the clip gives way – hurray! But my jubilation is short lived as I drop it and it disappears down into the depths of the headlight housing.
This is where the swearing really starts to gather pace.
I find a torch and peer into the gloomy depths. I can just about make it out, but there is no way that I am going to get my hand down in there.
I find a long screwdriver, which I manage to use to push it even further away so that I can no longer even see it.
This is where my swearing reaches a crescendo.
And so, the last resort of the modern mechanical incompetent, I turn to the internet.
It seems that I am not alone in finding the bulb a fiddle to change. Apparently there is a simple solution:
- Remove the car’s wheel
- Unscrew the inner wheel arch
- Pull it back to give access to the bottom of the headlight, and enough space to get a normal sized adult male hand in.
Am I the only one that finds that approach less than intuitive?
What are people who design cars on exactly?
I can understand why manufacturers might make lights as sealed units, meaning that rather than just change the bulb you have to buy a whole new – and much more expensive – headlight unit. It is cynical profiteering, but at least it has a purpose.
Making life as difficult as possible to change a minor component just seems like they are having a laugh.
And another thing…
A trip to Halfords* was now required to purchase a new bulb.
In the old days, to find out what kind of bulb you required, you consulted a thick, dog-eared book chained to the display shelves.
How last century!
Now this has been replaced with a touch screen tablet-like device.
Type in your car details and press the submit button and, voila!
Oh, wait a minute, the submit button doesn’t seem to be doing anything. Try again. Try again pushing even harder. Nothing. Go back and try again.
Yes, it worked this time!
The screen turns grey as a little wheel rotates in the centre showing that it is thinking.
It is taking rather a long time and a queue is building.
I smile apologetically and shrug at the guy behind me. I try tapping the screen, but it is having none of it.
Eventually it comes up with an answer, so off I go to look for the bulb. The trouble is, now I can’t get to the necessary display racks because there is a queue in the way.
I search along the racks as best as I can between people’s legs and eventually, with much apologising and muttering to myself, I find the right bulb.
The guy who was behind me in the queue is thumping the tablet in frustration – I make my getaway and head for the tills before the mob gets restless.
Modern technology is not always the answer it seems. Once again, something that should be very simple seems to have been wilfully made unnecessarily complicated.
But I got the bulb home. Against expectations I eventually managed to fit it and get everything back together. Even more against expectations it seems to work.
Now that the task is completed I feel proud of my achievement – a pride I would have been denied had the task been a simple one.
I’m sure my knuckles will heal eventually.
*Other retailers of car parts and accessories are also available