Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Headlight: A Lesson in False Pride

I've never been particularly handy when it comes to car repairs.  In fact, you could probably say that I am more destructive than handy.  A few of Saturdays ago, though, I was feeling pretty confident.  My biggest problem, I was thinking, was confidence in my ability.  If I could be confident to tear into an auto repair project, then I could handle it.  When I realized that my first project was going to be changing a headlight, I was thrilled with my chance of success.

"How hard can it be?" I thought.

I picked up the replacement bulb from the Auto Parts Store and headed home with a single warning from the Sales Associate:

"Don't touch the bulb," he said.

I wasn't sure I understood what he meant, but figured I would get it by the end.

When I got home, I pulled out the Owner's Manual of my Nissan Altima and turned to the section about changing the bulb in a burned out headlight.  I was frustrated when all it said was: Please see your nearest Nissan Dealership.

"No Instructions?", I thought.  "They just want my money.  I'm going to just have to figure it out, myself."

When the Owner's Manual lists instructions for all kinds of car maintenance and repairs, you would think that I would figure out that if it said, Don't try this yourself, I would heed to that advice.  Most days I would have, but I was going to do this one way or another.

After about an hour, and moving from bolt to bolt, I had the entire front, left corner of my car apart and in pieces.  I had every part on the left and right side of the headlight either laying on the ground or pulled back away from the car.  The plastic piece of the car body, that sits right outside the headlight was flapping in the wind with a 1/2 inch crack from me bending it to get to more bolts.

With all of this apart and nothing to the right and left of the actual headlight box, I still couldn't pull the box out to replace the bulb.  I finally gave up after about an hour and 1/2 in frustration and defeat and slowly put all of the pieces back together as I had taken them apart. 

You would think that Saturday's defeat would have taught me my lesson but when my brother, another handy-man with his own little case of false pride, suggested that we try again on Sunday, I went for it.  Lee had his brother-in-law with him also, so this time we had three minds to get this thing done.

After watching a tutorial on YouTube and realizing that you don't actual pull the headlight box out to change the bulb, I was feeling like our prospects were pretty good.  Three hours later, with pieces laying out on the ground again and one lost spring directly involved in holding the bulb in place, we gave up in defeat again.

So, after about 4 and 1/2 hours, a crack in the left panel, and a lost piece, I think next time when the Owner's Manual gives me no directions and asks me to let a mechanic look at it, I think I will let a mechanic look at it.  I will stick to projects that have directions printed..

What about you?

Does False Pride ever cause you to tear into projects that you have no business doing?


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  2. I’m sorry it caused you so much trouble, Aaron. Changing headlights might be a simple task to others. But with no actual guidance from a professional, it might present as a daunting task. I had the privilege to see my dad, a grease monkey, replacing the headlights of our truck since I was a kid. I learned a thing or two from him, but it wasn't enough. That's why when I had to replace mine, I decided to do something different. I had our car checked by a professional mechanic and observed how he did it. Coupled with research and perusing through the manual, I am proud to say that I can change the headlights (and other parts of the car too) on my own.

    Enoch Ross