# Saturday, November 24, 2007

1998 Honda Civic Headlight Replacement

Under ordinary circumstances, all three of my blog readers know that I don't like playing blue. Yet sometimes, it is the only possible response.

This is to the 1998 Honda Civic Headlight Replacement Technical Writer:

You Suck.

I'm no mechanic, but I have replaced my car battery, and I'm generally aware of what goes on under the hood. Plus, I'm a good reader. I can follow directions. In my older cars, the bulb was encased in the complete housing. A few screws and a plug-and-play later was all it took. Not so today. All you get at the store is the actual bulb. Much smaller and easier to ship.

The following images show the 1.5 page description of how to replace a light bulb in a 1998 Honda Civic.

The instructions for headlight replacement begin on the right side of the following page. The author notes some good points to understand before tackling the job.


Then, it gets into the meat of the job with a full page shown in the following image.


As you can plainly see, at no point does the author state the following truth:

If you are reading this manual, then your best course of action is to return it to the glove box and drive to your nearest Oil Can Henry's location. Request a bulb replacement and happily pay the fee knowing that (a) you didn't have to do it (2) you didn't break anything; aka, less swearing and (iii) the delta between the cost of the bulb at the NAPA auto part store and what you paid at the shop are negligible.

And for that malfeasance, this technical writer sucks. It is my opinion that anyone replacing the driver's side headlight in a competent manner would not need to resort to the manual. For if they did, it would be a clear indication of the pain to come.

For starters, a light source for working under the hood is a good idea. I used one of these pod lights. Press the light to turn it on and off. They're small and nimble.

 Light Source

So here's what we're dealing with. The drivers side headlight sits squarely in front of the power steering reservoir. The following image shows my finger on the reservoir. Its connected by one hose on each side and is seated on a small cradle. You can already begin to see the terribly small spaces we're about to engage.

Power steering reservoir

Just from the previous photo alone, you can see how the designers failed with this bulb location on the 1998 Honda Civic. Per the instructions, I am to lift the power steering reservoir out of the cradle and push it aside so I can gain access to the bulb housing. Those two hoses that attach to the reservoir aren't too keen on movement. I finally ended up disconnecting one of the hoses and stuffing it with a rag to stop the flow of power steering fluid to my garage floor. There was quite a bit of cussing to just reach this state.

Now that I had the reservoir propped up and out of the way and the power steering spill slowed to a slow dribble, I could being the real work. The following photo shows an overhead view of the bulb housing and my light source nestled into a good crevice.

Driver side headlight

Next, I need to pinch the tabs of the bulb housing to release it. This is very important, so you would think that the book would do a good job of describing where they are and what they look like. Not so. The tabs are nearly invisible, even with great lighting. They're about the size of a small pea on each side as indicated in the following photo. Before learning this, I cracked the plastic housing on the bulb housing with the pliers. Go me!

Bulb Housing and Tabs

After the bulb housing is removed, the rubber seal and wire latch can be removed to produce the following item of grief - a blown out halogen bulb. I bought a new one at NAPA for $8.00

Expired Halogen Bulb

When you're wrestling with the wire that provides a constant pressure on the bulb housing and keeps it in place, be careful not to snap off the little plastic tab that hooks onto the wire; that's bad. Grrrrrr.....

Headlight Stabilization Wire

Finally, I drove (the other car) to the NAPA auto parts store (again) and purchased a small amount of power steering fluid. When I arrived, the very nice man behind the counter saw the section I was looking and advised me on a good brand of leak sealant. I explained that I actually wanted power steering fluid. Sizing me up accurately, the man tilted his head and asked why I wanted power steering fluid. Evidently, I didn't pass muster. I explained that I had spilled some quantity onto my garage floor when I was replacing a headlight. At that point I must have passed some threshold of the "i-know-what-i'm-doing" home mechanic or the "complete-idiot" home mechanic. He was nice enough to stop the inquiry there and saved me a little face. So for $3.75 I left the store with a some power steering fluid and a small funnel to refill the reservoir.

So, in summary, this experience was an absolute unnecessary pain in the ass. I realized the folly of my plan about one-third into the debacle and kept thinking of reasons that I should just fold up now and waltz in to the nearest Oil Can Henry's to stop the suffering. Yet, I persisted and now I have two functional headlights in my car, and one extra piece of wire in my garage.

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