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It's Blowin' in the wind...

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Blowin’ in the wind


Another headlight problem to deal with, this time it’s on an old 280z.


Both headlights took their turn going on and off. I’ve seen this problem hundreds of times, and I find it a common problem on this style of headlight system. My first test is to pull the trim from around the steering wheel and pop off this little plastic guard on the back of the headlight switch. If the headlight switch is causing the problem, all you have to do is take your finger and gently push on the terminals of the headlight switch that you exposed when the plastic guard was removed. In this case, that’s exactly the problem. No further diagnostics needed. Chalk that one up to experience.


After filling out the invoice I gave the customer the news. He was quite startled that I found the problem so fast.


“I had it at the last shop for hours,” he said, “Until they gave up and sent me here.”


“It’s not a big deal I’ve seen it before,” I said.


The part was ordered and I had it installed in a flash. Simple repair, made simple with lots and lots of experience mind you. After the install, I checked the headlights. All was well, no other problems that I could see. I pulled the car around front and filled out the rest of the paper work.


A big thank you and a hand shake was all that was needed at that point. I handed him his keys and he drove off down the street. I figured I just made a new customer… not bad, I look like the genius. You know the one, the one, that I think I am… well, there I go again… did I forget about the proverbial teeter tooter of auto repair? The one that has genius on one end and idiot on the other... and the job for the day is to try to keep it in balance by constantly walking back and forth. But, everytime you think you're standing on the genius end and you think there is no way you are heading the other way... look out... it’s going to slide right to stupid… and idiot isn’t far away.


Several weeks later the car was back, again with the blinking headlights. I went thru the whole routine again… it is absolutely without a doubt, hands down, totally for sure… working just like it should. And I mean perfect. It never blinked it never even thought of blinking. Now I’m getting concerned. This isn’t right. Whose playing games here…? Is there one of those hidden cameras around here? Ok, who put this guy up to it? I’ve got a lot of practical joker friends that would love to pull some stunt like this… but I ain’t laughing fellas!


Since nobody jumped out from behind a bush or a tool box I guess I better consider that this guy is dead serious about his “blinking” headlights. Time to go talk to the owner.


“How often does it do this,” I asked.


“All the time, especially at night,” the 280z owner explained.


(I deserved that....sometimes in a rush I ask the wrong questions. "especially at night, hmmm, when do you think he would notice it... I’m sliding even closer to idiot right now… I hope there’s a safety harness attached to the see saw of auto repair.)


“Well, I’m having a problem duplicating the blinking at this point,” I said with a bit of confusion in my voice.


“Oh, I guarantee it’s going to do it,” he said, “Just wait, it will.”


I went back out to the shop and pondered over this odd situation. Now I pride myself on being able to figure this stuff out, I hate thinking I’m going to have to end up like the last shop and give up on it. Oh come on, I seen the headlights blink the last time it was here, that was cut and dry, this I don’t know.


About then one of the tow drivers that brings cars to me came in the shop. Not for a car, just to say Hi. I explained to him what I was up against and I told him I’m running out of ideas on how to solve this one. Not that I expected any help but I could use a shoulder to cry on right about now. He had this quirky smirk on his face… as if he knew something that I didn’t. Something told me he was up to something, aha; he’s the guy with the hidden camera. Ok, ok, I’ll play along.


“Hop behind the wheel and turn the lights on,” my tow truck driving buddy chuckled.


“Ok,” I said, perplexed by his sudden show of diagnostic abilities.


Once I had the headlights on he walked to the front of the car and stood in front of one of the headlights.


“Are ya ready for this,” he said, still laughing his butt off.


“Go for it there Einstein,” I said … not knowing what he was about to do. I couldn’t think of a thing I missed, and how in the world was he so sure of it.


As he stood there looking at me sitting behind the wheel, his legs were lit up with the headlight beam, he reached down and grabbed the bra that was on the front of the car. As he flapped the bra up and down … the headlight… blinked. What the??? I jumped out of the car leaving the headlights on.


“Ok, now I've seen everything... you stand in front of the headlight and it appears to be blinking from the driver's seat,” totally astonished by now, “What the hell are you doing.”


The bra is fitted into the recess in front of the headlight, and the attaching “Velcro” strips were gone. So, when the car was up to speed the bra would flap in the wind and would make it appear as if the headlight was blinking. Now on the other hand, the other side was tight and was holding the bra down just the way it should. So it was actually only "blinking" on one side of the car... let's see if the customer agrees.


I ran to get the customer, had him sit in the driver’s seat. My still laughing tow truck buddy and I went through our little experiment. The most surprising thing was the owner agreed that was what was happening and it only did it on that one side… which after thinking about it was different than what it was doing with the original switch installed.


At least he understood the problem now and everything was back to normal… except… how did the tow driver know…?


“I was on a call last night and I saw this same car on the highway pass me,” he said, still laughing, “I knew it was at your shop a while back. You couldn’t miss it, what got my attention was the blinking headlight as he came up along side of me, I thought it was some weird emergency vehicle, but as it passed by my truck I could see what was going on. I was laughing the whole time, in fact, that’s why I came by today. I was stopping by to raze ya about it, seems like I came at the right time.”


Well, well, well, I owe him one. Maybe a couple, I’m sure he still laughs about this one even after all these years. That proverbial teeter totter is sure looking heavy on that one side. My bad, I’ll work on correcting that problem, maybe with a little help from a gust of wind and a friendly tow driver.





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