Thursday, November 19, 2015

Quick Fix: Replace FIAT Brake Light!

It's been a fun filled automotive week so far, with autocross on Sunday, and then the unveiling of the FIAT 124 Spider and the Alfa Romeo Giulia at the LA Auto Show. In other Italian car news, today's blog from Virginia goes like this...Only about a week after getting a Check Engine Light signal in the FIAT, this week the car told me that there was a problem with a brake light! Believe it or not, I got home and checked it out, and sure enough the left brake light was not lighting up, so now we get to show you how easy this little repair is for the average guy (me). Before diving in, let me  just say that even if every car has the computer power to tell you that the brake light isn't working, this is the first time I've had a car that had any kind of error message for common stuff like this. Kind of neat if you ask me!

Step one: buy a replacement brake light lamp at the local auto parts store. If you don't know what lamp to buy, the folks at the store will help you out, or you can look it up on line or in a catalog at the store. In the "good to know" department, you might want to always refer to these items as "lamps" and not "bulbs", or you'll get a lecture from a lighting designer like my friend Tom who once told me that "bulbs" grow in the ground!

Tail light assembly, two bolts on the right. 

So, here's the driver's side tail light, and we're going to remove it from the car by just wrenching off the two bolts on the right side of the tail light assembly. In this case, a 10mm socket will get the job done very easily.

10mm socket working on the top bolt. 

With the bolts removed, we can pull the assembly away from the car, and then loosen the clip-in electrical wire, just being careful to not pull the assembly too far away and break the wires. If anyone needs a highly paid "hand model" to hold things like wrenches for photographs, I can put you in touch with the hands used in these photos!

Electrical wires still connected to light assembly. 

I had to use a flat bladed screwdriver to loosen the clip-in wire connector, and then I could take the light over to the work bench to better attack the next step. If you're keeping score at home, that's a total of only two tools needed so far.

Back of the light assembly, Torx screws need to be removed.

Now that we're looking at the back of the tail light, it was time to apply a Torx socket and remove the four screws holding it together. Luckily for me I didn't have any Torx sockets, so it was off to the tool store to buy a set of Torx sockets that work with my 3/8 inch wrench. It's ALWAYS a good day when you get to buy a new tool! That brings our running tool count on this job up to three.

Back of the light assembly, with screws removed. 

 Loosen the four Torx screws and remove the back of the light to reveal the surprise inside!

Inside of the light assembly, the brake lamp is on the right. 

These small lamps easily screw or twist out, and then you just twist or screw the new one in. After that, assembly is the opposite of dis-assembly, and after putting it all back together again I'm happy to report that not only did the brake light work but that the error code on the dash also went out!

Of all the repairs that you can do on your own car, this has to rank up there with some of the easiest. Cost of the replacement lamp was something like $5.50 for two, so I've got an extra one for the next time a brake light goes out!

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