The Joys of Owning an American Car

We recently purchased a Mercury. It’s a good car that has been well taken care of by its former owner. My wife drives it, and she likes it.

But it didn’t take long for me to notice a difference between it and the Honda I’ve driven for the past 25 years. On the day we bought the Mercury, I noticed that one of the brake lights was out.

When a brake light went out on my Honda, I followed these steps:

  1. Drive to the auto parts store.
  2. Pop the trunk.
  3. Turn the large handle (by hand) and remove the light cover.
  4. Twist the socket out of its hole.
  5. Remove the light bulb.
  6. Purchase a replacement light bulb.
  7. Place the new bulb in the socket.
  8. Twist the socket back into its hole.
  9. Replace the light cover.
  10. Close the trunk.
  11. Drive home.

Total elapsed time — 15 minutes

Total cost — $1.50

Here are the steps I took to replace a brake light on the Mercury.

  1. Pop the trunk to make sure the process is as simple as it was in the Honda.
  2. Remove the tabs that hold the carpeting to the trunk sides.
  3. Bend down the carpeting to expose the lights.
  4. Locate the rubber cup that appears to be the socket for the brake light.
  5. Attempt to twist the cup off.
  6. Attempt to pull the cup off.
  7. Attempt to twist and pull simultaneously to get the cup off.
  8. Get the owner’s manual from the glove compartment.
  9. Read the directions for replacing a brake light.
  10. Reread the directions for replacing a brake light.
  11. Look at the illustration next to the directions for replacing a brake light.
  12. Try to figure out if the illustration is illustrating the directions for replacing a brake light.
  13. Call my wife.
  14. Hand my wife the owner’s manual to see if she can make any more sense out of it than I could.
  15. Watch as my wife attempts to twist and/or pull the cup off.
  16. Wife suggests that somebody at the auto parts store will probably know how to replace the light bulb.
  17. Wonder if any of the bolts that stick out into the trunk might give access to the light but dismiss that idea as way too complicated.
  18. Drive to the auto parts store.
  19. Purchase a new light bulb.
  20. Ask the man behind the counter if he knows how to replace the bulb.
  21. Walk out to the car with the man and watch as he attempts to twist and/or pull the cup off.
  22. Thank the man for trying to help.
  23. Drive two miles down the road to the mechanic.
  24. Explain the problem to the man in the office.
  25. Man calls a mechanic to change the light bulb.
  26. Mechanic takes my keys and drives my car into a bay.
  27. Follow the car into the bay and watch as the mechanic tries to twist and/or pull the cup off.
  28. Mechanic walks across the shop to get an electric drill and attaches a socket.
  29. Mechanic attempts to remove a bolt from the inside of the trunk.
  30. Mechanic then walks across the shop again and tries a different socket.
  31. Mechanic removes five nuts from bolts sticking into the trunk.
  32. Mechanic replaces two of the nuts onto bolts because they have nothing to do with the brake light.
  33. Mechanic removes a two-foot long section of lights from the rear of my car.
  34. Mechanic twists the socket out of its hole.
  35. Mechanic removes the light bulb.
  36. Mechanic installs the new light bulb.
  37. Mechanic then walks across the shop to get a rod.
  38. Mechanic places the rod in the front seat in such a way that the brake pedal is held down.
  39. Notice that the brake light does not go on.
  40. Mechanic then walks across the shop and gets a wand to test the power.
  41. Mechanic sticks the wand into the socket. It lights up.
  42. Mechanic removes the wand and inserts the light bulb. It does not light up.
  43. Mechanic removes the light bulb and sticks the wand into the socket. It lights up.
  44. Mechanic removes the wand and inserts the light bulb and wiggles it. It lights up while it’s being wiggled but goes out when it’s not being wiggled.
  45. Mechanic explains that the problem is in the socket. He removes the socket and hands it to me.
  46. Mechanic sets the two-foot long section of lights into the back of the car and attaches the three nuts.
  47. Walk into the office and explain that the problem wasn’t fixed but it was identified. I ask how much I owe and pay $5.00.
  48. Drive back to the auto parts store and hand the faulty socket to the man behind the counter.
  49. Man says one word — “dealer.”
  50. Drive seven miles to the nearest Mercury dealer.
  51. Walk inside and stand in front of the counter for 10 minutes while at least 12 men in dealer uniforms chat and laugh with each other.
  52. Step up close to the counter so I can’t help but be noticed.
  53. Man behind the counter finally asks if he can help me. I show him the socket.
  54. Man tells me I’m in Service. I need to be in Parts. He points me in the right direction.
  55. Walk into the Parts department and stand in front of the counter while six men in dealer uniforms busily push buttons on their computers.
  56. Man tells me he’ll be with me as soon as he can, then walks out of the room.
  57. Second man looks at me and says something consisting of at least 12 words, none of which I understand because he’s saying it as he’s walking out of the room.
  58. Continue standing.
  59. Third man, after wait of about seven minutes, gets off the phone and asks if he can help me.
  60. Hand third man the socket.
  61. Man types something in his computer and says that the part is not in stock but that he can order it.
  62. Ask how long it will take to get it.
  63. Man says it is in Chicago and should be available the next day.
  64. Give man my name and phone number and listen to him say he will call as soon as the part is in.
  65. Drive home.
  66. The next day, wait for a phone call that doesn’t doesn’t come.
  67. The day after that, wait for a phone call that doesn’t come.
  68. Look up the dealership on the Internet so I can call and ask if the part is in. Every click I try to make on the website looking for a phone number for the Parts department takes me to a form on which I can order parts.
  69. Decide to stop at the dealer on the way home, just in case.
  70. Drive to the dealer.
  71. Walk into the Parts department and stand there while seven men in dealer uniforms eat donuts and belch.
  72. First man from two days earlier again says he will be will me as soon as he can.
  73. Man asks, after a wait of about six minutes, how he can help me.
  74. Tell him I’m there to pick up a part and give him my name.
  75. Man looks it up on the computer, then asks if I’m waiting for a light bulb.
  76. Explain that I’m waiting for a light socket.
  77. Man looks at his computer again, then lumbers into another room.
  78. Man comes out with my part after five minutes or so.
  79. Pay for the part.
  80. Drive home.
  81. Open the trunk.
  82. Unscrew the bolts from the inside of the trunk by hand.
  83. Remove the two-foot section of lights from the read of my car.
  84. Attach the socket to the wire.
  85. Place the new light bulb in the socket.
  86. Step on the brake pedal to make sure it works. It does.
  87. Replace the two-foot section of lights.
  88. Thread the three nuts onto the bolts on the inside of my trunk as far as I can by hand.
  89. Discover that the bolts don’t fit any of the sockets on my conventional or metric socket set.
  90. Tighten the bolts with an adjustable wrench.
  91. Lay the carpeting against the wall of the trunk.
  92. Replace the tab.
  93. Close the trunk.

Total elapsed time — 4 days

Total cost —$25.25

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One Response to The Joys of Owning an American Car

  1. karen says:

    regarding # 51: that has been my experience every time I’ve walked into a dealership.

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