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Keeping Busy (with New Problems)

Another busy weekend under the belt. Somehow, I guess I expected to have a few somewhat less hectic weekends between the conclusion of our Saturday childbirth classes and the birth of our baby, but as they say, nature abhors a vacuum. And whatever vacuum I might have had this weekend was mostly filled with good things, with one notable exception which I’ll cover later.

We started Saturday with lunch at La Finca Chiquita, which is quite simply the best Mexican restaurant that either Apple or I have ever been to. It’s also the smallest, but it’s small in a charming sort of way. (Actually, it occupies what used to be the original U.S. Post Office in the heart of historic downtown Allen.) It’s literally two blocks away from the Allen Birthing Center where we’re going to have our baby, and we discovered it one day after childbirth class and fell in love with the entire menu. Apple, in particular, enjoys the shrimp soup so much that she orders it every time we go, and this weekend she ordered a second bowl to take home and eat later.

We then continued the food-capades by visiting two grocery stores so that we could stock up our house with several weeks’ worth of goodies. Apple picked out her favorite Asian specialties at the Asia World Market, and then we drove over to the new Kroger Marketplace that just opened up near home. We found a lot of good deals on stuff, some new things we hadn’t seen before at our usual store of choice, and we picked up a half-gallon of freshly squeezed orange juice from the Kroger juice stand. The juice was so good that it’s basically gone now.

Food shopping took most of the day, and I was still pretty full from lunch, so I spent the evening taking apart the GTO all over again in preparation for my Sunday morning appointment at Car Toys of Frisco. Last weekend I installed the new JVC KW-XR810 double-DIN stereo in the GTO, but wasn’t able to make the steering wheel control adapter work without some decent soldering, so I decided to let a shop do it. They said they’d cut me a break on the price if I brought the car in already disassembled and ready to go, so since I’d already taken the thing apart and put it back together about eight billion times, I took them up on it.

I also washed the car thoroughly on Saturday night, which it was in desperate need of, especially after someone’s kid apparently decided to play patty-cake with it this past Thursday night when Apple and I were out grabbing dinner at Pho Que Huong. It was great to see the car all cleaned up, vacuumed and dusted, but unfortunately, in the process of soaping off the tail end I discovered a problem.

I happened to take a close look at the GTO’s passenger side taillight and noticed that there was something not quite right about it. The reverse lamps and turn signals are each inset as small circular lenses within the larger taillight assembly, and within each, a cylindrical diffuser globe shields the light bulb itself. The cylinder typically sticks straight out. But the reverse lamp globe was angled downwards, as if it had just fallen over. Upon closer inspection, I saw that not only had it indeed fallen flat on its face, but it was resting on the light bulb for the reverse lamp and had gotten warped from the heat of the bulb, which itself had taken on a bizarre discoloration. If that bulb hadn’t already burnt out, I thought, it surely would at any time. Sure enough, I checked and the bulb was dead.

This pissed me off, naturally, as would any damage that I might find on my car. But even more so because internal taillamp assemblies such as this are usually not user-accessible, nor user-serviceable without replacement of the whole frickin’ taillight. Some research on the venerable forums confirmed this. And how much is a new passenger side taillamp assembly? $260 new. Just what I need!

Well, I was already taking apart what felt like the entire car for the stereo shop. I decided to go the extra mile and pull the taillight off the car and see if there was some chance of my fixing this thing. Removal of the GTO’s taillights, in and of itself, is a process that requires finesse. First you must remove two screws from the inner side of the lamp, accessible only when the trunk lid is open. Then you pull that part of the lamp back very slightly, maybe an inch or so, then you pull the entire lamp sideways toward the outboard side of the car. There are two tabs holding in the lamp on the outboard side, and if you pull the lens too far back, they’ll snap off and then you’re screwed. Fortunately, I read up on this before I did it, so I got the lamp off without breaking anything.

Taking it inside, I inspected the reverse light closely and discovered that no, there is no way to take it apart without heating (and thus breaking) the plastic weld that holds the entire lamp assembly together. Since that breaks the atmosphere seal and also requires you to re-plasticweld the thing back together when you’re done, there was no way I was going to try that. However, there was a fairly decent sized port where the light bulb goes in that I could use to access the broken globe. It wasn’t enough to actually get the globe out, but it might be enough to try and re-seat it somehow.

Apparently these cylindrical globes are attached with a single screw at the bottom — the head of which is inaccessible to the end user — and then slotted into a single, small tab at the top. This isn’t exactly sturdy. Somehow, the hollow plastic tab on the globe that the screw goes into had shattered, so there was nothing holding it in place anymore. However, I noted that the globe’s interior edges seemed to make contact with the socket receptacle when it was properly in place. Given enough Gorilla Glue and clamping pressure, I figured that I could glue this sonuvabitch in place and hope for the best.

Taillight (and the plastic shards that fell out of it)
The broken and warped reverse light globe

So on Sunday, while my GTO’s steering wheel control adapter was getting wired in, I walked over to Lowe’s and picked up some Gorilla Glue. After the SWC install, I stopped off for a new 1156 bulb at AutoZone. Next weekend, I’ll take that taillight back off and see if I can work some magic ONE. MORE. TIME.

I don’t know for sure what’s been causing all of the issues I’ve been having with my GTO lately, but I know for a fact that a majority of them were a direct result of leaving the car outside for most of the grueling Texas summer that we just suffered through. I wouldn’t be surprised if this taillight damage was also an effect of that same cause. So far it’s killed my battery (which in turn played havoc with the car’s BCM, evap canister solenoid and HVAC control system), baked my red Pontiac arrowhead badges into a shade of vermillion orange, caused a rattle in the trim somewhere in the back of the car and now this taillight mess. OK, OK, I get it — no more summers on the parking garage roof. I’m sorry already!

I was saying to Apple on Saturday night that every time I move to a brand new place, I make some crucial automotive mistake as a result of not being clued in about the local climate. In Florida, it was the Love Bugs that I’d never heard of until they ate the shit out of the paint on my Trans Am’s front end. Now here in Texas it’s the murderously hot summer sun. Hopefully that’s the only surprise Texas has in store for my wheels, because I think I’ve managed to come out relatively unscathed so far — honestly, the Love Bug massacre was a much bigger disaster. I think that if it snows again this year, I’ll just leave the GTO at home. No sense playing Russian Roulette.

Sunday was “Fall-Back” day, wherein we got an extra hour of sleep which I readily enjoyed. Other than that, it was another day that was far busier than I expected. After the steering wheel control installation, I ran some errands and went over to my boss’s house to add some water to his pool while he’s away in China. While the pool filled up, I multi-tasked by reassembling the GTO’s stereo system and interior trim in the street in front of the house (since I didn’t have a way to open the gate enclosing the driveway).

Back home, I had to spend an hour setting up the goat’s stereo again since it had forgotten everything while unhooked — JVC seriously needs to think about adding EEPROM backup to their head units. Then there were the usual Sunday night chores like packing a lunch for myself for the Monday workday and taking out the trash. By the time I wrote up my exhaustive review of the JVC stereo, there wasn’t much time left for playing video games, so I decided to pack it in and head for the bedroom for some writing before the weekend came to an all-too-early conclusion.

This week it’s back to the grind at work, although since I dealt with a particularly large and stressful project last week, the next few days should (key word should) be fairly hassle-free by comparison. However, we do have a big 6-month cycle release coming due next Monday, so I’ve got to keep my eyes open for last-minute task bombs that might be related. They tend to drop on me at times such as this.

2 thoughts to “Keeping Busy (with New Problems)”

    1. Thank you! I’ve actually been surprised at what I’ve been able to accomplish lately. I think the difference is that I used to be too scared to touch anything like this for fear of breaking it. Lately, though, I’ve been more cavalier (while still remaining cautious — as with those taillight tabs that I was careful enough not to break off). Maybe it’s because these days I have less time to just pussyfoot around. 😉

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