Reader Question: Changing a Light Bulb?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Pete asks: We bought a new 2018 Toyota Highlander. I was horrified to read in the manual that there are several bulbs the owner cannot change and that the car must be taken to the service department.

Good-bye, Toyota.

Next time when i will shop for a car, I will ask the dealer is there any bulb the owner cannot change. If he answers none, I will ask him to prove it and show me the manual. If he answers some, then I say sayonara.

Can you recommended a few new or used models of diesel or hybrid diesel SUVs?

My reply: Bulb access is sometimes difficult in new/late-model vehicles but I doubt you have to take the vehicle to the dealer for this – unless (and this could be possible) there is some issue with the lighting system being so integrated with the car’s electronics that a diagnostic hook-up is necessary. This is apparently the case with certain other models when it comes to even simple things like replacing the car’s battery.

You didn’t mention which bulbs supposedly aren’t owner-replaceable; if you had I would have tried to suss out the information for you. My bet is the bulbs are serviceable; it’s just a matter of figuring out how to service them. YouTube and owner’s forums online are a great resource for this; a shop manual is also a must-have in my opinion, even for a person who isn’t planning on doing much DIY service. Reason? By reading the book, you’ll get to know your vehicle much better and so be much better informed about servicing procedures – which will make you much less vulnerable to being ripped-off.

On the rest: To y knowledge, there is no such thing as a hybrid diesel SUV available in the United States – although the idea makes great sense to me as the diesel is inherently more efficient and its operating nature is more suited to powering electric motors/battery packs than a gas engine. I suppose the reason for these not being offered has to do with the higher cost of the diesel engine, and possibly the added weight and (of course) the emissions bogeyman.

There are some excellent (used) diesel-powered SUVs available, including the Audi Q5, Porsche Cayenne and VW Touareg. You might also be interested in the (new) Jeep Gladiator, which is really a four-door pick-up rather than an SUV, but it’s similar and it will be available with a diesel engine.

. . .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. Last summer I played Good Samaritan for a neighbor whose 2011 Ford Escape suffered a dead battery and whom AAA incorrectly connected the jumper cables causing an explosion. AAA left him. He was on the wrong side for alternate side parking and would get a $150 ticket on top of the cost of a tow and new battery. I volunteered to pick up and install the battery for him after neutralizing the battery acid with baking soda.

    The install went normal and the car started up. I asked him a few days later how the car was and he told me that it was running terribly and had to take it to the mechanic who charged him another $300 to “reset” the car.

    I had never heard of this and looked into it. Sure enough Ford requires you to completely discharge the electrical system to reset the onboard computers after a battery change. I am not a mechanic, but for christ’s sake I can change a battery and understand the basics of an electrical system. What the forums said was to discharge the electrical system by connecting the cables before installing them on the new battery

    Truly unbelievable that a major car manufacturer makes it this impossible to change an effing battery and of course two that a reputable mechanic would rape a customer like this. What kind of balky electrical engineering did Ford put into their cars?

    Add another reason why I would never buy an American made car.

    • Touching the battery cables together to insure draining a capacitor is hardly making it impossible. That said This touching of the battery cables is not mentioned in changing the battery in the owner’s manual so it must not be required under normal circumstances. Here we are dealing with a condition caused by AAA reversing the battery cables or otherwise screwing things up in a manner that could even cause serious problems for a mid 1970s car. Ford must have put in some sort of protection circuit or your neighbor got lucky. Either way something got fouled up by AAA and there was clearly wrong information in the computer causing the issue that needed to be cleared.

      There are things the computer controls need to relearn upon changing the battery. This described on page 299 of the 2011 Ford Escape Owners Manual and multiple other places in the owners manual including jump starting on page 269. The manual warns that if the learning procedure is not followed there may be idle quality issues until it eventually relearns. By reading the owner’s manual the nature of the issue could be determined.

      As to mechanics and stealerships, that’s how many of them have been for decades taking advantage of people who don’t know better.


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