Recorded on November 27th, 2016
I replaced both headlight lamps on our Altima today. It sucks. Bad. It’s a slow, awkward process. It’s not like on the Hondas I’ve had, where you just lift the hood, reach behind the headlight shell, and untwist the bulb.
The passenger side is the worse of the two. You have to pry the fender away from the car by removing various bolts before you can unfasten the headlight. Once you do, getting it disconnected is a pain, as is rotating the weatherproofed plastic skirt that encloses the actual lamp. This video was crucial in helping me get it done:
The driver’s side was less bad, but only by a little. You don’t have to pull the fender away, but there’s more to take apart around the air dam and filter box. And then there’s almost no clearance to get good leverage to twist the skirt away from the lamp assembly. You can do it, but it’s tedious if the rubber gasket is stretched like mine was and therefore hard to keep seated. I couldn’t have done it without this video:
It took a total of two hours, but at least I saved $100-$200 in repair bills. If you do it, don’t forget blue nitrile gloves so you don’t get finger oils on the bulbs.
Recorded on October 28th, 2016
In a Nissan Altima, a popular way to hold things down around the engine, under the hood, is these little black retainer clips. They’re like plastic pop rivets, I guess, and when you need to take them out to get to things (like headlight lamps), you invariably destroy them when you pull them out.
Amazon to the rescue! These 8mm nylon rivet clips are what you need. They fit perfectly to hold down a plastic piece behind the air dam of my car. And you get 40 in a bag for just a few dollars. I felt all self-reliant as I poked these back in where they needed to go yesterday.
Recorded on October 23rd, 2016
I don’t know how people fixed things before YouTube. These days, any home or car repair you need to take on has at least a half dozen related videos uploaded by kind souls on the web. This one was particularly helpful to me today as I tackled a blown headlight lamp on an Altima.
As I got further into it, I also learned that some Altimas came with halogen bulbs and some came with xenon bulbs. The two are not interchangeable.
Recorded on September 8th, 2016
The other night, when my car was slowly losing electrical power due to corroded battery terminals, I was getting very nervous that we’d have to pull over on some dark stretch of road if things went bad. At the time, I was without any emergency flares of any sort, and did not want some oncoming vehicle to not see us until it was too late.
Luckily, we made it home without the car dying, and right away I ordered sets of First Alert LED Emergency Flare 3-Packs for both of our cars. I’ve now put the AmazonBasics batteries in them and they are bright. Super-bright. Like, I-can’t-look-directly-at-them-bright. They can either flash or stay steadily on. They also seem like they’re made solidly, so I am feeling pretty good about having them on hand. I recommend them. Safety first!
(By the way, I’m too lazy to put Amazon Affiliate links into anything I link to on Amazon anymore, so I get exactly nothing from promoting stuff like this, except the knowledge that I’m making people safer.)
Recorded on September 4th, 2016
In a previous post, I talked about how the Brightech Scorpion Battery Booster jumped my mother-in-law’s dead car. That was a low-stress situation. It was the middle of the day, we had fully functional cars close by, and we were in a familiar neighborhood.
But tonight my own car died as we tried to leave the Krispy Kreme parking lot well after sundown. Totally dead — not even any interior lights working. Fortunately, we had the charged Scorpion in the trunk. Again I tried to attached the negative clamp to the engine block. The engine tried to turn over, but it wouldn’t finish. I connected the negative clamp to the negative terminal of the battery, turned the key, and the engine started right up. OK, fine! I’ve learned my lesson with this thing. I don’t love hooking it up that way, but I’ll do it.
After we got on the road, my car continued to act wimpy for the next 10 miles until we got home. The instrument panel was definitely darker than usual, and every click of the turn signal caused those lights to dim a little. I just tried to give it all the gas I could to keep some kind of charge going to the electrical system. I think I actually got a shoulder cramp from being tense the whole way.
The problem must be the alternator, which I read tonight can lead to a bad battery. We will see what the shop has to say when they look at it. Until then, I probably won’t drive it. But when I do, the Scorpion will be with me.
Now I must order some bright LED emergency flares from Amazon.
Recorded on August 21st, 2016
Well, I have now stress-tested the Brightech Scorpion Jump Starter, and amazingly, it works. Sarah’s mom’s car wouldn’t start the other day. We took the Scorpion to her house and she was surprised when I pulled it out of the carrying case. It’s about the size of a VHS tape — maybe even a little smaller. I opened the hood, attached the red clamp to the positive terminal of the battery and the the black clamp to the engine block (as everyone is taught to do when they jump-start a car). After confirming the green all-clear LED and pressing the “Boost” button, I got in the car and turned the key. It didn’t crank. The lights on the instrument panel barely came on.
Crap. This was going to be my moment to shine, with my piece of futuristic new tech. I went through the process a few more times, waiting longer and longer for the Scorpion to charge the car’s battery. Every time, nothing. Barely a click from the ignition. I really didn’t want to have to return it, but it looked like a failure.
I re-read the manual and noticed that the diagram and the instructions specifically said to attach the black clamp to the negative terminal of the battery. Every bone in my body said not to do that, but the cables coming out of the Scorpion weren’t long enough to reach any other obviously exposed metal part of the car’s chassis, so I tentatively touched the negative clamp to the battery, didn’t see a spark, and held my breath as I got back in the car. It started right up! The part of the car that I tried first must not have had enough clean metal to carry all the current to the battery. I gave the engine some gas for a few minutes, disconnected the Scorpion, and we made it to Advance Auto to buy a new battery.
To be clear, I do not recommend ever connecting the negative clamp of a jumper cable or car battery booster directly to the negative pole of a dead battery. But in this case it was my only option and it got us out of a jam. If you get the Scorpion, always try to find a clean piece of metal for the negative clamp before doing anything else. I am not a lawyer, but I did make it through 1.5 years of electrical engineering before I bailed out.
After that was all done, I probably could have tossed the Scorpion back in the trunk of my car and gotten a sufficient charge out of it if I had needed to in the future, but I charged it fully back up at home just to be safe.
Recorded on August 14th, 2016
My car wouldn’t start yesterday in the Food Lion parking lot. Maybe it was due to the extreme heat? Luckily, a friend of ours was in the parking lot, about to head to the same band practice I was going to. He gave me a boost and graciously loaned me his jumper cables for the week. I immediately decided to fix that problem ASAP.
Today, I looked around and saw this good article from the Wirecutter: The Best Gear for a Roadside Emergency. I ordered us the recommended AAA jumper cables and Brightech jump starters. The Brightech looks dorky, but the review was good. And who knew there were super-small lithium ion boosters now, instead of those bulky things that never held a charge 10 years ago? I will write more about how these work when they arrive.