As clockwork-reliable as Japanese cars can be, when we’re talking about cars 30, 40 or 50 years old there’s always the chance of something breaking down. Most of us probably keep a few items in our JNCs at all times, whether we’re going out for an afternoon touge run or a days-long road trip, and especially when we travel to some far flung location to bring home a new project.
What tools do you keep in your JNC?
The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “Tell us your most challenging ‘reach.'”
There were many good AotW this time, proving that Japanese cars aren’t always as logically laid out and easy to work on as their reputations suggest. From Geoff‘s travails with Z32 twin turbos to BW‘s ordeal of a Miata clutch change in freezing temperatures, you guys have had it rough. However, the winner this week was David Meyer, who spent the better part of a year replacing a light bulb in his FB RX-7.
My very first attempt at fixing something on my FB was, what I thought, going to be a fairly easy fix. A light. A very small light in a very small heater control unit, which had decided many years ago that it had had enough and quit lighting up the words “Vent”, “Def”, and “Heat”. It was such a little thing. I almost considered not even messing with it. But after a few evenings of being in the car, it really started to bug me. “OK, I guess I’ll replace that bulb…it’ll a nice, easy, first thing I can do with this car.”
A car which was alien to me and had some problems…a flooding carburetor, a sloppy steering box, and rattles from god knows where. But this should be easy. A fine way to ease into getting to know the car. This was in November…shortly after I’d gotten the car.
So I went to work disassembling the center console. Unlike my old Civic, there were virtually NO visible screws. Everything was cleanly hidden from view by snapped on facias, all of which had to come off in a certain order. It took 3 trips to rx7club.com and a fair amount of searching before I got to the point where I had the center console apart and access to pull the heater panel. A heater panel that did *not* want to come out. It was attached in the back by a molex plug and some round plug. There was no possible way for my hand to get in there and successfully coax the plugs apart. Several scans of the parts manual refused to give up the secrets that kept that heater control firmly affixed to the center dash. To add insult to injury, it offered no real reassurance that the bulbs were, in fact, replaceable. A call to my local Mazda dealer did nothing to reassure me either…the parts guy couldn’t even read the parts manual they had…which was the same crappy scan of a microfiche from ’85 that I was reading. He had no clue and, from the sound of it, didn’t want a clue.
Questions were posted to rx7club.com, which were met with resounding silence. Nobody knew. It was an ’84-85 thing. Probably nobody had tried. Or nobody cared. Or both.
I left the console out, looking rather untidy with the resolve that the console would NOT go back in until I had replaced that bulb.
Fast forward to 8 months later. I went in the garage with the resolution that I would do one of two things. Pull that heater out and see if the bulb is replaceable, or throw in the towel and put everything back together. I was tired of the car looking like a theft recovery. It’s a #@$! lightbulb! I probably wouldn”t even drive this thing in the dark more than a couple of times a year. But it tasked me.
Armed with my LED light wand and reading glasses, I looked at the heater from every angle I could. I could see the two plugs. I could get one hand kinda up in there, but I just didn’t have the leverage to pull the molex apart with one hand, I noted, however, I was able to pull the heater control out just a little bit. Enough to expose 3 screws on the top of the front panel. I wasn’t sure exactly where the light bulb would be, but I suspected it would be behind the panel there somewhere, so I got a stubby phillips screwdriver. I couldn’t get it in the screws…the heater wouldn’t’ come out far enough to clear the dash so I could get access to those screws. Then I remembered. And I dug around in my tool box and found a little chintzy, “Made in China” screw driver ratchet thingy. I was able to get that thing in there with room to spare. Ratcheted out 3 screws and popped the top panel off and what do I see? A light bulb with an orange rubber condom on it. It’s attached with a little twist-lock thing which I had very little access to, not being able to get the whole control unit out of the dash. But a pair of needle nose pliers managed to twist the bulb enough to coax it out of its home.
It was such a stupid little thing, but it had been dogging me for so long, I felt even better than when I’d finally swapped the rear end or got the coil overs on. Logical, no. But damn, I felt great after that.
Omedetou! Your comment has earned you a set of decals from the JNC Shop.