Thursday, October 08, 2009

How many geeks does it take to change a lightbulb?

Or more accurately, how long and how much does it take to get a specialty lightbulb?

The green-circle light around my car's cigarette lighter burned out. These things happen, especially in a car that's 8 years old. So I removed the old one (it's easily accessible in my car) and went looking to buy a replacement.

Easier said than done.

This isn't an ordinary lightbulb. It's a tiny little bulb that is permanently attached to a plastic mounting designed to mate it with the wiring harness where it attaches.

OK, so I won't be able to find it in a normal automotive parts store (and I looked). So I went and started googling for this bulb to see if anybody sells them. No luck whatsoever. So I asked at a Chevy dealer - they don't sell just the bulb, you have to buy the entire cigarette lighter plastic mounting assembly, which includes a bulb, and that cost $40!

So I thought, OK, let me see if I can just replace the bulb in this mounting and do this cheap. Well, that can be done, but it's a real pain to get it out, and you have to buy a bulb with bare-wire leads so it can be soldered to the holder. I'm not going to do this if it will burn out again in a few years and you can't get a small LED that runs off of 12 volts.

But then it occurred to me: A Chevy Prizm is a Toyota Corolla. So let's ask at a Toyota parts department. Well, Toyota also doesn't sell just the bulb, but they only charge $13 for the assembly and $13 is a whole lot less than $40. So I bought it from them and installed it in about two minutes in the parking lot.

Now, you may be asking why I'm relating this story when all was resolved in relatively short order. Simple. I want this story to be on the internet and hopefully indexed by search engines, so somebody else with a similar situation won't have to do all the ugly legwork that I did to find this part.

And just so there are nice keywords to search for, the car is a 2002 Chevrolet Prizm, and the cigarette lighter bulb mounting (known as a "Cigarette Lighter Stay") is Toyota part number 85515-02041. I paid $12.97 (plus sales tax) for it.

The image to the left is the entire assembly with the bulb mounted in it.

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