Monday, September 28, 2009

Turn Signal Part 2: text and more pictures

Replacing a front turn-signal assembly on a 1991 Mazda 323 with a badly damaged front end.

We drive a 1991 Mazda 323. We’ve had it since 2004, and as you can see, it’s a subcompact, and somewhat distressed. It had been in a collision, and we bought it for five hundred dollars from the driver who had been in the collision. We have purchased tires, CV joint replacement, and brake and muffler work.

I’d always heard cars like this called “beaters,” but around Minneapolis, they’re called “winter beaters.” I don’t know whether that means winter’s all the longer they’re supposed to last, or that you buy them to get you through the months when waiting at bus stops is painful. Cars like this are expedients, and we have found it cheaper to drive ours locally, and rent or take public transportation when we travel.

We lost the driver’s side turn-signal assembly a week ago on Olson Memorial Highway

Picture #1 -- This is the car. It ain't quite Mad Max’s Pursuit Special, but some of his neighbors would be proud. So would the Joads’ neighbors, or the Yokums’, or the Clampetts’. Note the damage, the tools and foil tape on top, and the new assembly. (The assembly, a single molded bubble that includes the lens and the reflector was used -- about ninety bucks at O’Reilly’s. If I’d been thinking, I would have toured the salvage yards around here and saved half of that, or taped on some clear amber plastic and saved even more. Another possibility would have been to screw entirely new fixtures onto the bumper, making the car look even more post-apocalyptic.).

Picture #2 -- The corner in question and the assembly. Note the tape, still sticking, from an earlier repair of mine, and the hanging turn-signal bulb. The gadget with the socket was broken, so it won’t just latch on to the opening in the assembly.

Picture #3 -- This is a repair by the earlier owner. He used sheet-metal screws to fasten a metal strap between the plastic headlamp assembly and the bumper. The grille in front of the bumper was lost in the wreck.

Picture #4 -- This is the kit I put together to install the assembly. Not much to it: the part itself, wire, foil tape, needle-nose pliers with side cutters, small Phillips-head screwdriver. The foil tape is something I learned about when I was specing weatherization for the DOE fifteen years ago. It’s from the Venture Tape company, and called “Foil Insulation Tape,” just foil and adhesive, the same width as duct tape, but longer-sticking, and able to stand up to cold and heat better. It’d be nice if it were a composite instead of foil. That way it would tear less easily and stick longer than duct tape.

Picture #5 -- Note the two flat, extruded hooks near the painted numbers on the right, and the tubes for the screws on the left. The previous assembly was screwed down, but the collision destroyed the complemetary part for the hooks. I had tried to compensate for that absence with tape, before, but eventually the tape tore. The two loose items at the bottom are the screws still in the tubes torn from the old assembly.

Picture #6 -- Here’s the whole lamp dangling. You can see the bulb in the assembly. I tore several narrow strips of foil tape and used them to fasten bulb and assembly.

Picture #7 -- I’m pointing to one of two vinyl receptacles for the screws. If I couldn’t use the screws, I would have threaded wire through the screw tubes in the assembly and the holes where the square vinyl gadgets are.

Picture #8 -- Looking at the hook-end of the screwed-in assembly. Since there are no tabs for the hooks, I’ve threaded a loop of wire to the bottom hook from the nearest thing I could use as an achor. Next, I’ll thread one to the upper hook.

Picture #9 -- The other end of the wire. This threaded stud was originally part of what held the headlamp. Any anchor in a storm.

Picture #10 -- The working turn signal.

So what’s the Blue Book price for this prestigious automobile, ten cents? The other side of the argument is that there’s an energy cost to manufacturing as well as running a car, and this is a piece of working capital. Bumper sticker slogans: “What the Heck, It Runs,” and “Don’t Laugh, It’s Paid For.” We use it as a mini-truck, keeping the back seat folded down and throwing woodchips, tools, and our farmers’ market stand in through the rear hatch.

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