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I Fixed My Car's Headlight And Now I Am The World's Greatest Wrench

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Did your car's engine just explode? Did your truck have a critical axle failure? Don't worry, as the world's greatest mechanic, I can repair it. Why? Because I just fixed my car's headlight, ALL BY MYSELF.

You read that right, I fixed my car's headlight. It was weak and dim before, blinking in and out, yet now it is strong and powerful and clear. My passenger-side headlight used to be a trickling, stagnant creek. Now it is the Niagara Falls of headlights.


Yes, this is a good time to sit down.

(Welcome to the Continuing Misadventures of Raphael and his Baja Bug, a series on how I buy a half-broken 1973 Volkswagen offroader that I proceed to break, fix, break, fix, and break again.)


As I said, my right headlight had been going dim, and after a few weeks of spluttering weakness, I decided to stand up, man up, shape up, toughen up, roll up my sleeves and take down the problem.

I asked someone else how to fix everything.

This was a test in and of itself. The first advice I got was from an old Brooklyn mechanic with a very thick South Asian accent and he recommended I scrub and clean my connectors with a kind of unpronounceable acid, and then they would be fine.

I then asked a long time rally fan what to do and he gave me much better advice: replace my connectors, because they had all rusted or shorted out. Just look at that burned out little bastard. Like a Deadhead who just ran out of his last stash of luudes.


Like any good do-it-yourselfer, I had him repeat instructions to me multiple times, which I wrote down so I wouldn't forget.

It all turned out to be very simple:

  • Label or diagram all three wires leading to my headlight
  • Buy a new pigtail connector (the outlet-looking thing that plugs into the back of my headlight)
  • Clip off the old connector where it had been spliced with my car's original wiring
  • Clamp the new connector and its wires to the original wiring using butt connectors
  • Seal the whole thing up with shrink tubing

And like the master mechanic I now am, that's exactly what I did! I bought a new pigtail connector, a bunch of butt connectors (I needed extras), and shrink tubing.


I then labeled all my wires (passenger side, driver's side, and top) and clipped my old wiring just aft of the halfway point of the old butt connectors. This was, as any seasoned mechanic will tell you, probably the most arduous task in the world of car repair. Please hold your applause.


I got out my new pigtail connector with its attached wires and slid the shrink tubing on there, keeping it out of the way of the ends. This is a level of foresight usually attributed to the finest minds in the global economist expert circuit.


Having clipped down to my old wiring, I then clamped in my new wires with butt connectors. I clamped them with my strong, weathered hands and I totally didn't break a sweat or make an owie on my pinky. Nope.


From there all I had to do was slide the shrink tubing over the connectors and heat it with a lighter, not enough to get it to smoke, but enough to shrink it water-tight around all the wiring. For a Baja Bug that runs through mud and puddles and parks uncovered in the rain, this is important. I managed to get two shrink tubes on and sealed the last one with electrical tape because the shrink tubing got stuck and my car is already deteriorating into a hoopty and I just don't care anymore and fuck it just fuck it all to hell why is everything falling apart why can't I just get one thing, ONE THING right for once please lord in heaven...


Oh, it worked!

Yep, I connected the new mess up to the headlight, turned the car on, and it glowed like the sun. It was bright as the day, shining like my own brilliance. Look upon my repairs, ye mighty, and despair.


So bring me your worst car troubles — I am a true master of automotive repair excellence. No problem is too great. Except replacing my front ball joints that are dry and should have been taken out probably years ago. Fuck that shit.


Photo Credits: Raphael Orlove