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Under the Hood: Brake light easily repaired at home

Under the Hood: Brake light easily repaired at home

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QUESTION: The center brake light on my 2005 Chrysler Sebring convertible has gone out, and the owner’s manual advises to have a professional repair it. I feel fairly confident I could fix this, but before I go and pop the light compartment off, I am hoping you can shine some light on this repair.

—Wes Beaird

ANSWER: This should be a simple and satisfying home repair. Your center high mount stop light, or CHMSL, is integrated into a molding that wraps around the convertible top boot, just in front of the trunk. The molding needs to be removed from the car, then the CHMSL lamp housing is removed from the molding.

The published procedure is as follows: Lower the convertible top. Disconnect and isolate the battery negative terminal. Open the trunk and remove the molding fasteners — there are five spanning across, and they’re visible once the front edge of the trunk lid lifts up and away. Pull back the trunk liner material to allow the CHMSL wiring connector to be found and unplugged. Remove the molding and remove the CHMSL fasteners and CHMSL unit from it. Renew the bulb — it’s No. 921, which is widely available for about $2. Installation is the reverse of disassembly.

Q: What’s your opinion of the oil-life indicator used on my car and SUV? It seems that I’m allowed to go a lot further than I would have thought. Are these reliable?

—Teck Ky

A: Both of your vehicles likely use information gleaned from the engine management system’s sensors and a sophisticated algorithm to infer oil condition. Startup temperature, number of starts, run times, engine load, operating temperature and other factors are crunched in order to infer remaining oil life.

I believe this is a much smarter approach than simply going by months or miles. Rather than letting the clock run all the way down, I prefer to utilize the smarts but take a conservative approach by changing my oil and filter with 30 percent oil life remaining.

Q: I’ve noticed my turn signals flash faster when turning left than when I turn right. It’s almost twice the speed, so I know something isn’t right. Can you help?

—Rose C.

A: Fast flashing indicates less electric current is being delivered to the left side, which usually means a faulty bulb. On older cars, the thermal type flasher cycles slower. Try engaging the hazard flashers and walk around the vehicle, observing brightness at each corner, compared to the across-car mate. Many vehicles use multiple bulbs in wide or tall lamp housings, making it a little less obvious that one bulb may be inoperative. Most bulbs are easier to renew than Wes’s CHMSL, discussed above.

NOTES: Reader Tom Colasuonno suggests that many auto parts stores will scan/retrieve trouble codes for free when the “check engine” light illuminates. Keep in mind codes aren’t always the result of bad parts.

Cindy Drever reports her “possessed” 2008 Explorer interior lights were fixed by renewing the ignition switch. Hats off to her husband for diagnosing this oddity.

Brad Bergholdt is an automotive technology instructor at Evergreen Valley College in San Jose, Calif. Readers may send him email at under-the-hood@earthlink.net; he cannot make personal replies.

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