Should the dealer who sold me this demo fix my leaky headlight?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Mar 01, 2002

Dear Tom and Ray:

About a month ago, we bought a new Ford Taurus wagon from a local dealer. It was a demonstrator model and had about 6,000 miles on it. The dealer agreed to do some minor repairs that we noticed, and he said that if we noticed anything else in the next few weeks, to bring it to his attention. After about two weeks of driving, I saw that moisture kept forming on the inside of the right front headlight. My husband talked to the salesman about it, and the salesman said that because it is a halogen bulb, the headlight can't be sealed too tightly. He said that otherwise, it would heat up so much that the inside of the headlight would melt. When my husband related this story to me, I asked "Well, does that mean the other headlight is going to melt, since it's obviously sealed tightly enough to keep out water? And shouldn't other people's headlights be melting, since I don't see moisture forming in their headlights?" Could you please explain what's going on? -- Susie

RAY: I guess you didn't hear the end of the dealer's sentence, Susie. He said, "If you notice anything in the next few weeks, bring it to our attention. And THEN we'll tell you to get lost."

TOM: The salesman was either lying to you, or he's afflicted with Male Answer Syndrome: the need by many men to provide an authoritative-sounding answer despite the fact that they have no idea what they're talking about. My brother and I both have it (as you shall see below).

RAY: This might have been exacerbated by Commissioned Salesperson Syndrome: the willingness of a salesperson to do or say anything to make a sale. And conversely, to do or say anything to get rid of anyone not actively involved in buying something.

TOM: The salesman has got his headlight in his taillight socket, Susie. The entire headlight fixture is sealed tight at the factory. Why is it sealed? So moisture won't get in and shorten the life of the bulb!

RAY: My guess is that you need a new headlight lens, Susie. What happens sometimes is that the headlight lens gets cracked. The cracks are usually very small and difficult to see. They usually come from pebbles and other debris that come up off the road. You often see this in older cars that have been pounded by road debris for years, but it can happen to a car of any age.

TOM: When you drive at 60 mph in the rain, water gets forced through those invisible cracks, and it forms a film of moisture on the inside of the lens. Once it's in there, it can't escape, because there's no equivalent force pushing it out from the inside.

RAY: So here's what you do, Susie. Drive backwards at 60 mph ...

TOM: No. Go back to the dealer and ask him to replace the headlight lens on the right side. Insist on it. He owes it to you.

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