Was this turn signal's miraculous recovery down to patience?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | May 01, 1995

Dear Tom and Ray:

Have you ever had to "re-teach" a car to do something it forgot how to do? Surprisingly enough, it happened to me, and all it required was time and patience. I have a 1987 El Camino with 84,000 miles. About a month ago, the small green arrow light for the right turn indicator on the dashboard would go on, but it wouldn't blink. It would just stay on. During the past month, I gave the car "lessons" as to how it's supposed to work by manually flipping the right turn lever on and off repeatedly as a signal to drivers behind me. Lo and behold, four days ago, my indicator light has "re-learned" how it is supposed to work and the problem is solved! Now it works perfectly. Patience is a strong virtue. One for the books.

TOM: This is how religions get started, Maurice. Some miraculous, unexplained event happens to some virtous person, and before you know it, you've got scores of devoted followers. I can see it generations from now....El Camino owners all over the world sitting down once a year to re-tell the story of Maurice and the founding of Blinkerism!

RAY: Actually, there's a less spiritual explanation for this phenomenon, Maurice. The dashboard indicator light stays on when the circuit is not being completed...due to either a bad bulb, a loose or corroded connection, or a bad directional flasher. If I had to guess, given the miraculous recovery, I'd have to say you have a broken filament in one of the bulbs on the right side.

TOM: And rather than re-learning how to blink, my guess is your filament got jolted back into place when you went over a bump four days ago. And if I'm right, some future bump will knock it out again and your problem will return.

RAY: When the problem DOES return, Maurice, put on the right blinker and get out and look at your front and rear turn signal lights. One of them won't be on. If you replace that bulb (or fix the corroded connection to that bulb), the indicator light on your dash should blink for many years to come.

TOM: But just in case this "teaching" theory does have some validity, I've been sitting in my '63 Dodge Dart every morning saying "vrooom, vrooom," hoping my engine catches on to what it's supposed to be doing.

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