What could cause Charles' headlight to blow... over and over and over again? Find out.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jan 01, 2007

Dear Tom and Ray:

For many years, I've enjoyed your column, with its unfailing good humor. Now I have a problem I've never seen, and my brother-in-law -- usually my Great Guru -- is stumped by it. We have a 1993 Ford Taurus wagon with almost 300,000 miles on the odometer. Almost everything has been replaced four times over. About a year ago, it started blowing right headlights. Just the right, always the right, AND the bulb actually shatters. We know you can't touch a quartz bulb when putting it in, and we're always extra careful, handling the bulb with a clean rag. The car is not run on rough roads. But put a new headlight in, and after a just a few hours of use, it pops, the glass is splintered and we're one-eyed again. It occurs winter and summer, in any kind of weather. Any ideas as to what could cause this and how we can stop it? -- Charles

TOM: Well, the first thing you've got to do is buy stock in Sylvania. It's making a fortune selling you light bulbs.

RAY: I think you have some water in the fixture, Charles. We see it a lot. You replace the bulb, but the plastic lens that protects the bulb is 300,000 miles old and has small cracks in it. When you drive in the rain, water gets in, and it can't get out.

TOM: It might not be easy to see the water, but my guess is that the bulb heats up, a bump causes the water to slosh or spray, a drop or two hit the white-hot bulb and kaplow! The bulb shatters.

RAY: Have a closer look and see if you notice any moisture in there.

TOM: Or goldfish. Swimming goldfish are a sure sign of the presence of water.

RAY: And then replace the whole headlight fixture. You can buy aftermarket fixtures for relatively little money. I think that'll solve the problem, Charles.

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