Postaday2011 – My car failed the MOT

Every year we trudge along to the garage to have an MOT test to ensure that our cars are safe to be on the road. Last Friday mine failed and the chap from Service reception rang to tell me. When I enquired as to what the problem might be I was advised that the offside number plate light was not working.
Now my understanding of the test is that it is essentially a safety issue, do the brakes work, are the shocks ok, will the seatbelt stop you going through the windscreen not whether both number plate lights are working. It’s not the bulb, there’s a problem with the connection caused by corrosion. Well can you fix it? No you need a new module. The cost for rectifying this seemingly minor concern… £306 to you sir. You might just be able to imagine my reaction.

I went to the garage to collect my car and discuss the options. As far as they were concerned the only solution was a new unit from BMW comprising the complete two lamp assembly in the plastic strip sprayed to match the rest of the car – such a good idea to have it the same colour.

I was assured that the mechanic had investigated and this was the only course of action that would address the problem. I removed my vehicle from their care on the understanding that when it was fixed there would be no cost for a retest.

Trawling the web on Saturday morning I discovered that this was a known fault with my particular model of BMW so I went to investigate the myself. The plastic lens came out relatively easily – enabling one to replace defective bulbs. It was clear that no attempt had been made by the garage to do anything about the corrosion despite the assurances I had been given that everything possible had been tried. A liberal soaking with WD40 removed all the green deposit from the corroded copper contact strip and although it looked much better it still didn’t work. Four torc screws later I had the complete module in my hand and I could see that help was going to be required to sort this out. I’m not one for taking cars to bits it’s not my thing. When I was mending refrigerators and occasionally double ovens or waste disposals I had a manual or at least a diagram. I was in uncharted territory, time to call Stephen.

Now my friend is a bit good with cars, he built a beach buggy, restored a Cosworth and has just done unspeakable things to a vintage Land Rover so I knew he was the man for the job.

To keep it short it took him about forty minutes and one push on tag to solve the problem, I held the boot lid while he manipulated the components. A total cost of just a few pence. My clever friend saved me over three hundred pounds and the light works a treat.

I now have an MOT certificate for another year and in the process have learnt how to take a number plate lighting unit apart. The irony is that had the garage said we can fix this for £50 I would undoubtedly have said do it.

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