My recent experience with taillight lenses showed me that it is not as boring a subject as it sounds. I recently took my Dodge Ram pickup through a state inspection. The truck is fairly new, so I thought there would be no problem. The very last items checked were the taillights. After scribbling furiously on a form for about ninety seconds, the mechanic walked back to the shop, went to the cash register, and began to ring up the cost of the inspection. As he was doing so he said "You'll have to get that taillight cover replaced before I can pass you on the inspection." Apparently, no white light can show through the lens when the blinker or brakes are applied, or the automobile doesn't pass muster. (Interestingly, according to law the lens can be clear or white if the light bulb itself is red.

Aghast, I argued with him about charging for an inspection that I didn't pass, and finally got him to agree to finish the next day when I would have a chance to get another lens. I headed out to the auto parts store the next morning. The clerk checked her computer inventory twice, and finally told me the lens wasn't even listed. The next store brought a repeat of the experience. I was told that since the truck was less than five years old, the manufacturer had probably not even released OEM parts to stores. I would have to purchase it at the dealership. (Later I thought about stopping by a junkyard - that likely would've worked and been cheaper!)

I headed toward the dealership, calling on my cell phone to check if they had the part in stock. They did, certainly, at a cost of over ninety dollars! Apparently the injection molded plastic and cheap metal clips was put together at great expense in the off season by Santa's elves.

I finally managed, after standing in line for a while, to exchange my hard-earned cash for the pretty trinket, and then walked to another building to pay the cashier, and then to another building to borrow the special screwdriver (a six-pointed star or Torx (T-20) driver) from a friend of mine that luckily works there.

Each manufacturer has their own method of attaching their parts in order to forestall car leprosy, and the Dodge method was thankfully fairly simple. Two screws were set laterally into the body of the lens from the side, and the other edge was held in by a strong plastic tab, allowing the lens to swing out and be removed once the screws were out. I opened the tailgate, unscrewed the cover, twisted the light sockets out the of the molded insertion points in the lens and then into the new lens, replaced the new lens, attached it, then put up my tailgate. The simple test of putting on the hazard lights assured me I hadn't switched the driving lamp and the brake lamp. And then I was off. The inspecting mechanic fulfilled his end of the deal, put a shiny new sticker inside my windshield, and everything was back to normal. If only the rest of my truck was as clean as that taillight!

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