That's a crazy amount of work for a seemingly straightforward maintenance task. You have to wonder if that was a design oversight (albeit, a biggie) or something done on purpose so Chevrolet could make money on regular maintenance jobs. Either way, big monkey design move. Thanks for sharing.
It certainly does seem odd, and it also seems deliberate. This is certainly a maintenance task that is expected to occur many times over the life of the car. Whether the owner changes the bulb itself -- quite unlikely -- or pays stiff labor prices to have a shop change the bulb, this ends up a very owner-unfriendly design.
This is completely unacceptable, especially in an era when design for recyclability (see our July cover story, "Design for Recyclability") and design for safety are engineering imperatives. Similarly, design for easy repairability and maintenance should be on the list. I realize this is not always easy -- even on my 2004 Sentra, when I had to change the driver's side headlamp recently, I had to loosen the battery straps and move it back so that I had clearance to get the headlamp out. But that's a very minor deal, compared to taken the whole darn bumper off.
The writer mentions a 2008 Malibu, but the models from the 60s and 70s were the real beauties. I remember them fondly. They were made in an era when it was still possible to fix a lot of things in one's car, before so much of the controls became electronic.
I've also have trouble fixing things under the hood in my 1996 Sentra, and outside it, including headlamps. Under the hood, the main problem seems to be that starting in the 80s, everything has gotten jammed together to make the entire envelope smaller. That gives the mechanic less room to move and makes it a lot harder to find things. I routinely have to tell my shop mechanic where the tranny dip stick is located, since its knob is buried half way down into the engine compartment and "helpfully" colored black.
DFERAM (design for easy repairability and maintenance)? I'll vote for that.
I'll vote for DFERAM as well. In this case, they had to be conscious of the design and its implications for repair. I'd love to know the logic. Was it easier to manufacture the car with this design? Were they intentionally throwing pricey work to shops? That doesn't make sense. Or was it simply the belief that owners don't work on their own cars any longer, so it doesn't matter whether the car is designed for DFERAM.
Just get a Chinese $15.00 hot-knife from Harbor Freight, and cut your way through the plastic parts, begining with an 8 in hole inside the wheelwell, just behind the headlamp bulb, until you get to the bulb, replace and stuff the empty spaces with empty groceries plastic bags, reattach only the inner fender piece that you cut, to protect the inside from wheel water spray, holding it with tape and then use some silicon glue to do the job, make sure everything is clean so the glue will work right, remove the tape when silicon is dry, and complete the silicon sealing where the tape was removed.
DONE the REDNECK way in 15 minutes. Very effective. Show them who is the boss.
This solution shows a higher level of proficiency than the GM engineers.
Worried about the car..., judging by the way they are built today (like disposable junk), when the headlamp bulb burns, the whole car is just a bunch of twisted and cracked plastic and metal parts junk that is worth less than 1/10 of his dealer price, and has just a few years of useful life left in it, before it ends in a used car lot, the hands of a high school teenager, totalled in a fender bender or the junkyard
(No this cars are not suitable for destruction derby use, don't even think about it, consequences will be terrible)
So don't worry, planed obsolescence will take care of it and besides... the hole cant be seen from outside unless you stick your head in the wheelwell.
Replacement bulb (WallMart has the cheapest ones)
Hacksaw (just in case things get stubborn; use with care)
Electric Cinese Hot-kinfe (from your friendly neighbourhood Harbor freight store)
Duct tape. (will cost you nothing if you already have a roll laying around)
Silicon glue. (caulking compound may also work and you can finish the tube in your bathtub or around your kitchen sink)
Don't wax too nostalgic for "the olden days." Yes, routine engine maintenance was possible (and required VERY frequently compared to today). BUT... there were whole areas of the car that were just as inaccessible as the Malibu example. I was (and still am) a radio ham; my first car was a 1957 Buick Special. Of course, it had an "entertainment system" (aka AM radio). Of necessity, it used vacuum tubes, which of course needed to be replaced about as often as the various light bulbs. This was no simple task! The running joke among those of my friends who dabbled in car radio servicing was that if you went to see the factory, the very first station on the assembly line put in the radio! Everything else followed, and to get to the radio had to be removed in order! This was almost literal truth: Step 1 was to remove the top piece of the dashboard, which invariably incurred a few skinned knuckles trying to get to the mounting bolts while "sitting" upside down in the front seat, head and arms up under the dash. After completing this, and wrestling the long (and heavy) dash assembly out of the car, you had to try the reverse posture, head against the windshield, arms down into the "guts" under the dash, to remove the radio mounting bolts, disconnect the in-line fuseholder, pull the antenna and speaker connectors, etc. THEN you got to schlep the 15 lb or more radio up and out, remove the cover plate screws, find the bad tube(s), put it back in, reconnect it, and fire it up to see if it was fixed! Also, I was part of the old Civil Defense group (we provided both rescue squad and communication support as a police/fire department auxilary). So I designed a converter for our VHF (46MHz... oops, MC) local emergency communications frequency so I could hear calls for assistance. Of course, installing THAT was just as hard as removing the radio, PLUS finding room, power, and a mounting mechanism for the extra box! It actually worked pretty well, and outlasted the car (the A-frame supports for the front wheels both collapsed one day due to winter-salt corrosion). So, just another case of "the more things change...."
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