the mystery when lights go out

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I bask in the glow of a conquest. I entered the most mysterious and impenetrable realm of automotive black box voodoo and came out the other side a wiser, more confident car owner.

One week ago, the only thing I knew about fuse boxes was that a grid of colorful fuses plugged into the top of the box and that was protected with a fitted lid. I bravely changed a fuse on my last car but never delved into the dark secrets lurking within the actual box. Did it house genies who dined on the juice of fuses and relays? Was there a nuclear reactor managed by a circus of weevil-headed wizards?  The black fuse box was an inky unknowable void as far as this mere mortal was concerned.

But that was last week, before the low beam headlights inexplicably stopped working on my car. Both of them failed at the same time. At night, no less. And a few miles from the safety of home. But the fact that both failed at the same time and that it was only the low beams that failed told me that burnt out lights were not likely the source of the problem. After a quick search, the simplest possibility was that a relay or fuse had gone bad. I could definitely troubleshoot that.

I popped the hood, took the lid off the fuse box and found the relay for the low beam headlights. It fought to keep its secret but I pried it off in the end. The relay was clearly the problem. One of the pins had broken off and remained firmly glued inside the socket by its dried-out blue-green corroded guts.

Out of curiosity, I brushed the corrosion off the broken ends of the pin and pushed the relay back in place. The low beam lights worked. This proved to me that all I needed to do was remove the corroded pin and plug in a new relay.

If only it was that simple. That pin was not budging. I looked online to discover that others who faced this problem took it to a garage. The garage invariably told them that the entire box had to be replaced which cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $1500. Yikes!!!

I figured that if I had to have the box replaced, I wanted to do a little experimenting. I noticed two unused sockets next to the problem socket. Was it possible to move the relay to one of those spots?

Several YouTube videos later, I realized that, yes, it was entirely possible.

My husband freed the contents of the fuse box for me and I saw that the only thing in there was a tangled spaghetti of wires. No genies. No weevil-headed wizards. Nothing exciting at all!

I figured out how to move the wires from each plug of the problem socket to the appropriate plug in the adjacent socket. As for the corroded pin and wire terminal, I cut the wire, attached a new corrosion-free terminal to the end of it, and plugged that sucker into the correct spot. Then I inserted a new relay and tested.

I couldn’t have been prouder the moment I realized I was successful. It all seemed so easy, I wondered why I was so afraid of it to begin with. It reminded me that my imagination runs wild when it comes to things I can’t see. I imagine monsters under the bed or in the closet. Elves living inside the furnace. Fuse boxes containing an unknowable source of nuclear magic.

When light is shed into dark places, when I can see what’s there, the mystery disappears. I can see that monsters aren’t under the bed or in the closet. There’s no evidence of an elfin residence in the furnace. And fuse boxes, as it turns out, only contain a jumble of wires. The most magical, mysterious thing of all is light’s ability to reveal the truth.

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