An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
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Wednesday, March 29, 2017



I’ve had some issues with darkness lately. And apparently I’m not alone.

It started last Wednesday, when I left my home to go to the day job.  

Night-time darkness. You know, lack-of-daylight. And cars. Read on…

I regularly leave home to go to work anywhere from 4:00 to 5:00am. My normal routine is to start the car and turn on the parking lights so I can see the dashboard. I don’t turn on the headlights until I pull out of my driveway and onto the road so as to not shine them into the neighbor’s windows. So on this particular day, I followed this routine, and the result was… nothing. No headlights. I tried again, and still had nothing but darkness ahead of me.

A quick turn-around, back into the driveway, and I went inside the house to get a flashlight. I checked the fuses (after firing up the laptop and consulting with Mr. Google to get a look at the fuse diagram), and they all looked good. The puzzling thing was that the high beams worked just fine, it was just the low beams that wouldn’t work.

A quick search online pointed to the possibility of a relay being the culprit.

I took my wife’s car to work, and on the side of my job did some searching around to find the relay part at a local store, all of about $6. Picked it up on my way home, thinking I’d gotten off easy… And nothing. Again.

Further searching pointed to the multi-switch on the steering column as the next-most-likely item to eliminate in the cascade of possible causes (and next cheapest at $35).

The fear was that this might not solve the issue. Apparently this is an issue that is fairly wide-spread, across many Honda models and years. Mine is a 2005 Element, a car that I love for its interior space and utility. Carrying two bikes inside on fork mounts and being able to keep one of the rear seats inside (90% of the time with a child seat attached) is a boon. In an online search, I found the same issue reported by many, many people, ranging from Elements, Pilots, Accords, and even a couple Acura models, spanning several years from the mid-oughts (2003-2008). If you have a Honda product from that era, take heed. The issue isn’t in the easy and cheap parts to replace, but in the wire harness that leads to the steering column multi-switch. The wire in the connector to that left stalk has a nasty tendency to overheat, warping the connector and then losing connection.

The wire harness itself is cheap. The labor involved to be able to disconnect and install a new one at the lower end requires the entire dashboard to be removed. Shop standard for that operation is 6 hours. To do a 5-second swap of a wire harness. Nine-hundred-eighty-eight dollars later, after a weekend in the shop waiting for the parts to come in from Portland, it’s back on the road.

Why this isn’t a recall item from Honda is beyond me. I’m sure the bean counters are driving this. Maybe it’s not a safety issue because you still have high beams available.

So I had to ride my bike to work for three days. That in itself isn’t torture, but the days weren’t exactly what I’d call dry (we haven’t had much of that lately). It forced me into some fender exploration on my grunge bike. I picked my car up yesterday afternoon, and immediately had the opportunity to exercise that new wore harness driving home from my elder daughter’s choir concert. The headlights all work now. The multi-switch has a slightly different feel, but it works okay.

But now the backlight on the tachometer is out…

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