Does your car communicate with you? Are you driving one that every now and then warns you, has something to tell you or notices something? I don’t mean the Audi Ur-Quattro from the 80s, the one with the bossy female digital voice, ordering you to buckle up. I mean error messages that are written out or clearly specify that a lamp is broken. Some find them annoying, others find them useful. Because when the summer draws to a close and the days get shorter again, it’s dangerous if any of the lighting doesn’t work – annoying messages aside. So I’ve taken a look at the messages that appear on the display with an attention-grabbing beep.

A supermarket window can be really useful. I parked my car in front of it to see the reflections of the various lamps. The right rear brake light isn’t working anymore, shown by the fact that the error message only appeared when I braked. Taking the first step is easy – find somewhere to park and (time permitting) check out the lampholder at the rear to see what’s going on. Depending on the type of vehicle I can access the lamps pretty quickly; in my old Mercedes I can even unscrew the lampholder from the rear and pull it out toward the inside. The contacts for the rear light are on the small holder, and inside the holder is a 21-watt lamp with combined back lights and brake light. Two filaments.

Both the metallic contacts of the lampholder and the positive and negative terminals of the lamp’s bayonet base are a bit matt and corroded from years of parking outside in wet and cold conditions. Pros in the art of non-garaged parking always have a screwdriver and a small piece of fine sandpaper in their tool box in the trunk for cases like that. Using the screwdriver, I scrape the corroded contacts, and, if I can reach them, the ones on the back of the rear light, where the lampholder is mounted and locked into place with a determined twist. Using the sandpaper, I sand down the small double contacts made of lead and give the sides of the base a new lease of shiny life. Wow, looks like new. I quickly check against the light whether both filaments are still intact – this may already have solved the problem.

I put everything back together and back in, turn on the ignition and step on the brake … and, ha, here we go. No error message anymore. So this time the problem was only a little corrosion and therefore quickly resolved. It can be that simple. Let me recommend three things to you: first, put some sandpaper and a small screwdriver in your trunk; you’ll need them more often than you think. Second, check your set of replacement lamps and, as long as all the lamps are still working, replenish it with new high-quality lamps from Osram if necessary. Outside, somewhere on a dark country road you’ll be glad to have a replacement. And third, before you set off, have a look in our Vehicle Lamp Finder for the right lamps for your vehicle, to make sure you’re not left in the dark this fall. Have a safe journey!

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