Troubleshooting, AKA why the hell won’t it work.

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Last night, I was coerced into helping a work colleague take care of some work on his car.  We’ll call him Alex, because…well, that’s his name.  (Coerced may have been too strong a word.  I might have jumped at the opportunity.)  Our tasks for the evening included replacing the rear deck lid tail lamp.  With parts and a printed out guide in hand, we got to work.  Prior to pulling out the old tail lamp, I suggested we test the new one, in order to avoid mounting the thing and finding that it wasn’t functional.  Considering how expensive the piece was, Alex agreed, and after confirming the functional status of the new unit, we set to work.

I’ve always been one to test things at every step along the way.  As a byproduct of working with computers for so many years, I tend to be meticulous about testing parts at every possible opportunity.  As we were bolting in the new lamp unit, deep in the back of my mind, the synapses that control my troubleshooting knack started firing.  “Test it again.”  The thought wouldn’t leave my head.  _“Test it again, damn it.”_  Not wanting to be a pest, I fought my inner urges.  “We just tested the damn thing.  It works.”  Blissfully unaware of my inner conflict, Alex completed the process of bolting in the new lamp, and left me to fiddle with the cables and plug it in.  After jamming the cable in place, he hit the brake pedal and…nothing.

_“Told ya, you idiot.  Should have tested it.”_  My inner self was really getting on my nerves at this point.  I left Alex to fiddle with the connector while I retrieved the old lamp.  Following the tried and true troubleshooters mantra, I suggested we test with the old unit to ensure that it still functioned.  Once we’d confirmed that it happily lit up, we set about undoing all of our work.  While Alex voiced his concerns about getting a ticket for his missing lamp, confident that something had been irrevocably damaged, I mentally calculating how much of a dent buying him a new tail lamp was going to put in my paycheck on Friday.  I was the one who plugged it in, after all.

We checked as we undid every step, finally extracting the lamp from the trunk lid.  I’d caught a glimpse of the pricing for a replacement unit on the instructional printout Alex had, and I was fairly certain that I was going to have a very light wallet.  With the light assembly extracted from the trunk lid, I suggested we try it one more time.  We hooked up the cable, and poked the brake pedal.

Let there be light!   The great pain in my wallet area suddenly vanished.  It’s not broken, at least.  Now we can actually troubleshoot this thing.  As I mentally evaluated the chance of contact between the car and the assembly causing some kind of a problem, I heard a moment of clarity (and possibly a few choice curse words) from beneath the trunk lid.  A second, nearly identical connector was found in the space where the cables were run.  This mystery cable was the one that we had plugged in

Reassembly proved uneventful, and wings from a local pub helped to dull the memory of our little hiccup.  Personally, I’m still a little curious about that other cable.