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5 Reasons Fixing Your Own Car Will Change Your Life

Casey Jones

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So we have a 1990 Toyota pickup, and my wife thinks its time to change the plugs and wires. I don't remember if we (well... I) have ever changed them. After all those years, will they come out without a fight? Preparing for this, I bought a can of penetrating lubricant.

I looked at the various reviews of penetrating lubricants, and finally bought "B'laster 16-PB" for five and a half bucks. Over a few days, I sprayed the plugs (the bases, of course) with the stuff whenever I felt like it.

Today, I put my socket on the first plug and... It came out easily. It didn't really even feel like was tight. If it were not for the lubricant, I would have been concerned that it was not in tight enough. But the plug looked fine. No pitting, no fouling, just a light brown coating. Plugs 2 to 4 were similar, very easy to come out and they looked well-used but good.
Why would you change plugs and wires?

Plugs don't foul, in this era of lead-free gasoline. Wires: Electronic ignition (which has been standard on virtually all cars since 1980) provides steady high-voltage spark. Unless you have a cylinder missing, that is, it's running rough, all the time or part of the time...I'd just leave it be.
 

mtnman

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Why would you change plugs and wires?

Plugs don't foul, in this era of lead-free gasoline. Wires: Electronic ignition (which has been standard on virtually all cars since 1980) provides steady high-voltage spark. Unless you have a cylinder missing, that is, it's running rough, all the time or part of the time...I'd just leave it be.
The electrode burns away increasing the spark gap, usually this results in bag gas mileage. Everything wears out eventually.
 

Casey Jones

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Makes me want one

Seriously.

Go to Mexico; or arrange for a buyer, there. Anything over 20 (or 25, disremember) years old, can be imported, whether or not it complies with EPA/DOT/NHTSA/USAF/SAE standards.

In Mexico the Beetle was made until 2003. The last ones had fuel injection (no carb! Better for ethanol-corrupted gas) and an alternator. They had much of the same safety equipment that was required in the 1990s, here. Safety steering wheel with collapsible column; three-point belts.

Part numbers are probably different, since they were made IN Mexico, in the Puebla plant. But it's the easy way to get one that's not rotted out.

A genuine American-market Beetle today that's in good shape, is, again, sadly, a five-figure Bring-A-Trailer investment. Last ones legitimately imported were sold in 1977.

I had a 1972; and while I remember it as a good car, it had issues I'd not put up with today. No real heater; unstable in crosswinds. Noisy. Needed valves adjusted every 5000 miles. That was a full-day's job.
 

Casey Jones

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The electrode burns away increasing the spark gap, usually this results in bag gas mileage. Everything wears out eventually.
The only time I've had spark plugs replaced on any car in the last twenty years, was if the shop was in there for something else.

I've heard of plugs lasting 100,000 miles, once lead went out of the gas, and FI became standard.

But if you're getting bad gas mileage, I'd explore other causes. Check-engine light on? You could have a sensor failure in a Closed-Loop FI feedback system. The computer goes to a "Limp-In" mode to keep the engine running, but you have no power and bad fuel economy.
 

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I've got a Ford Edge that I bought new that now has 185,000 miles on it. Never changed the plugs yet. I would have changed them except it's kind of a big deal on this one. Front 3 would be no problem but the rear 3 require removal of the intake manifold. Fuel mileage is still the same as it ever was and runs fine. I've never done a single thing to the engine other than regular oil changes.

But those wheel bearings... Every single one has been changed at least twice. Just replaced another one on the rear for the 3rd time. Figured it was time because it was howling so bad I could hardly hear the radio. Now that it's relatively quiet again I can hear and feel another one grumbling somewhere in the front. What the hell is up with the bearings? It's not like I'm packing them wrong or anything. The rears are cartridge / hub assemblies that bolt on. Can't seem to get good ones. Even the OEM Ford bearings are made in China.
 

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I've had good luck with Timken bearings. I believe they are still US made, but not 100% sure. Just replaced the fronts on my Tahoe for the second time. They lasted ~90k miles. Just a little longer than the original OEM ones.
 

WQFTruckster

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I believe they are still US made, but not 100% sure.
OK scratch that. Further research revealed they have a plant in China now, but are making them "to US specifications" for what that's worth.

Still, no complaints so far.
 

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The only time I've had spark plugs replaced on any car in the last twenty years, was if the shop was in there for something else.

I've heard of plugs lasting 100,000 miles, once lead went out of the gas, and FI became standard.

But if you're getting bad gas mileage, I'd explore other causes. Check-engine light on? You could have a sensor failure in a Closed-Loop FI feedback system. The computer goes to a "Limp-In" mode to keep the engine running, but you have no power and bad fuel economy.
Before I go any further in this conversation I must know your mechanical back ground. Mine, I've been pulling wrenches professionally for the last 45 years.
 

mtnman

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I've got a Ford Edge that I bought new that now has 185,000 miles on it. Never changed the plugs yet. I would have changed them except it's kind of a big deal on this one. Front 3 would be no problem but the rear 3 require removal of the intake manifold. Fuel mileage is still the same as it ever was and runs fine. I've never done a single thing to the engine other than regular oil changes.

But those wheel bearings... Every single one has been changed at least twice. Just replaced another one on the rear for the 3rd time. Figured it was time because it was howling so bad I could hardly hear the radio. Now that it's relatively quiet again I can hear and feel another one grumbling somewhere in the front. What the hell is up with the bearings? It's not like I'm packing them wrong or anything. The rears are cartridge / hub assemblies that bolt on. Can't seem to get good ones. Even the OEM Ford bearings are made in China.
Loose the Ford. At one time, many years ago, I would NEVER have said that but today, Ford is shit. No quality anymore. Sad to say that today, Toyota is the quality American made vehicle. There are 10 Toyota factories in the US with almost 500,000 employees.
 

mtnman

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OK scratch that. Further research revealed they have a plant in China now, but are making them "to US specifications" for what that's worth.

Still, no complaints so far.
Timken has also gone to hell, made in China shit. Once again, sadly, today KOYO is the quality bearing, made in Japan. (unless you can find some 40yr old, NOS TIMKEN bearings sitting on a shelf somewhere.)
 

Casey Jones

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Before I go any further in this conversation I must know your mechanical back ground. Mine, I've been pulling wrenches professionally for the last 45 years.
Nope, never been a professional mechanic. Supported quite a few, though...in the era where garage ripoffs unneeded repairs and "wall jobs" (park the car by the wall, and charge the owner for work) were commonplace. Amazingly, in this day and age of endless lies, that's less common now.

As a professional, you know I, or anyone, cannot diagnose a thing without hearing the engine; getting the symptoms understood, on modern products, getting a data report from whatever OBC controller is used.

But to a casual, non-mechanically-inclined owner who says, omigosh, we've gone 30,000 miles, need to change the plugs!...I say, no ya don't.

Your money, your car. Do as you see fit.
 

mtnman

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Nope, never been a professional mechanic. Supported quite a few, though...in the era where garage ripoffs unneeded repairs and "wall jobs" (park the car by the wall, and charge the owner for work) were commonplace. Amazingly, in this day and age of endless lies, that's less common now.

As a professional, you know I, or anyone, cannot diagnose a thing without hearing the engine; getting the symptoms understood, on modern products, getting a data report from whatever OBC controller is used.

But to a casual, non-mechanically-inclined owner who says, omigosh, we've gone 30,000 miles, need to change the plugs!...I say, no ya don't.

Your money, your car. Do as you see fit.
I fully agree with the "omigosh, we've gone 30,000 miles, need to change the plugs!" being the wrong way to go. Now days plugs will go 100k but there's another reason to change them around 50k. The manufacturer does not care if the plug threads seize themselves to the threaded hole, it just means more $$$ spent on the repair, so they don't use never seize. By replacing them at around 50k and ADDING NEVER SEIZE TO THE THREADS means you don't have to worry about the next time they are changed, they will come out with out damage to the head. Gas mileage, When you start loosing gas mileage and the engine still runs good the first thing you do is change the plugs for reasons stated earlier.
 

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I fully agree with the "omigosh, we've gone 30,000 miles, need to change the plugs!" being the wrong way to go. Now days plugs will go 100k but there's another reason to change them around 50k. The manufacturer does not care if the plug threads seize themselves to the threaded hole, it just means more $$$ spent on the repair, so they don't use never seize. By replacing them at around 50k and ADDING NEVER SEIZE TO THE THREADS means you don't have to worry about the next time they are changed, they will come out with out damage to the head. Gas mileage, When you start loosing gas mileage and the engine still runs good the first thing you do is change the plugs for reasons stated earlier.
And on a higher milage vessel its always good to see what condition they are in after 50k too.
 

Casey Jones

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We found common ground and agreement here.

That's rare.

:beer:
 

mtnman

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We found common ground and agreement here.

That's rare.

:beer:
1618510073173.png
 

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Timken has also gone to hell, made in China shit. Once again, sadly, today KOYO is the quality bearing, made in Japan. (unless you can find some 40yr old, NOS TIMKEN bearings sitting on a shelf somewhere.)
Just checked my Timken boxes and both say "made in USA", so they must not all be chinesium. They do have a lot of good recommendations on several vehicle forums, FWIW.

A quick search did not show any KOYO bearings for a Tahoe, but if I find some I might give them a try next time.
 

agcoacres

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SKF bearings are quality. We use them almost exclusively in industrial applications at work. I have used SKF front wheel bearing/hub sets with no problems.

I don’t get the adamant stance of some that today’s vehicles should go 100k without doing anything but filling the gas and putting on a new set of tires. We have gone from an expectation that you WILL perform maintenance on your car to the sales gimmick of you DO NOT need to do any maintenance for 100k in less than 100 years. To me, it’s all part of the dumbing down and incapacitation of the average American.

The lowest mileage vehicle I own is a 2013 JGC that I bought used at 85k that now has 105k on the 3.6l Pentastar engine. I just replaced the original spark plugs and they were ovegapped from wear by .020”. Unless you are militant about actually tracking your mpg over the span of 100k, as in doing the math, you are not going to notice any loss in mpg as shown by the dummy readout on the dash. Spark plugs are WEAR COMPONENTS and need to be treated as such. Even double plats wear as it is a function of metal being removed from the electrodes over time from electricity jumping the gap a bagillion times.

Why do you think automakers are building “lubed for life” transmissions? Yeah, you can run the thing for 100k but, again, trannys are built full of WEAR COMPONENTS that are in a perpetual state of decay from new. At some point the wear particles in the oil that are of small enough micron to slip through the filter media will have their way and the thing will cease to perform properly. When presented with a $3-5k replacement bill, most people will cut their losses and junk the car for something different, which plays right into the industry’s hand. They don’t want us working on our stuff. Look at the Right to Repair fight going on with farm equipment. The value of old tractors and such is skyrocketing because THEY CAN BE REPAIRED AND MAINTAINED by John Q Farmer and parts are plentiful.

If you have a car, and you want to “win” the car game over time, maintain it. If you just want to ignore maintenance needs because of a determination that the blasted thing shouldn’t need anything except gas for as long as you own it, fine. Don’t bitch when it doesn’t hold up as expected.
 

Casey Jones

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The reason plugs were replaced every 10,000 miles in the past, is because they fouled.

From tetraethyl lead in the gasoline.

That's gone.

Second reason they fouled was from carbon.

From rich mixtures. From starting cold, with a choke - on a carburetor.

That's gone. Fuel injection, controlled by a processor, is a miraculous development.

Reason to replace wires, was...the imprecise performance of an old-style coil, spark fed through a distributor...all those suspect connections limited amps and voltage sent to the plugs. Plug wires were carbon innards - I don't recall why, but that's how it was done.

All of that, including distributors, are gone. On a modern car, each plug has a coil on top of it, and is told when to spark by the CPU. Again, miraculous, if exceedingly complicated.

There's no "expectation" that these things last 100k miles; it's just turning out that they DO. Some brands and some designs, longer than others.
 

agcoacres

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The reason plugs were replaced every 10,000 miles in the past, is because they fouled.

From tetraethyl lead in the gasoline.

That's gone.

Second reason they fouled was from carbon.

From rich mixtures. From starting cold, with a choke - on a carburetor.

That's gone. Fuel injection, controlled by a processor, is a miraculous development.

Reason to replace wires, was...the imprecise performance of an old-style coil, spark fed through a distributor...all those suspect connections limited amps and voltage sent to the plugs. Plug wires were carbon innards - I don't recall why, but that's how it was done.

All of that, including distributors, are gone. On a modern car, each plug has a coil on top of it, and is told when to spark by the CPU. Again, miraculous, if exceedingly complicated.

There's no "expectation" that these things last 100k miles; it's just turning out that they DO. Some brands and some designs, longer than others.
Yes, they can and do, but that doesn’t make ignoring them for 100k right because of that premise. At .020” overgap from WEAR you are unnecessarily stressing the coils which, again, potentially plays into the dealer’s hand at $120+/hr shop rate.

I put about 50k/ year on my 2003 VW Passat 4Motion with now 235k on it. 99% highway miles at speed. I replace the plugs annually with double platinum varieties and the old ones are always CLEAN but overgapped by about .015” from wear. This last time, I replaced the plug wires, the better Beldons, after 2 years (90-100k) because two of the boots were cracked causing intermittent misfire. Now, all of it LOOKED good, but closer inspection, measuring, and testing revealed out of spec plug gaps and faulty wires but, hey, it should be good to go, right? Wrong.
 

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But those wheel bearings... Every single one has been changed at least twice. Just replaced another one on the rear for the 3rd time... Now that it's relatively quiet again I can hear and feel another one grumbling somewhere in the front. What the hell is up with the bearings?

Loose the Ford. At one time, many years ago, I would NEVER have said that but today, Ford is shit. No quality anymore. Sad to say that today, Toyota is the quality American made vehicle. There are 10 Toyota factories in the US with almost 500,000 employees.
Just getting another front wheel bearing for my Ford Edge and discovered that it is the same exact bearing that many models of Toyota are specifying.

These 'spot the difference' games are getting harder to play.
 

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Just getting another front wheel bearing for my Ford Edge and discovered that it is the same exact bearing that many models of Toyota are specifying.

These 'spot the difference' games are getting harder to play.
Word is the parts stores keep close track on feedback/returns and if the manufactors are making junk they switch until finding a quality (per Scotty)
 

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Just stumbled on this guy's videos again while diagnosing a MAF sensor issue on my wife's vehicle. He has an excellent series of videos on understanding fuel trims and how all of the sensors on your engine interact. If you are interested in learning how to diagnose issues with your vehicle it's worth the watch.

 

glockngold

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I was about 30 miles from home when my 2006 Town & Country developed a miss as I was visiting some neighborhood yard sales.
I was damn near out of gas, & at first I thought the steep hills were letting the fuel pump go dry, but no, after stopping to fill the tank, nope still missing.
It never shut off at stops, but as I got out of suburbia & on the highway, I notice lack of power on acceleration & hills.
After 5 minutes or so, check engine came on.
I pulled over & did the "key dance" (cycle ignition 3 times & car will show codes.
P0303 (missfire cylinder 3)
Started up & drove home. Never got worse, never got better.
Probably a coil pack, but watched u-tube & discovered 10 or so other things that could be similar. .. shit.
I bought the car with 40k miles, it now has 110,000 miles.
Never did plugs & wires, mostly because the damn rear bank are so tough to get to.
They are underneath the windshield wiper tray which is removable, I had heard.
Looks like this:
P1010005.JPG


I watched a video by a guy on youtube that was one of the best how to car vids I've seen.
His channel is called Javo's Garage. Highly recommend for video clarity, & good audio.

My next step, got that sucker out of there:

P1010005 (1).JPG


I decided to commit to new plugs & wires first.
It needed done anyhow.
Maybe I'll get lucky & that's all it needs.
Wires seemed welded to the plugs. Just turning the boots back & forth by hand to loosen them up, 2 of the plugs spun loose from the head.
Ugly suckers:

P1010008.JPG


Noticed when pulling plug #3 (top center) It was wet & smelled of gasoline.

Bought new plugs & wires & installed the plugs.
With the wiper tray out, I had room to torque the plugs.
(all of 156 in. lbs.) Seemed barely over finger tight, but that's what it calls for.

P1010002 (1).JPG


Fine.
Dielectric grease on the boots, hook them up, start the car and....... no difference. Still has the miss.
Decided to buy a coil pack.
I know I'm throwing parts at it, but not smart enough to diagnose better.

Took this one out:

P1010001.JPG


Put this one in.

P1010002.JPG


Started right up.
Ran smooth as silk.
Total parts cost ~$150.00

Here is one of the Javo's Garage vids:

<iframe width="1280" height="720" src="
" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>
 

Casey Jones

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Looks like a WIN.

The last time I pulled plugs from a car, we were still using leaded gas and points and condenser. Every 15,000 miles.

Never saw plugs get rusted like those.

I've had several Gen2 and Gen3 ChryCo minivans, and I dreaded pulling the plugs. As it happened, beat as they were, I never had to.
 

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I was about 30 miles from home when my 2006 Town & Country developed a miss as I was visiting some neighborhood yard sales.
I was damn near out of gas, & at first I thought the steep hills were letting the fuel pump go dry, but no, after stopping to fill the tank, nope still missing.
It never shut off at stops, but as I got out of suburbia & on the highway, I notice lack of power on acceleration & hills.
After 5 minutes or so, check engine came on.
I pulled over & did the "key dance" (cycle ignition 3 times & car will show codes.
P0303 (missfire cylinder 3)
Started up & drove home. Never got worse, never got better.
Probably a coil pack, but watched u-tube & discovered 10 or so other things that could be similar. .. shit.
I bought the car with 40k miles, it now has 110,000 miles.
Never did plugs & wires, mostly because the damn rear bank are so tough to get to.
They are underneath the windshield wiper tray which is removable, I had heard.
Looks like this:
View attachment 208065

I watched a video by a guy on youtube that was one of the best how to car vids I've seen.
His channel is called Javo's Garage. Highly recommend for video clarity, & good audio.

My next step, got that sucker out of there:

View attachment 208066

I decided to commit to new plugs & wires first.
It needed done anyhow.
Maybe I'll get lucky & that's all it needs.
Wires seemed welded to the plugs. Just turning the boots back & forth by hand to loosen them up, 2 of the plugs spun loose from the head.
Ugly suckers:

View attachment 208068

Noticed when pulling plug #3 (top center) It was wet & smelled of gasoline.

Bought new plugs & wires & installed the plugs.
With the wiper tray out, I had room to torque the plugs.
(all of 156 in. lbs.) Seemed barely over finger tight, but that's what it calls for.

View attachment 208069

Fine.
Dielectric grease on the boots, hook them up, start the car and....... no difference. Still has the miss.
Decided to buy a coil pack.
I know I'm throwing parts at it, but not smart enough to diagnose better.

Took this one out:

View attachment 208071

Put this one in.

View attachment 208072

Started right up.
Ran smooth as silk.
Total parts cost ~$150.00

Here is one of the Javo's Garage vids:

<iframe width="1280" height="720" src="
" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>
Sounds like we're both on parallel tracks.

I just penciled out Saturday for replacing a front wheel bearing on my Ford Edge- again. It was kind of a big deal for me but turned out to not be too bad, taking only about 3 hours or so. Meanwhile I had picked up 3 sparkplugs for the front bank and wasn't going to trouble myself with the rears because it involves removing the intake manifold. But when I saw the monster gaps on the front three (185,000 miles will do that), I figured I would at least watch a video to see if I wanted to tackle the back ones too. In the video, the guy claimed that worn plugs can fry the COPs (Coils On Plugs), the ECU and even the fuel injectors because of the extra power needed to spark the big gaps. Don't need that. Yup, pulled the manifold and changed all of them. Went off without a hitch. But what a pain in the ass for just changing plugs.
 

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@glockngold I saw your torque wrench and it made me laugh. I've got a small one too but that 203 ft/lb torque on the front wheel bearing forced me to do a little creative improvisation... Think tape measure, chain, breaker bar, cable clamp yoke and a bathroom scale. Yeah, you get the picture. LOL
 

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This commercial (seen on yt)made me lol especially having gone through the dirtiest brake pads ever.

 

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I had to change a turn signal bulb on my car. Getting to it was a trip to the mechanic to ask how much of the plastic inside liner to take off to get to two bolts that hold on the lens cover which houses two other bulbs for brake and back up lights. Just had to pop off two caps and luckily I was able to remove the bolts without dropping them in behind the liner. Then came the trick of getting the lens cover off. Couple of tube vids, searching forums and the direction of the bolts instructed me that I was to pull straight back and not to the side with my model vehicle. Little bit of prying, tugging and jiggling had the piece removed and operable. Took out old bulb and put in new. Didn't work. With key set at acc. and turn signal on, I pulled the bulb out and reset it. The bulb would blink when I put it in the socket but as soon as I pushed and turned, would go blank.
Must be dirty contacts. I pulled out a pencil and used the eraser to clean the positive contact, still no luck. Then I cleaned the negative contact on the side of the socket. While pulling the eraser up from cleaning the side, I disconnected the positive contact. Tried to drop it back in hoping it would make a connection but no luck. Looks like I'll need to replace the wiring harness as the sockets are all hard wired together.
 

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I had to change a turn signal bulb on my car. Getting to it was a trip to the mechanic to ask how much of the plastic inside liner to take off to get to two bolts that hold on the lens cover which houses two other bulbs for brake and back up lights. Just had to pop off two caps and luckily I was able to remove the bolts without dropping them in behind the liner. Then came the trick of getting the lens cover off. Couple of tube vids, searching forums and the direction of the bolts instructed me that I was to pull straight back and not to the side with my model vehicle. Little bit of prying, tugging and jiggling had the piece removed and operable. Took out old bulb and put in new. Didn't work. With key set at acc. and turn signal on, I pulled the bulb out and reset it. The bulb would blink when I put it in the socket but as soon as I pushed and turned, would go blank.
Must be dirty contacts. I pulled out a pencil and used the eraser to clean the positive contact, still no luck. Then I cleaned the negative contact on the side of the socket. While pulling the eraser up from cleaning the side, I disconnected the positive contact. Tried to drop it back in hoping it would make a connection but no luck. Looks like I'll need to replace the wiring harness as the sockets are all hard wired together.
Find the ground connection, likely needs 2b cleaned.
 

newmisty

Transcending the 5 Elements
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