Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Nothing is Illuminated

I had a minor fender-bender the other day, in which I rear-ended an SUV on wet pavement. Nobody was hurt, the airbags didn’t deploy, but the rear-mounted spare tire on the SUV put a huge dent in my hood. So I called the insurance company and took the car to a body shop. Fortunately, my insurance included vehicle rental.

A young woman from Enterprise picked me up in one of the ugliest cars I’ve ever seen, called a Chevy HHR. “I think it looks like a hearse,” she said with a grimace. Of course, they gave me one at the rental office.


Last night when I was driving it in the dark, I noticed an irritating bright white light just over the rear-view mirror. It’s very tiny, just an LED in a little recessed hole, but there wasn’t any label to indicate its function, and no switch to turn it off. It only comes on when the headlights are on. The thing is just bright enough to be annoying, but not bright enough to be useful for reading maps or anything. It can’t be dimmed using the dashboard dimmer.


So today I opened the Owner’s Manual, and after thumbing through hundreds of pages, I found not a single mention of this light. It doesn’t appear on any of the interior control diagrams, it’s not described in the section on interior lighting, there doesn’t appear to be a fuse for it. Nothing. I went to the Chevrolet Web site, and once again, found nothing.

By now I was getting caught up in the mystery, so I called Chevrolet and was greeted by someone named Sandy Jensen, who had a distinctive Indian accent. I wondered if she’s a member of the UAW. Probably not.

I described the little light to her, and she took my number and promised to call me back. Half an hour later, she told me she couldn’t find any mention of it in any of her research material. She said she’d contact a dealer and inquire about it and get back to me. A couple of hours later, she called me back and said, “The dealer has assured me that there is no light mounted in that location in that vehicle.”

Completely exasperated, I took the following time-exposure photo and solved the mystery:


The little LED light is an accent light, used to illuminate the instrument panel. The problem is, the instrument panel is already illuminated by many little bright lights that compete with the accent light so that you can’t see it under normal circumstances. But you can see it glaring into your eyes when driving at night.

The problem is easily rectified with a small piece of electrical tape. But what troubles me is that General Motors doesn’t know about it. Maybe they’re so busy managing offshore workers like Sandy Jensen, they sometimes forget about all of the cool, useful features they’ve designed into their products.


burton said...

Huh, accent lighting in a car. Who knew that mood lighting would transfer well to vehicles? Did you try dimming the instrument panel lighting - does it dim with that? (Try turning the headlight switch - if it is still on the dash - or perhaps there is some sort of dimmer switch.)

Glad that she could solve the issue for you. That light does not exist - just get over it! :-D

Tim Clark said...

No, dimming the instrument panel lighting does NOT dim the accent light, although if you dim the panel lighting completely, the accent lighting is just barely visible in normal conditions (ambient street lighting). If I was parked in a deep forest on a moonless night and dimmed the instrument panel lights, the accent lighting would stand out clearly. And of course, I would then be able to reap the benefits of this feature, which turns the car into a total babe magnet.

burton said...

Which would be cool - if only it truly existed.

Bruce said...

That story went over like a....

L E D balloon!!


burton said...

Bruce - I am so glad you can continue to contribute your LIGHT humor....