How many doctors does it take to change a light bulb?

BMW X5 4.4i

Anyone who has ever worked in a multi-disciplinary team will know that there are endless jokes about how many social workers, psychologists and Irishmen it takes to change a light bulb.

But as Australia heads inexorably towards a nuclear future we can feel safe in the knowledge that our government wants us to save CO2 by switching to energy-efficient light globes even though they won’t sign the Kyoto protocol.

And whilst “clean coal” is an oxymoron we’ll be able to have our (yellow) cake and eat it too and mining companies and their shareholders won’t need to feel the pinch.

With the phasing out of incandescent globes we’ll all be getting a lot of practice changing those light bulbs so I thought I’d start by helping a colleague change the front indicator bulb on his recently acquired BMW X5.

With our combined IQ and his surgical expertise we thought we’d have this job sewn up in no time.

After a quick look under the bonnet and no sign of the offending filament we reverted to Plan B which was to read the BMW instruction manual.

Can you believe that the owner’s manual advised that changing the indicator bulb was a job for the dealer!

But if my colleague could retrieve the sigmoid colon through an endoscope surely we’d find and fix that globe.

In need of instructions Plan C lead us to a search of the internet and there to behold was a site called where every X5 problem had already been solved by disgruntled X5 owners who universally stay away from the grasping hands of their local BMW dealer.

We all know that cars are getting more complicated, but there was no way that this job was going to take us 60 minutes as suggested by the web site.

It’s just a pity that you can’t get to the indicator bulb without removing the headlight and it won’t move until you take off a piece of trim.

Anxious not to break anything lest we were then forced back to the dealer we had our specimen to the path lab in under 30 minutes.

A frozen section showed that the filament was intact, but like all BMW’s there was an electrical problem with a faulty high resistance contact in the fitting which had melted some plastic and caused the bulb to be inoperable.

Funny about that light bulb because I’d never seen another one like it and neither had my local auto parts shop.

Fearing a trip to the dealer we finally found the bulb at a struggling national chain.

Joyously we inserted the replacement and with all lights working we were predictably interrupted by a call from the local hospital.

“Yes Mr Smith can have a Panadol and there’s no need to call the RMO about Mrs Jones’ elevated serum folate”.

Whilst all of these important medical decisions were being made I neglected to turn off the ignition and ten minutes later the X5’s battery was flat.

Unable to jump start the car we headed back to the instruction manual to find that the battery was buried in the boot under the spare wheel and a large piece of wiring borrowed from a sci-fi movie.

Not wanting to be caught on call with a flat battery we “hollered” for a Marshall only to be told that the battery was a very unusual size and shape and not in their catalogue.

Their advice was just what we didn’t want to hear, “You’ll have to go to the dealer”.

Fortunately the BMW service department wasn’t open on a Saturday afternoon and a quick re-charge and tightening of the terminals resuscitated the patient and there’ve been no problems since.

At AMA rates it might have been cheaper to use the dealer for this job, but with a total of 16 hours experience we’re now just that much more prepared for the X5’s next bulb replacement.

Safe motoring,
Dr Clive Fraser

For: Powerful, fantastic V8.

Against: Expect to spend a lot of time at the dealer and only two year warranty.

This car would suit: Auto-electricians and cardiologists.

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    Medical Motoring is an online record of the articles written by Dr Clive Fraser and published in the Australian Medicine magazine by the Australian Medical Association.