When it rains, it pours. 2002 Sienna bad headlight bulb

When it rains, it pours. My 2002 Sienna had a burned out headlight bulb the other day.

So, why am I even mentioning it? Buy a new 9003 bulb, open the hood, unplug the socket; pull off the rubber cover, twist the clip and take out the bad buld, and reverse it to put in the new one.

Sigh. No one in town had a 9003. They did have 9004, but some on-line research said some bulbs have very precise placement for the filaments. While I am not sure 9004 is different wiring from 9003, why bother?

So, I dug in the box of used parts, found an old bulb I swapped out probably over 100,000 miles ago, grabbed some pipe cleaners and rubbing alcohol, and cleaned that old bulb and put it in. Works fine.

When I go to Tehuacan or Tepeaca, I will try to get the correct bulb. And, will replace them both while I am at it.

If I can’t find one, I will tell my SIL to send one with my wife next trip to the States.

Is there a question here?
Do you have internet?
Do you have mail?
Can’t you order bulbs over the internet and have then delivered?

Go with the correct bulb, they are not interchangeable from what I read on the inter web

No, no question which is why I put it in Discussion instead of repair.

Thanks, but you can’t order stuff by Internet, not here in rural Mexico. I will get by using the used one(s) until I get to a city, which may be as soon as Wednesday. I was only trying to show why I use high reliability policies as I have mentioned over the years.

In the past, some have questioned my high-rel efforts, and this was a demonstration of why it might be necessary. I can get by with the bulbs I have, but other parts are going to be really bad to find.

So far, I have got by for around 50,000 miles just in Mexico. I also keep the best old tires. The Sienna uses an uncommon size that I can’t find easily in Mexico. So, I not only have an extra old but usable tire. I also bought a second spare wheel and had a good tire mounted and balanced on it.

Thanks, Barky. That’s how I read it, too.

@irlandes, would be glad to pick up a part and ship it to you, payback Wifey and I come by you stay in a hotel of course but meet for dinner, Dutch treat! If that is too much I would be glad to buy any parts you need and ship them to you and trust you to reimburse me, Let me know @barkydog

Just curious, couldn’t your local auto parts store order a 9003 for you? Even here in San Jose, Calif, it’s not uncommon for me to need a part the auto parts store doesn’t have on hand, but they’ll order it up and phone me the next day or the next week after it arrives.

Yes, I understand, George, but you are in the USA and I am in a Third World Village in rural Mexico. Which not only means in a Third World village, but not within a normal supply chain such as you have in the US.

When I first came here, I wiped out a tire, really bad. Not at all serviceable or repairable.

I went to a local tire guy who contacted his supplier in the state capitol when he went there on his weekly pickup trip for tires. The supplier told him he would order it. Every week he would check, and the tire never came.

I parked my car for an entire month waiting for that tire to come, and finally told the local tire guy I was convinced that tire was never even ordered. He scrounged up something of a different size that would fit on my spare wheel so I would have a usable spare.

My doctor friend later invited me to spend the weekend with him at his apartment in the big city. We drove around and found one, a cheap Asian tire of the correct size. When I bought that spare wheel last year in McAllen, that was the tire I had put on it for second spare.

That is why I have several spares extra for my wheels.

They may in fact be able to get it via their supply chain. But, will they even try is the question. And, if they try, will their supplier make an effort to bring it.

Remember, they are determined you must use 20W-50 oil or your motor will blow up.

This issue is why Wal-mart and Sam’s Club are so popular in Mexico. Most stores only stock the same narrow range of goods which seem to sell the most. It does no good to go elsewhere. Wal-mart when one is available stocks a much wider range of items, though even they are limited in scope.

I would not be surprised at all if Wal-mart in Tehuacan has the 9003. But, AutoZone is across the street.

Now, for medicines my pharmacist friend can order almost anything in stock and have it within the week from Mexico City on an established supply chain.

The parts places stock a very limited range of the most popular parts. Lots of 20W-50 oil, for example. And, thus it is likely their supply chain is mostly limited to those common items.

The USA is known for many things. And, one of them is the incredible market place for almost anything that exists. With the Internet it is even more complex.

I went Saturday to a local school closing, a major ceremony including graduation of the Seniors, and three hours of music and drama. The young woman who invited me (one of my long term English students) plays the saxophone in the school marching band. Out of curiosity I googled for ‘saxophone Amazon’, and they had a wide range of saxophones of various types from $275 to $1300, available fast in the USA. Unbelievable! Here you would probably have to go into Mexico City for more than one choice on saxophones.

I see what you mean @irlandes. In the western USA we have a lot isolated places too, but there’s usually some way to get stuff there without too much time delay. A rancher friend of mine was driving across the northern Nevada desert on Highway 50, sometimes called “America’s loneliest highway” because it has very little traffic and sometimes as many as 100 mile stretches between even the smallest towns. He broke down one morning as he arrived at a town called Austin, Nevada. It’s a small gold and silver mining town, maybe 350 residents. He needed a new alternator. The local garage didn’t have one that fit his truck, so they phoned the auto parts store at nearest town of any size, Fallon, maybe 75 miles away. The replacement alternator arrived at the Austin garage on the UPS truck within 2 1/2 hours, and he was back on the road before lunch. Apparently there’s UPS trucks along that road every hour or so, 7 days a week, and this same day parts delivery service via UPS is commonplace.

@Irlandes; See, that’s what you get. Those poor guys still waiting at the garbage truck…no water…sun beating on their brows…and you’re off looking for a bulb. :slight_smile:

My daughter was once married to a Mexican man and he explained that you never send anything of value in the mail to mexico. THe post workers will take anything of value.

That’s why all the ones here, WIRE money home.

So having one mailed to his house or office, might not ever make it.


@GeorgeSanJose‌ Did you have a chance to walk around Austin at all? Interesting place, one of a series of mining boomtown that leapfrogged across Nevada, especially after the discovery of the massive Comstock Lode at Virginia City. Austin has a small population living in the midst of ghost town ruins. It didn’t completely go away because US 50 was built through there, roughly following the Pony Express Route. The stretch between Fallon and Ely is classic Great Basin scenery. Unlike other roads that mostly avoid the mountains US 50 goes over many ranges, then you swoop, often on a straight road, down to the bottom of a dry valley, possibly with a Playa in the bottom, then straight up the mountains on the other side. For a few miles near the top of the mountains the roads get twisty. That’s often where the ore was found, way up high. Austin is perched in one of those ranges, with it’s three old motels (don’t expect anything nice). The only other real town between Fallon and Ely is Eureka, about twice as big as Austin and much more prosperous. If you’ve never had the chance and you’re itching for some solitude, go for it. Great Basin National Park, near the Utah Border, is light on facilities for anyone not into camping, but they do have the very pretty Lehmann Cave in the park. During peak season you should buy tickets ahead of getting there or you might find yourself with a long wait.

Yes @MarkM , I’ve driven along highway 50 myself, I go that route sometimes when I have plenty of time travelling between San Francisco and Denver. I usually meet up again w/I-80 in Salt Lake City. I’ve stopped at Austin on occasion to stretch my legs. By all appearances, it’s a nice, friendly place to make a visit. One way I could tell Austin is a town where folks care about each other, on the way out of town there’s the town cemetery you drive by, and it is always filled with bouquets of fresh cut flowers on the graves.

@Yosemite Funny!!

Fortunately it isn’t that hot here in the Central Highlands this time of year. Each 1000 feet you go up in altitude the temperature drops 3 F.

You are also correct in that ordering things seldom get there anyway. No, lack of access to material things is a trade off for the benefits one gets living in Mexico.

I came to Cordoba to visit an American born niece who is back for her first visit in two years. I saw her take her first step as a baby, now she is 13 and looks 18.

We went out to go up the pedestrian bridge over the railroad track. This is where the so-called Refugee trains pass. We went on to Aurrera, a Wal-mart subsidiary store, and I looked for 9003 bulbs. They only had 9004,9006, and 9007. We checked several other places and they had the same choices.

So, I am beginning to think they may use a bulb which “works” but may not be in focus. Next week, when I go to Tehuacan to develop pictures, I will check AutZone. If they don’t have 9003 I will ask my wife to bring back a couple when she goes to Texas next month.

Note I can get by due to keeping the old bulbs I replaced in advance of failure, but I do want new bulbs.

@irlandes; Thanks for being a good sport and taking a joke.
We here in the states are so spoiled, because we are used to getting things the next day, or maybe a few days. We overlook the fact that in some parts of the world materials are not so easy to get your hands on.
You need to patch a hole and in some parts, a tin can lid is the best you can find. We remove a rotted exhaust pipe and they would keep it around. They never know when they will need an elbow to reroute an exhaust.

My wife used to insist that when one bulb went out the other would blow soon. Lucky for me, My truck takes the same bulb and I just use her 1/2 good ones on my truck when one of her’s goes out. I never really noticed how much longer life these bulbs had left, but I’ve never put one of her 1/2 used bulbs in my truck and had to replace it within a year.


That is pretty much my attitude. When one goes out, the others are not going to last long.

On the other hand, in Dec. 1964 I was driving my 1953 Chevrolet from the Midwest to Ft. Lewis. As I crossed the mountains I was a few minutes ahead of a major snow storm. when I stopped for gas, the station attendants would be surprised I was there. They were told the highways had been shut down. Obviously right behind me.

But, at one point, the HP stopped me to tell me a headlight was out. When I stopped to get it replaced, the mechanic told me that was an original sealed beam unit. He could tell by the paint on the bulb. That meant that bulb lasted over 11 years.

Of course, this bulb has well over 100,000 miles, I think, so I guess it would be the same. and, this bulb is also a running light which means its on all the time at low voltage.

“…this bulb is also a running light which means its on all the time at low voltage.”

Yes, that would be the high-beam filament. Trivia: The life of a tungsten filament is proportional to the 13th power of the applied voltage so using high-beams this way as DRLs doesn’t shorten their life much.

Oops! Then that wasn’t what caused it to go bad. The low beam filament is the one which failed. Thanks for correcting me.

Also, though I worked on military light bulbs at the factory, I never heard about the 13th power issue. Or, if I did, it never registered on my brain. Learn something every day. I did know voltage correlated with life of the bulb.

My BIL offered to take me to a place where he was sure they’d have it. We drove off, and went to the same place I went to yesterday. I told him they don’t have it, we checked yesterday. Then, he drove further downtown and went to a big place. They were determined to handle the old bulb, and finally came up with an H4 which they said would do.

Just yesterday, I was Googling away and a page said the difference was the H4 had poor build control on filament placement. So, I declined the choice.

I told my BIL that would explain why you see so many poorly adjusted headlights. In Mexico, they don’t care much if it isn’t properly adjusted as long as it work. But, in the US if your headlight is poorly aimed, you can get a defective equipment summons, depending upon your state.

One more try at Autozone in Tehuacan. I predict they won’t have it. So, I will tell my wife to bring two with her when she comes back in August.

Today, I went to Tepeaca, and we went into Chedraui supermarket. I wandered over to the car bulb section. They had 9004/9006/ 9007 and H4 The H4 package specifically listed 2002 Sienna as an application for that bulb.

When I got home, I Googled for:

H4 9003 headlight differences

and found http://candlepowerinc.com/pdfs/H4_9003.pdf

This article explains the technical stuff and the history involved in H4 and 9003 and also explains that some states prohibit H4 bulbs in 9003 applications. But, outside the USA you can use the H4.

So, there will be no 9003 bulbs in Mexico, period. I am confident.

If I have an actual need for a bulb, I can use an H4 here, then put in a 9003 when I get home.

The difference involves internal tolerances in the design, as opposed to actual differences. Some manufacturers actually make H4 with the tighter specs and they will be cross-marked.

So, as in many cases in the contract defense plant where my wife and I worked for over 30 years, IT’S BECAUSE THE GOVERNMENT SAYS SO.

I took some of my English students into Tehuacan. Three of the four young people had never been there. So, there I was , in the Tehuacan Zocalo (zocalo means the park; the government offices and the cathedral) with 3 of the most incredibly beautiful women from my village, and their younger brother. Life can be so cruel! Heh, heh.

I also treated them to their first taste of McDonald’s.

I stopped by AutoZone and asked for the H4 bulb. The man came up with the 9003/H4 bulb. I got two and replaced them both. Also, I got 4 7443 bulbs. Two went out last week, maybe from the hard slamming of that damaged hatch to get it to turn off the open door warning light.

As I was emptying my car out for the shop, I bumped into my stock of extra bulbs in the center console. I had plenty of new 7443 bulbs that I had forgotten. Sigh!

When we went to Tehuacan I had two bulbs out in the rear end. I thought about it, and by swapping in an old bulb I kept years ago, I got one of them working. The other one had two filaments and the stop filament was okay, so I moved it into the slot with the bad stop filament which kept me out of trouble if a transito saw me.

All is cool again.