Let Joe Know: How a burned out headlight could cost $900

Small Car, Expensive Problem

Valerie Boehne loves her 2007 Dodge Caliber. It's small, sporty and cute. But, there's one little problem: Her headlights keep failing.

"I went to buy a bulb, hoping that was the problem," Boehne said. "And it wasn't!"

Frustrated, Boehne and her husband went online to several car forums, including Edmunds.com, and couldn't believe what they found: dozens of complaints about headlight failures in Dodge Calibers, in particular the 2007 models.

Boehne said "we found, in different blogs and websites, a lot of people complaining that the left headlight being a common issue, and it's ultimately because of their TIPM box. It has faults in it and it makes your left headlight not work."

According to mechanics, the caliber – and many other Dodges – use a power module called a TIPM instead of a traditional fuse box to control the headlights.

TIPM problems appear to trigger Caliber headlight failure, several mechanics tell us. And replacement of the unit is not cheap.

Boehne says one dealer wanted more than $900 to replace her car's TIPM. Luckily, she found another dealer who was able to find a workaround for much less.

"The dealership was able to reset the computer in the car to remove the fault and the headlight did come on," Boehne said. "But, they said if it goes out again, they will have to replace the module."

No Free Repair

We contacted Chrysler, but the automaker says at this point there is no recall or free repair if your car is off warranty.

So, if this happens to you, get a second opinion before spending big bucks.

Boehne would like to see a recall on 2007 Calibers, saying no one should have to spend almost a grand just to fix a bad headlight.

"It's the thousand dollar headlight," she called it.

No Recall Required

Chrysler is not obligated to recall these headlights, as recalls are issued only for safety problems.

At this point, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does not consider this to be enough of a safety problem to warrant one.

My advice: Get a second opinion if you are hit with a big repair estimate. There may be a simpler, cheaper fix available.

And be sure to check if there is a recall on problems like that. To search for recalls, check out NHTSA's website .

If you need help or need to warn others about a consumer problem or scam, let me know at joe@abc15.com or by going to my  "Let Joe Know" Facebook page.

Print this article Back to Top

Comments