Dear Tom and Ray:
This past year, I got some kind of fungus in my ears that deteriorated my eardrums to the point that I needed hearing aids. It is great being able to hear again, but with one drawback: I drive a '97 Ford F-150 extended-cab, long-bed pickup, and when I open the door, the warning bell reverberates in my hearing aids and drives me crazy. And to top it off, the bell continues even with the door open and the key removed. I want to shoot the little guy in my dash who's ringing that bell!
My regular car mechanic says he's afraid to try to disconnect it. What can I do to get some relief? I love the truck, and it has been perfect for me through the years. Help! - Gary
TOM: It's not easy, Gary. You should see if one of the guys from the local bomb squad moonlights. He can probably handle it.
RAY: We know it's not easy because we tried it once for a customer. It was a similar Ford truck, and I think the guy wanted to sneak back into his house after his late-night book-club meetings without his wife hearing him. So he asked us to disconnect the door chime.
TOM: We took the simplest approach, which is to remove the thing that makes the noise. We located it way up under the dashboard. And after a great deal of difficulty, one sprained elbow and two dislocated shoulders, we removed it.
RAY: Only once we removed it, something else important didn't work - like the headlights, or some other lights.
It was a long time ago, so I don't remember. I just remember we had to trick the guy into picking up his car during daylight hours.
TOM: The problem is that same chime is also used to warn you when, for instance, you leave your headlights on.
And it turned out all that stuff was wired together.
RAY: So if you want to kill just the door chime, you've got to perform a more surgical operation.
TOM: The wiring module that controls this thing is in the steering column, so you have to start by removing the steering collar.
RAY: On the left side, you'll see a little plastic junction box with a bunch of colored wires attached to it. You want to find the black and purple wires, and carefully cut them.
TOM: Be careful. If you cut the red wire by mistake, Harrison Ford may have to come in and rescue you.
RAY: The real reason to be careful is that it's much easier and cheaper to cut these wires than it is to put them back!
TOM: Also keep in mind that the chime is there for a reason: Because lots of morons like us have locked their keys in the car, or left the headlights on.
RAY: So another idea would be to try dulling the chime first. If you find the chime itself up under the dash, you can remove it and then wrap it in some sound insulation and duct tape. That may mute the sound enough so it doesn't hurt your ears, while still leaving a slightly audible warning chime in place. That way, just as you slam the locked door with the keys still in the ignition, you can say to yourself, "What's that faint dinging noise I hear?"
You can listen to Tom and Ray Magliozzi's "Car Talk" program at 10 a.m. Saturdays on National Public Radio station WUSF, 89.7 FM.