Dear Tom and Ray:
I am a very poor nursing student with a '97 Nissan Sentra that has developed a very large trunk leak. I poured water over the trunk, and it was very obviously coming in behind the seal between the yellow taillight and the trunk itself. Can I repair this myself? Is there a quick, cheap fix? I'm pretty much a novice at car repair, but I do own tools. Thank you for your help. -- Kelli
RAY: Sure, you can do this yourself, Kelli. I mean, if you can replace bandages, change bedpans and subdue over-stimulated old codgers during their sponge baths, this will be a piece of cake.
TOM: It's possible that the gasket between the light fixture and the car's body has failed. Unfortunately, you'll probably have a hard time buying only that gasket.
RAY: So, there are two other options. One is to replace the gasket with silicone caulk. To do that, you have to remove the whole taillight assembly. The nuts come off from the back, inside the trunk. And then the whole assembly should pop off.
TOM: So you take off the assembly, remove the old gasket, clean the site of the wound and then caulk everywhere that the assembly touches the body of the car. Before you do this, you might also want to change all of the bulbs in there, because you may never be able to get to them again!
RAY: That's true. I can't remember whether the bulbs are accessible from the trunk on this car.
TOM: It's possible, however, that when you remove the assembly, you'll discover that the plastic lens or the housing is cracked or broken. In that case, the silicone might not work. You can try to caulk up the crack if it's small enough, but you might not be able to make it watertight. If not, you'll have to go for the transplant, Kelli: You'll have to replace the whole taillight assembly.
RAY: You can get one of those at your local auto recycling center, a.k.a. junkyard. Make sure the one you buy has a good gasket and no cracks. The good news is that unlike with human transplants, there's very little risk of rejection with Sentra taillights, Kelli. Good luck.