Depending on the make and model of your car, parts can go bad. One area that you can count on for eventual fault would be your vehicles headlight bulbs.
You can do all the regular maintenance you want, but the only way to know if your headlight bulbs have gone bad is…
- To get a notification in your car that a “light” is out
- Visually see one or both lights out at night
- Get pulled over and be told by a police officer that you’ve got a head bulb(s).
When it becomes time to replace your headlight bulb(s), don’t worry. Doing so is quite easy and should need minimal effort to get IN and get OUT.
But before you go any further, please note these factors which determine the longevity of a typical halogen bulb:
- Read Surface – Uneven and bumpy roads can cause the filaments in the bulbs to get tossed around too often. This increases the likelihood of your bulbs burning-out by at least 2X.
- Hours in Use – Very few things in an automobile last forever (if anything). Headlight bulbs that have been in use for a long time (hours upon hours of use) will burn out.
- Bulb Life Varies – Different types of bulbs will last longer than others. Higher voltage tends to affect bulb longevity.
No matter how many times you need to replace them, this guide should do the trick, each time. Follow the sequence of steps below to get started:
Step 1 of 5: Figure out the type of bulb you need.
Ways to figure this out are…
- The owners manual
You first need to figure out what is the appropriate size of your cars headlight bulbs. The first step is to figure it out by looking at the cars user manual (if you still have one).
Assuming you got one, browse and search for the “lighting” section to see replacement bulb specs.
IF this fails OR you just need to verify… go to option #2 which is… internet.
You can take the harder rout by going to forums and seeing what others are installing in their cars. Or, you can go to websites like AutomotiveBulbFinder.com and search the right bulb size.
I can’t stress enough that almost every car has its unique requirements. Some automobiles need different sizes bulbs for low and high beam lights.
A surefire way to verify any question you have about yours cars bulbs, is to call your local auto-parts store (AutoZone, Advanced Auto Parts, O’Riley’s… etc).
After you got the right size for your bulbs, figure out if your replacement bulbs are Halogen, Xenon or LED.
Here are the three options:
- Halogen – Most common and cheapest option with decent light output. Their lifespan tends to be quite long, but the energy they use tends to be wasted through heat.
- Xenon/HID – The brightest of them all, working quite well in projector and reflector housings. They are the most expensive option and can cause a lot of glare to other drivers.
- LED – Use far less heat to operate than HID’s or halogens. Their brightness levels are between halogen and Xenon bulbs. When it comes to longevity, they can last the longest (by a good margin).
CAUTION: It’s important to use the correct type of bulb. Failing to do so can result in overheating of bulbs, headlamp housing and melting of the wire connections.
Step 2 of 5: Buy the bulbs.
Now that we’ve went through the agonizing process of finding the right kind of size and type, once you found what you want, go ahead and buy your kit.
SIDE NOTE: If you can, go with LED. They last the longest, are bright, and turn-on instantly. I have a guide that compares them here.
Step 3 of 5: Remove the old headlight bulbs.
Once you got your new set of bulbs read to be installed, its time to remove the old ones. This may seem like a daunting task, but I promise its not.
First, you need to open the hood of your vehicle. Go inside and pop the latch which holds the hood down.
Second, locate the headlight compartment in front of the engine bay. Make sure that what your are looking at, lines up with the headlight housing in the front. In most modern vehicles, the headlight bulb will be attache to a plastic bulb connector that twists and comes out.
Once you remove the plastic bulb connector, you’ll see the OLD bulb comes out with it. This is most common with halogen bulbs.
When replacing HID’s or LED’s, you’ll need to replace the bulbs and ballasts with new ones.
Step 4 of 5. Replace with new bulbs.
Its now time to install your new bulbs where the old ones were. Assuming you’ve picked the right size and type of bulbs, installation should take you no more than a few seconds per bulb.
When you install either halogen or xenon bulbs, wear gloves to ensure NO oil from your skin gets on them. If it does, use rubbing alcohol to wipe them clean before you complete the installation.
CAUTION: Please do NOT replace just one bulb. Replacing both bulbs is a good practice to have equal brightness on both sides.
Step 5 of 5. Reconnect and Test.
Before you reassemble everything you’ve taken apart, test your bulbs to ensure they aren’t faulty. This can be done by properly fastening the new bulbs into place, reconnecting the necessary wires, and flipping the lights ON.
While the lights are one, go in front of your vehicle and do a visual inspection. Are they:
- Installed correctly
- Pointing in the right direction
- Both emit the same brightness
After those things check-out, go ahead and reassemble everything else you’ve taken apart. Close the hood and get on with your life.
If this was your first time, odds are high that your second time will much easier. You now know how to change the headlight bulbs in your car, congratulations!
What you’ve read above is a step-by-step guide on how to replace your old bulbs with new ones. We talked about the good and bad aspects of different types of bulbs, and ultimately which ones you should go with.
Since we’re all about electric cars, you may find it useful to browse around our “Good-to-Know” section.