How to Replace a Cars Headlight Bulbs | Ultimate Guide

how to replace headlight bulbs
Have you ever been driving down the road and noticed one of your headlights were out?
 
Your car might prompt you with a message such as “headlight malfunction”, or maybe you’ll just get a little yellow bulb icon that turns ON and that’s it. 
 
You KNOW it’s just a matter of time before the other bulb goes dead and you’ll end up “driving blind”. While it’s true that bulbs do go bad a few times during a cars lifetime, it’s also true that it’s very easy to replace them. 
 
When it becomes time to replace your headlight bulb(s), don’t worry. In most cases, it can take less than 30 minutes of your time. In this article, I’ll outline each necessary step required to make your process seemless. 

Table of Contents

Replacing Your Bulb: Steps

replacing headlight bulbs guide

Step 1 of 5: Figure out the type of bulb you need.

The ways to figures this out:.

  • The owners manual
  • Internet

First, you need to figure out the right size of bulbs. One of the easiest ways to check this info is to look at your vehicle owner’s manual.

Most cars have the original owner’s manuals still in the glovebox. In the event you don’t have one, there’s another option. The 2nd option is to simply use the internet.

Use these queries, any other similar combination to shorten your search:

“Year” + “Make” + “Model” + “Headlight Bulb Size” + “Chart”

I can’t stress enough that almost every car has its unique requirements. Some cars need different sizes bulbs for low and high beam lights (meaning, two different bulbs required).

If you live in an area where an AutoZone, Advanced Auto Pars, O’Rileys, or any other car parts shop is nearby, call them or simply stop by and ask.

For whatever reason, if all else fails, Sylvania has a dedicated page for helping you find the exact bulb size. You’ll have to sort through different settings to narrow down your car, but there you should find what you’re looking for. 

Once you figure this out, you need to know whether you’ll be replacing xenon, halogen, or LED bulbs.

In case you don’t know what makes each type of bulb great, I broke it down below:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

picking the right bulbs to replace

Step 2 of 5: Buying the right kit.

Now that you have the right size, you need to pick the appropriate type of bulb. If your car came with halogen bulbs, you can either replace them with halogen or xenon. If possible, going with HID (xenon) headlight bulbs would be the brightest option.

If your vehicle has projectors, there’s a possibility that you can replace the bulbs with either halogen, xenon, or even LED. For example, a Toyota Prius from 2010 had headlight projector housings with halogen bulbs. I ended up finding a set of LED bulbs that were popped right into the housings.

remove old bulbs

Step 3 of 5: Remove the old headlight bulbs.

Take your new bulbs out of the package and set them aside. If working with halogen or xenon, wear latex gloves so you don’t touch the bulbs with your bare hands (the oil from your fingers can cause bulbs to burn out prematurely).

Open your hood and locate your bulbs, whether they are high or low beams. This guide is created for general knowledge only and is not specific to any particular automobile.

Accessing bulbs is usually quite easy, but in rare cases, you’ll either have to unscrew a few bolts to get in there, or even remove the front bumper.

Assuming you can access your bulbs with ease, take them out and place them aside.

NOTE: Keep your vehicle OFF.

install new bulbs

Step 4 of 5. Replace with new bulbs.

Before you install the new headlight bulbs, DON’T replace just one bulb. It is highly recommended to replace both, even if the other is still working.

You can keep the good one somewhere for emergencies, but the rule of thumb is to replace in pairs.

Install your headlight bulbs into their appropriate housing.

reconnecting bulbs and testing

Step 5 of 5. Reconnect and Test.

Before you reassemble everything you’ve taken apart, test your bulbs to make sure they work properly. This can be done by 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 you’ve taken apart.

Comparing old bulbs to NEW ones

It Will Be 100% Worth It

Unless you have auto-aiming headlight housings, be sure to manually adjust your bulbs to line up with each other evenly. Once you install your bulbs and everything checks out, you have reached the end of this tutorial.

You might say this was too simplistic, and you’d be right. For some, it may not be as easy.

Personally, I’ve done this at least a dozen times on my own vehicle (Chevrolet Bolt EV). The difference between HID bulbs and LED has been significant. I’m an LED kind of guy all day, they are as instant as electric car acceleration.

Even if your bulbs have not burnt out but you are noticing a lack of performance, get better ones. Look into the right type of bulbs for your vehicle. If you want some advice, reach out to me (contact link below).