How to Change Headlights

How to Change Headlights

If you’re reading this post, then it’s likely one or both of your car’s headlight bulbs have burned out. Headlights are crucial pieces of safety equipment that should not be taken lightly. After all, it’s impossible to run with both eyes closed right? Now, if one or both of your headlights are burned out, there are chances you might end up in a collision or an accident. Even worse, you may fall victim to sharp-eyed law-enforcement police who might charge you for breaking road safety rules. Thankfully, all these can be avoided by just learning how to change headlights.

Now, replacing headlights in newer vehicles isn’t as hard as it used to be with older cars a few years back. Since most rely on HID and LED bulbs, replacing them requires you to only twist the bulbs to free them from either thin clips or bayonet-style retainers holding them. However, before you start the project, you need to identify the type of headlights your car is using. Also, it’s recommended that you replace both headlights instead of one to maintain uniformity.

How to Change Headlights: Step by Step Guide

But First, What Causes Your Headlights to Get Damaged?

  • Old Age:

One of the major culprits of damaged headlights is old age. However, it doesn’t just happen overnight. It’s usually a gradual process that starts with affecting the bulb’s illumination causing it to dim over time. Noticing a dimming bulb can be very difficult and in most cases, motorists realize it when it’s already late when both headlights have already developed major problems.

  • Extreme Cold or Heat:

Besides age, another common cause of blown-out headlights is environmental factors such as extreme cold or heat. When it comes to heat, your headlights are exposed to changes in temperature that affects the filament.

Other factors such as road salt and road debris can also affect your headlights’ lenses massively causing them to block most of the light when driving at night. In this case, replacing the bulbs and the headlight lenses can seem to be the only logical step.

  • Oxidation:

Following the advancement in technology, most of headlight lenses are almost entirely made of plastic. Although plastic is resistant to damages as compared to glass, one of its major weak points is its massive susceptibility to oxidation caused by ultraviolet rays.

Once oxidation occurs, a whitish or yellowish coat appears at the top of the headlights diminishing the beam of light getting through. As a result, this makes it harder for motorists to view the road ahead of them when driving.

  • Cracks Inside the Headlight:

Lastly, minor cracks inside the headlights can cause the bulbs to blow out quite easily. Now, headlights are manufactured with watertight seals. When these seals get hit by roadside debris, they begin to wear off causing cracks. These cracks allow moisture and humidity to sneak in the inside causing water droplets to scatter inside. When the water gets to contact with the bulbs, it causes them to blow.


How to Change Headlights in 6 Steps

What You’ll Need

  • A new headlight bulb
  • A screwdriver
  • A ratchet
  • A pair of rubber gloves

Step 1: Refer to Your Headlights’ Owner’s Manual

Before you do anything, it’s a good practice to first go through your car’s owner’s manual to understand the type of bulbs and headlights you’ll be working with. In case you don’t have a manual, you can ask at the counter of the auto-parts store you’re buying the new replacement bulbs from.

Step 2: Safety First

Once you’re sure about what you’re dealing with, the next step is to gear up and get ready to work. Since you’ll be holding a sensitive bulb that can get damaged if it gets to contact with your hands’ sweat, wearing safety gloves and goggles before you begin is really important.

Step 3: Locate the Bulb’s Holder

Once you wear your protective gear, the next step is to locate the bulb holder. Most beginners think that locating the bulb holder means opening the headlights and accessing them from the front of the vehicle. If that’s what you’ve been thinking, then you’re wrong.

Accessing the bulb holder, however, means opening your car’s engine compartment to access the back of the headlight where the bulb holder rests. While some car models will allow you to access the bulb holder effortlessly, others will force you to remove some components first such as splash shields, washer-fluid bottles, and air cleaner housings. Thankfully, with a pair of needle-nose pliers and a flat-bladed screwdriver, this can be easy to accomplish.

Step 4: Disconnect the Power Wires

If you look closely, you’ll realize that three power wires have been plugged at the base of each headlight. Depending on your car’s model, the plug can be held securely by a plastic catch, a metal clip, or a screw cap. For the case of a plastic catch, you’ll see a small lever at the top of the plug which you’ll have to press down to slide the plug out.

For the case of a metal clip, pull it up then away while still holding it firm. For a screw cap, simply turn it counter-clockwise and it will come off just fine.

Step 5: Unscrew the Old Bulb

Once the wires are out of the way, you can now remove the back of the headlight holder easily to access the bulbs. Now, unscrewing a bulb can sometimes be as easy as just rotating it slightly. However, some car models will demand you to go beyond this. For instance, some car models will have the battery or the air filter housing blocking the back of the headlight holder. In such a case, you’ll have to use special tools to create some way to access the bulbs.

Step 6: Put in the New Bulb

Once you manage to remove the old damaged bulb, the next step is to replace it with a new bulb. If you were working with bare hands, this step will demand you to wear a pair of gloves. Alternatively, you can choose to hold the bulb’s glass with a tissue or a rag or you can simply stick the bulb on the respective socket while holding it on the base.

You see, your hands contain small amounts of dirt, oils, and salts coming from your sweat. By holding the bulb’s glass with such hands, you can easily contaminate the glass causing the bulb to burn out as soon as it’s installed.

So, to install the new bulb, hold it firmly on the base and stick it at the back of the headlight’s plug. Once you confirm it’s fitted all in, replace the wires back in and test the bulb to ensure its all perfect.



So, there you have it. In case you feel like your headlights are losing their brightness due to cracks, oxidation, or wear and tear due to aging, then it’s likely you’ll have to replace the bulbs to improve the brightness. But, just because the bulbs have burned out, it doesn’t mean you have to replace the entire headlight.

Sometimes, replacing the bulbs alone while leaving the headlight housing intact can help to save the hefty costs you could have incurred if you had hired a professional to do the job. But, with our six steps above, this endeavor has totally been taken care of as you only have to follow the steps to the latter.

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