Changing a Headlight

Driving without two functioning headlights is not just dangerous—it is also illegal. Headlight replacement is an easy do-it-yourself job, no matter what kind of vehicle you drive, and it can be done quickly in just a few simple steps. We'll help walk you through it.

Identify Your Bulb Type

It is very important to use the correct type of bulb and wattage when replacing a headlight that is burned out. There are a couple of very easy ways to identify what type of light bulb your vehicle needs:

  • Refer to your owner's manual—You may find either a graph or chart identifying the bulb wattage and bulb number.
  • Use an online bulb finder—There are online tools that can help you find the bulb meant for your vehicle's make, model, and year.

Tools for the Job

There are no especially high-tech tools necessary for changing a headlight bulb. But you should make sure that you have a couple things handy.

  • Vehicle owner's manual: Your owner's manual will have more than just the type of bulb you will need—it will also show you where your bulb is placed and how to switch out your headlight.
  • Rubbing alcohol or alcohol wipes: These are not a necessity, but if you happen to touch the surface of the lightbulb, you'll want to wipe it clean to prevent damage.
  • Screwdriver: While newer vehicle models don't use screws to hold any of the parts in place, you may need one for an older vehicle.
  • Safety glasses: Always a good idea to keep yourself safe.

Steps to Change a Headlight

  1. Open and prop your vehicle's hood.
  2. Remove the power connector from the back of the headlight. This may require a slight turn to get it loose.
  3. Remove the dust cover from the back of headlight. This also may require a small twist to get loose.
  4. Some cars have a clip that holds the bulb in place. Press down on this clip to release the light bulb.
  5. Grasp the housing of the bulb and pull it out. This step may require a little wiggling to get it loose. Do not pull the bulb by the glass or tug the bulb roughly. You could cause it to break.
  6. Holding the old bulb and new bulbs by their housings, compare to make sure they match.
  7. To guarantee your bulb is free of dust and fingerprints, gently wipe it with pre-moistened alcohol wipe or rubbing alcohol on a dust-free cloth.
  8. Line up the bulb housing with the open socket and insert carefully. Make sure it's secure.
  9. Slide the bulb back in place and twist if necessary to make sure it's locked into its spot.
  10. Replace the clip (if you have one), dust cover, and power connector.
  11. Turn on your headlights to ensure the bulb and connection are working.
  12. Close the hood and pat yourself on the back!
DMV.ORG BBB Business Review