Changing your Headlamp like a Pro

Unless you own a much older or antique classification vehicle, you may look under your hood and wonder how anyone is supposed to do minor maintenance on their own vehicle any more. It’s true that cars and trucks have become much more complicated to work on. But, changing your car’s burned out head lights is still something you can do at home, with a little more knowledge and instruction.



Car headlamps have become much more sophisticated in their construction and as such become more delicate in handling. Most modern cars have what are called halogen or pressurized bulbs, similar to the halogen bulbs that you often see in standing pole light fixtures in people’s homes. Because of this, it I important to remember that these bulbs need to be contaminant free, meaning do not touch them with our bare hands. Clean rubber kitchen gloves are perfect for handling these bulbs in order to keep them from exploding, or if the bulb turns out to be still functional, dying. Ideally you should be able to look in your owner’s manual for your bulb size in order to have your new bulb on hand when you go to make the change. If not you can either remove the bad bulb first to find the part number or have the auto parts store lookup the bulb type for your make, model, and year of car.


Removing the Old Bulb

After opening the hood you will be accessing the back side of the head lamp. This is the most effective and efficient method. You may need to pull out your user’s manual to get a better feel for where the headlight trim covers and plastic ring are located. Once you find them, simply grip the two little bulb grippers that are attached to the bulb assembly between your thumb and forefinger, and twist counter clockwise to remove. This will remove the bulb from the housing, but you will still need to disconnect the bulb from the electrical circuit wires. In most cases you will simply unscrew the bulb; however every car has its own specifications so check your manual.


Installing New Head Lamp

Installing the new bulb, should be as easy as doing the above mentioned instructions in reverse; wearing gloves screw the new bulb into the electrical connector, insert the entire thing back into the headlamp housing and twist back into place. Then turn on the headlights to check that your repair is complete, and close the hood. If the new bulb still isn’t working, double check that you have all of the wires and the bulb seated correctly. If they are drive to your nearest auto parts store and have them run an electrical diagnostic on the bulb and wires to make sure it’s not something as simple as a bad replacement bulb, or a more serious electrical issue.


It is important to remember that all cars have their own distinct idiosyncrasies so all cars will not be the same. If you have a brand new car the housing will be different than on a car twice its age. So be sure to check your owner’s manual if you have any questions before removing parts unnecessarily. Doing basic repairs to your vehicle can be easier than it looks if you take the time to get to know your cars details and mechanical layout.