Do you know how to clean a headlight bulb? Headlight bulbs burn out, and they need to be replaced as soon as possible. It’s not safe or legal to drive without working headlights and a set of blue lights flashing in your rearview mirror is proof. Headlight bulbs are easy to change, even for the novice, but if you touch the bulb with your bare fingers, then you’ll cause problems. Here’s why you don’t want to touch the bulb and what to do if it accidentally happens.
Although you change the light bulbs in your house without worrying about touching them, headlight bulbs are different. The halogen bulbs used in headlights get very hot. That heat dissipates across the entire surface of the bulb at a uniform rate, so the bulb expands at a uniform rate. If you touch the bulb with your bare fingers, this process goes wrong.
No matter how clean your fingers are, there are still natural oils on the surface of your skin. Touching the bulb transfers those oils to the headlight bulb where they disrupt the uniform heating process.
That bit of oil, which you may not even be able to see, heats at a higher temperature than the rest of the bulb. It can then cause the bulb to crack, shatter, or prematurely burn out. To avoid this problem, your best bet is to wear a clean pair of rubber gloves. If you somehow do manage to touch the glass, here’s how to clean a headlight bulb.
A Soft Cloth Solves the Problem
You can use a clean cloth if that’s all you have handy, but your best bet is to use rubbing alcohol. Simply wipe down the surface of the bulb thoroughly and you’ll remove the oil. This is how to clean a headlight bulb if you get any surface grime on it during installation, whether it’s oil from your fingers or other dirt.
To keep the bulb clean, try to limit the amount of time it’s out of the package and don’t open it until the moment you’re ready to screw it into the socket. It can also be helpful to change your gloves if you’re installing more than one bulb to prevent anything from getting on the bulb’s surface.
Now you know how to clean a headlight bulb if you accidentally touch it, but the best advice is to wear gloves from the start to keep the bulb squeaky clean.
Check out all the vision and safety products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on cleaning your headlight’s bulbs, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
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Nicole Wakelin covers the automotive industry as a freelance journalist for a variety of outlets. Her work includes news pieces, podcasts, radio, written reviews, and video reviews. She can be found in The Boston Globe, CarGurus, BestRide, US News and World Report, and AAA along with lifestyle blogs like Be Car Chic, The Other PTA, and She Buys Cars. She is active on social media with a large following on both Twitter and Instagram and currently serves as Vice President of the New England Motor Press Association.