Presto Change-O: How to Change a Headlight Bulb

So you are cruising down the road, just minding your own business when all of a sudden, the rear view comes to life with cherries and berries. Yup, you are getting pulled over. You weren’t speeding, rather a burned out headlight. You can save yourself some hard-earned cash by taking care of that bad bulb in just a few minutes.

Halogen bulbs burn very hot. The number one reason for premature failure of a halogen headlight bulb is oil staining. The glass on a halogen bulb must absolutely be perfectly clean. Just one fingerprint can cause the bulb to burn out. Sometimes it is instant, and sometimes it can last a few weeks, but touching the glass with your bare hands will always cause the light burn out quicker. To keep this from happening, you should wear a pair of vinyl or latex gloves and to avoid touching the glass of the bulb. You should be able to do this without much issue, but some cars don’t have removable headlight lenses, and you have to work blind. Just take care to protect the bulb from any kind of oil and you should be good to go.

While all cars are different, most modern car’s headlight bulbs can be changed in just a few minutes without tools. To show you the process, we swapped a high-beam bulb on a 2003 Chevy Silverado 1500 truck. While you don’t need any tools, you do need to know a couple of precautions.

This job is easier if you can remove the housing. Most modern cars have this feature.

This job is easier if you can remove the housing. Most modern cars have this feature.

We picked up a set of bulbs from our local NAPA store and then got to work. The Chevy truck has a removable headlamp housing. There is a flip-up lever on the center of the housing that locks it into position. This gets lifted up and slid out of the plastic latch.

On the truck, there is a sliding pin latch.

On the truck, there is a sliding pin latch.

One side flips up out of the catch and then it slides out.

One side flips up out of the catch and then it slides out.

Next, the entire housing pulls out of the car.

Then the entire housing pops out.

Then the entire housing pops out.

It may look like you need a special Torx screwdriver, but you don’t. Just twist the bulb and remove it from the housing. Don’t forget to unclip the terminals.

The screws show here hold the locking ring to the housing, no need to touch those.

The screws show here hold the locking ring to the housing, no need to touch those.

Just give the bulb a counterclockwise twist...

Just give the bulb a counterclockwise twist…

And then the bulb pops out.

And then the bulb pops out.

The new bulbs come with a foam sleeve over the glass. Wait until the last second to remove it. Note the latex gloves.

Don't remove the foam sleeve until the bulb is ready to go in.

Don’t remove the foam sleeve until the bulb is ready to go in.

You can connect the wire terminal before or after you install the bulb, your choice. We attached it before.

The plug clips on just like the factory bulb.

The plug clips on just like the factory bulb.

Then the bulb was inserted into the housing and rotated clockwise to lock it place.

Next, the sleeve was removed.

Next, the sleeve was removed.

With a clockwise turn, the bulb is locked into the housing.

With a clockwise turn, the bulb is locked into the housing.

The housing then gets re-installed into the car. There are two slots in the bottom of the inner bracket, these can be tricky to line up sometimes. Be patient. It will go back in place, just hold your tongue the right way!

Watch out for the housing tabs on the inside of the car. These locate the housing itself.

Watch out for the housing tabs on the inside of the car. These locate the housing itself.

The last step is to slide the retainer pin lever back into the latch and lock it down.

Finally, the latch pin is re-installed and the job is done. Easy peasy.

Finally, the latch pin is re-installed and the job is done. Easy peasy.

Replacing headlight bulbs is easy and can be done in your driveway. If you need help, just ask one the salespersons in the store, they should be able to help you out.

To learn more about NAPA AutoCare, visit www.NAPAAutoCare.com.

 

about author

Jefferson Bryant

A life-long gearhead, Jefferson Bryant spends more time in the shop than anywhere else. His career began in the car audio industry as a shop manager, eventually working his way into a position at Rockford Fosgate as a product designer. In 2003, he began writing tech articles for magazines, and has been working as an automotive journalist ever since. His work has been featured in Car Craft, Hot Rod, Rod & Custom, Truckin’, Mopar Muscle, and many more. Jefferson has also written 4 books and produced countless videos. Jefferson operates Red Dirt Rodz, his personal garage studio, where all of his magazine articles and tech videos are produced.

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