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How To Replace A Headlight Bulb Or Assembly

A headlight assembly on a car. Replacing a headlight or a headlight assembly on a car isn't difficult and can keep you, as well as other drivers on the road, safe.

Vision, four-fifths of our perception, is one of our most important abilities. While driving, your eyes sweep the road for danger, but dusk, night, dawn, rain, and fog are difficult situations to see and be seen in. Knowing how to replace a headlight keeps you and others safe on the road. You might need to replace a headlight for various reasons.

A dim or burnt-out bulb is a common reason to replace a headlight. Other reasons might be if the lens is yellowed beyond repair, poorly sealed, or the headlight assembly is damaged. For better night visibility, you could upgrade your headlights with headlight bulbs built for nighttime driving. Replace the headlight as soon as you notice a problem. Your vision and your visibility depend on it.

How to Replace a Headlight Bulb

Most owner’s manuals give instructions on how to replace a headlight bulb, a common failure and critical safety item. Usually, replacing a headlight bulb requires nothing more complicated than your fingers. Some require a screwdriver, and others require a bit more effort, such as removing the battery. There are four basic steps after shutting off the engine and headlights.

  • Uncover – To protect the headlight bulb from water and dirt, most are covered with a plastic cap or a rubber seal. Uncover by pulling, turning, twisting, or depressing the tab. Silicone spray can loosen stubborn seals.
  • Unplug – Sometimes this is the first step, but other times the connector is under the cover. Unplug the bulb.
  • Remove – The two most common ways to remove a headlight bulb are by twisting or unclipping. Some are held by a screw. Untwist about one-third of a turn, unclip the retainer wire, or remove the screw, then remove the bulb and discard. Pay attention to the orientation of the bulb when removing.
  • Install – When fitting the new headlight bulb, orient it as the old one and reinstall it by twisting, clipping, or replacing the screw. Do not dirty the headlight bulb glass with your fingers or anything else, which causes premature failure. If the bulb is dirty, clean it with an alcohol wipe. Finally, connect the bulb and replace the cover.

How to Replace a Headlight Assembly

replace a headlight assemblyIf the assembly is damaged, the retainer is melted — headlights are hot! — or the lens is cracked, you need to replace the whole assembly. There are many ways to replace a headlight assembly. Every make and model is different, but most aren’t very complicated.

To replace a headlight assembly, you’ll need some basic hand tools, such as a ratchet, sockets, screwdrivers, maybe a small pry tool. For many vehicles, you may need to remove or loosen the plastic front bumper cover or the grille. Painter’s tape is a great way to protect these parts from getting scratched, as it’s easy to apply and easy to remove.

Knowing how to replace a headlight bulb isn’t particularly complex and requires few tools, if any. For most vehicles, you can get this done in less than 10 minutes. Replacing a headlight assembly is more complicated but within the realm of most DIYers with basic tools. Most headlight assemblies shouldn’t take more than 40 minutes to replace.

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 how to replace a headlight, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Image via Pixabay.


Benjamin Jerew View All

Ben has been taking things apart since he was 5, and putting them back together again since he was 8. After dabbling in DIY repairs at home and on the farm, he found his calling in the CGCC Automobile Repair program. After he held his ASE CMAT for 10 years, Ben decided he needed a change. Now, he writes on automotive topics across the web and around the world, including new automotive technology, transportation legislation, emissions, fuel economy and auto repair.

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