How to Change Headlight Bulbs: Step-by-Step Guide

By: Kris LeSueur   |   11 Dec 2023
Image from: Alta Mere

Changing headlights can vary in complexity depending on your vehicle's headlight housing setup, but with patience, it's a manageable task. Before diving in, decide on the type of headlight bulbs you need.

It’s important to start with a quick fuse test to rule out a faulty fuse as the issue, as blown fuses can sometimes mimic faulty or dim headlights. Confirming the source of the problem can save you time and money.

Assuming the fuse is fine and you have your new bulbs ready, you should do the following steps to change your car’s headlights.

Step 1: Park and Prep

Park your vehicle on a flat, well-lit surface. Then, engage the parking brake and turn off the engine. Don’t forget to remove the keys/

Step 2: Disconnect Headlight Housing

Open the hood, and disconnect the negative battery terminal to avoid live wire contact. Locate the headlight backing behind the housing, and unscrew the dust cover. After that, disconnect the power connector, and remove the headlight housing unit.

Note that some vehicles may allow bulb replacement without removing the entire housing.

Step 3: Remove Old Headlight Bulb

Identify low beam and high beam bulbs. Turn the bulb counterclockwise to unlock it, and align the locking tabs and pull out the old bulb carefully. Avoid damaging the tabs, as replacing them requires a new headlight assembly.

Step 4: Install New Headlight Bulb

Make sure to handle the new bulb with gloves or tissue to prevent contamination. Align the replacement bulb with the locking tabs, then turn it clockwise until it clicks. If needed, gently wipe the bulb clean. After this, you can reattach the headlight assembly.

Step 5: Repeat for Other Headlight

Replace bulbs in pairs to ensure uniform lighting. Repeat steps 2 to 4 for the other headlight.

Step 6: Test Your New Headlights

Turn the car on and test the high and low beams to ensure they function correctly. If issues persist, consult a mechanic, as wiring problems may be at play.

Remember to identify your headlight type before changing them.

What are the Types of Headlight Bulbs and Housings?

Understanding your vehicle's headlight bulb and housing types is essential for successful replacement. There are different types of headlight bulbs:

  • Halogen bulbs: Contain halogen gas and a tungsten filament, producing yellow-tinged light. Lifespan: 450 to 1700 hours.
  • LED bulbs: Produce bright, cool light via a microchip and last up to 10,000 hours.
  • HID lights: Emit bright white or blue light when heated. Longer-lasting than halogen but shorter-lived than LED bulbs.

And there are also different types of headlight housing which require specific equipment and procedure:

  • Reflector Headlight Housings: Use reflective surfaces to direct and focus light.
  • Projector Headlight Housings: Combine reflectors and convex lenses for precise, intense beams.
  •  Composite Headlight Housings: Integrate bulb, reflector, and lens into a single glass unit.
  • LED Headlight Housings: Feature individually controlled LEDs for precise lighting patterns.
  • HID Headlight Housings: Equipped with projector-style housing to control light output and reduce glare.

It’s important that you know how to perform simple activities such as changing your headlights when you own a car. However, if you can’t, you can simply go to your trusted mechanic to let them do it for you.

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