If your headlights are starting to fail, it’s essential that you replace them right away. Dim or burnt-out headlights mean you won’t be able to see the road appropriately in inclement conditions. On top of that. Other drivers won’t be able to see you coming, and you could end up causing an accident.
Replacing your headlights isn’t as difficult as you might think. Those who aren’t used to DIY projects might think they need a professional headlight replacement, but that’s not the case.
You can save some money by buying the bulb and replacing the headlight yourself. Ahead, we’ll give you a step-by-step guide, as well as some more information about the specifics of headlights.
Signs Your Headlights are Failing
There are a few telltale signs that your headlights are failing you. The most glaring of signs that you need a headlight replacement is when a headlight stops working.
If you notice that your headlight is out, it’s time for a replacement. Not only is driving with one or more headlights missing dangerous, but it’s also against the law. The police could pull you over and issue you a ticket for knowingly driving without a headlight.
If your headlight completely burns out, we suggest replacing your other headlight as well. It’s likely just as old and has seen as much use as the burnt-out light. It’s only a matter of time before the other headlight begins to fail as well.
You don’t have to wait until your headlight is completely burnt-out, however – which it will with regular use. You can tell when it’s time to replace your headlight bulbs in the following cases as well.
Headlight is Dimming
If you’re starting to find it more difficult to see at night than usual, your headlights are probably on their last leg. Not all headlights will burn out right away. Many of them dim to the point where it’s difficult to see.
You may even get out of your car to check your headlights, see that they are still working, and continue to drive for weeks or months. While it’s fine to drive a bit on dim headlights, we don’t recommend making a habit out of it. Your headlights will eventually dim to the point that they don’t provide much light, and endanger you on the road.
Headlight is Flickering
If your headlight is starting to look more like a strobe light on the front of your car, take this as an indication that it’s time to replace the bulbs. Flickering headlights usually don’t last very long, and you can expect them to fail within the next few trips. Get on top of the flickering before you lose a headlight by replacing them right away.
Make sure to test the headlight connection whenever replacing headlights. This step is particularly important if your headlight is flickering.
Most of the time flickering headlights means a dying bulb, but it’s not always the case. It’s possible that the car headlights aren’t the problem at all. You could be experiencing a connection issue, which will take a bit more work to resolve. Still, replacing the headlights won’t do anything if you have a faulty connection.
Replacing Your Headlight
Replacing a headlight doesn’t take too much automotive knowledge. If you’re looking for a way to save some money and learn a bit about your car, replacing your headlight is a good first step.
Here, we’ll give you a step-by-step guide to replacing your headlight. You can hire a professional if you want to avoid a hassle, but this will cost you some money. There isn’t much room for error if your headlight bulb is the only problem, though, so there’s no reason not to try it yourself.
Determining Your Bulb Type
You have to find out which kind of headlight you need before you head to the local automotive store and purchase a new bulb for your car. You need to find the right type of bulb and wattage if you don’t want to find yourself in the same situation a week from now.
Your owner’s manual will tell you exactly what kind of bulb and wattage you need for your car. If you misplaced your owner’s manual, you could probably find one in a PDF online.
If you want to take extra precaution, you could visit a website that tells you which kind of bulb you need. There is no shortage of online resources when it comes to headlight bulbs, so you shouldn’t have much trouble finding out which type you need.
Gather Your Tools
You don’t need any special tools to replace a headlight. Even the most novice handyman likely has these tools lying around. You’ll need the owner’s manual to tell you any vehicle-specific instructions, your bulb type, etc. Apart from that, all you need is a screwdriver.
We also recommend bringing some safety goggles and rubbing alcohol with you if you have them handy – though they aren’t necessary. There isn’t too much risk of splatter in your eyes while changing a headlight. Touching the new bulb can also damage it, so it’s smart to have some alcohol wipes to clean it before installation.
- Step 1: Pop your hood and locate the headlight holder and power connector
- Step 2: Remove the power connector from your bulb. The method of removal will depend on what type of car you have, so refer to the owner’s manual if you have any problems getting it out.
- Step 3: Remove the back of the headlight holder where the bulb is attached. You can then pull the old bulb free. You might have to twist it a bit, depending on your car. Never pull from the glass part of the bulb, as they are quite fragile.
- Step 4: Take a look at the new and old bulb to make sure you purchased the right kind. Then, place it into the holder where you removed the old bulb. We recommend using gloves for this part, so you don’t contaminate the new bulb with fingerprints and oils from your hand. Either way, you should wipe the bulb down with an alcohol wipe before you finish.
- Step 5: Put the headlight base back into place and reconnect the power wire to the bulb. Fasten it securely, then test the headlight to make sure everything is complete.
How Long Should Headlights Last?
Assuming all of the electrical components of your car are intact, you might be wondering how long you can expect your new headlights to last. There are a few factors that determine your headlight lifespan, but the most important is which type of headlight you have.
Most cars come with a stock halogen headlight. These are the most common type of headlight, and also happen to have the shortest lifespan.
Tungsten-halogen headlights usually last anywhere from 500 to 1,000 hours before they need replacing. The heat that halogen headlights emits causes them to burn out relatively quickly. If you have these in your car, expect to change them more frequently.
If you have bright halogen headlights, they might burn out even quicker. Keep an eye on your halogen headlights, as you’ll need to replace them every few years – depending on how often you drive.
Xenon headlights are another popular form of headlight, and they last far longer than their halogen counterpart. The xenon component delays the burning-up effect that halogen bulbs experience, to the point where they last up to ten times as long.
You can drive with your headlights on for around 10,000 hours before you need to replace your Xenon headlights. Other than LED lights, these headlights have the longest lifespan of all.
High-intensity Discharge (HID) headlights also last considerably longer than halogen headlights, though Xenon lights still blow them out of the water. If you have HID headlights, expect to replace them around every 2,000 hours of usage.
HID headlights are bright, but that’s part of the reason they don’t last as long. If you want a combination of brightness and longevity, your best option is LED lights.
LED lights are the most durable and brightest headlight on the market. These lights can last up to 20,000 hours before you need to replace them, which means they might last longer than you keep your current car.
LED lights are costly, and not all vehicles support them. Still, if you have the option, we suggest choosing LED lights over the competition. They last longer, they’re brighter, and the look a lot better than the alternatives.
Keeping You Safe on the Road
Headlights play an undervalued yet essential role in road safety. You’re putting yourself and other drivers in danger if you have faulty headlights. You won’t be able to see in front of you, and other drivers won’t be able to see you coming.
Fortunately, it isn’t too difficult or expensive to replace headlights on your own. Follow our guide above to save some money on headlight replacements and to learn a bit more about vehicle DIY projects.
(You might also be interested in DIY car battery replacement.)