It seems that with each passing year, there are fewer car maintenance and repair items that average owners can do themselves. But among these projects is headlight bulb replacement, at least for many models now at the age when they may burn out. Bulbs can burn can burn out after a few years.

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Many older-type bulbs are easy to replace, but if your car has the newer LED lights, get them installed by a pro because the entire lamp assembly often needs to be replaced.

Often, a small circular clip or twist lock is all that holds the headlamp bulb into the rear of its housing on most cars, so once you remove the wiring harness, it should come out easily. The challenge comes if there are other parts in the way—the car battery or air cleaner box, for example.

Be sure you can easily reinstall anything you move out of the way to gain access. Other lightbulbs are usually even easier but might require you to remove a plastic panel to access.

Definitely refer to your owner’s manual and watch a video on YouTube about your specific model before tackling. And wear gloves when handling the new bulbs. 

What You Need
Two replacement bulbs (replace in pairs).
Basic hand tools.

Expose the Bulb

Be sure the car is off. Open the hood to access the rear of the headlamp housing. A small circular clip or twist lock is often all that holds in the lightbulb in its housing.

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Illustration: Señor Salme/Synergy

Disconnect the Bulb

You may have to move parts that are in the way—the car battery or air cleaner box, for example. Once exposed, the bulb should twist free or unplug from the wiring harness.

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Install and Test

Wear gloves when installing the new bulbs to avoid getting skin oils on the bulbs, which can cause them to fail early. Test the lights to verify that they shine straight.

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Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the October 2021 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.