How To Change a Headlight

Are you yearning to work on your own car? You’re in luck: Changing your headlight bulb is an easy maintenance job you can do at home. Learning to remove and replace a headlight assembly on a newer car with LED units takes a little more know-how.

Can I change my headlight myself?

On most vehicles, changing your headlight bulb is an easy task that you can complete at home. But this is not true for every car. You can likely find a guide or Youtube video for your make/model.

A hand holding a headlight replacement bulb in front of a car with its hood up.
Replacment car headlight bulb | Loop Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

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Most cars and trucks have the headlight housing you can see, with the bulb at its center. Often you can easily open a door at the back of this housing and remove the bulb. But according to Consumer Reports, other cars require you remove an air filter, the battery, or even a front tire to open the back of the headlight housing.

In some older vehicles, the entire visible headlight structure is a sealed unit. In some very new cars with LED headlights, this structure is also a sealed unit. In this case, a burnt-out bulb means a technician must remove the assembly from the vehicle and install a new one.

How to remove a headlight bulb

If you can access and open the door at the back of your headlight unit, you can easily remove its bulb. Simply twist the bulb a quarter turn, then slide it backwards out of its housing. Finally, unplug its wires.

Detail shot of the silver headlight unit of an Aston Martin DB5 sports car.
Aston Martin DB5 Headlight | Thibaut Nagorny via Unsplash

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Once you have the bulb removed from the vehicle, you can examine it. If the headlight’s burnt out, its glass surface may have dark burn marks. If you don’t see marks, your vehicle may have an electrical issue preventing the headlight from working.

Put on gloves before removing the replacement headlight bulb from its packaging. The oil from your fingers can damage this bulb and cause it to burn out early.

How to replace the headlight assembly

Replacing your headlight assembly will require detaching it from your vehicle. You’ll need some tools because it is likely held in place with a metal bracket and screws. Once you can slide the unit forward, out of your vehicle you’ll also need to detach the wires from it.

Closeup of the headlights of a large, pink, classic car.
Cadillac Coupe de Ville’s headlights | Izumi LaCorte via Unsplash

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Is your vehicle’s headlight assembly a sealed unit that you must swap when your bulb goes out? It is worth finding a guide or video tutorial for replacing the headlight assembly in your vehicle.

You will probably need to open your hood, remove the screws holding the assembly in place, and perhaps remove more screws between body panels. After you can pull the headlight assembly away from the car, make sure to unplug it from the wiring harness.

When you install a new headlight assembly, it’s important that you refocus your headlights. You will have to find the set screw that points the assembly up or down. Then, with your car parked in front of a wall after dark, you will need to make sure both your headlights are pointing at the same spot.

Will AutoZone replace my headlight bulb?

Yes. You can purchase a replacement headlight bulb from AutoZone. And if the job proves to be relatively straightforward, a store technician will perform the swap for free.

If you still want to replace your headlight bulb on your own, check out the video below:

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