How to Diagnose and Repair a Broken Auto Light Socket

Use simple detective work to unravel the mystery of a dead light

Headlight out?
Use these four simple steps to determine if your bad headlight or taillight is caused by a burnt-out bulb, a corroded socket or a bad wire.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

TIME

Instant!

COMPLEXITY

Simple

COST

Varies

Step 1: Replace the bulb

When a headlight goes out, the problem is usually a bad bulb, which is easily replaced. However, the problem could also be a corroded socket or a bad wire. Keep in mind that when several lights are out, such as both headlamps or both taillights, the problem is most likely a fuse. If the fuse is bad, you can replace it and most likely be on your way.

In this article, we'll show you how to replace the bulb, and if that fails, we'll show you how to diagnose a bad socket and probe the wiring with a simple 12-volt automotive test light.

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Step 2: Clean the socket

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Step 3: Test the socket

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Step 4: Test for power at the wires

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The only tools you'll need are a 12-volt auto test light, a small screwdriver or wire brush for scraping corrosion, and (possibly) a “torxrdquo tip screwdriver.

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

  • Headlamp bulb
  • Electrical contact cleaner