How to Change Headlights

We tell you how to choose the best headlight bulb and how to install it.

We help you choose the best headlight bulb for your car and show you how to quickly and easily install it.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

How to choose a new bulb

The hardest part of the job is choosing a new bulb. You can spend more time shopping for the bulbs than it takes to install them. The choices are mind-boggling. Every bulb manufacturer has its own confusing names for each style, making comparisons difficult. But it boils down to four upgrade categories—brightness level, life span, light color and energy consumption (photo). Here’s the scoop:

  • Bright bulbs draw the same power as factory bulbs but give off 30 to 80 percent more light. You’ll sacrifice bulb life, but if you live in a rural area or do a lot of highway driving, these may be your best choice.
  • If the factory brightness works for you and you do a lot of night driving, choose a “long-life” bulb. It lasts three times longer than a standard bulb.
  • If you’re into “cool,” choose a “blue” bulb if you want to imitate the look of the high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps in luxury vehicles.
  • Or, if you’re an aging boomer, choose a bulb that projects different colors of light at different sections of the road.

Finally, if you want to milk your fuel budget for every last nickel, buy an “eco-friendly” bulb. They can save four gallons of gas over the life of the bulb and they last twice as long.

Install the bulbs

Replacing a headlight bulb is easy. You can replace both of yours (always replace them as a set) in about 30 minutes and save about $30 labor. The best part is that the entire procedure is almost always right there in your owner’s manual.

In some late-model vehicles, you have to remove the entire headlight assembly from the vehicle to get clear access to the bulb (Photo 1). Remove the old bulb and install the new one (Photos 2 and 3). Then put the headlight assembly back in and secure it.

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • Wrench set

You'll also need plastic gloves.

Required Materials for this Project

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

  • New headlight bulbs

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