How to Fix a Low Beam Headlight?

Credit: A. Bailey

A blown out or low beam bulb has several safety disadvantages.

Firstly, you’ll find it difficult to see when driving at night. This has obvious safety ramifications for yourself, your family and other road users.

Secondly, with low beam lights you’ll be forced to use high beam. Other drivers will find it difficult to see the road in front of them while they’re being blinded by your high beam.

Fixing a low beam headlight is a straightforward process that the majority of vehicle owners are capable of doing themselves with a few tools.

After replacing the low beam headlight if you still experience problems, your vehicle might have more serious electrical wiring problems that will need to be fixed by a professional mechanic.

4 Steps to Fix a Low Beam Headlight Bulb

1. Find the blown out bulb

When driving at night, you can easily tell that a headlight bulb has blown out.

However, to identify the bulb which has blown out, leave your headlights on and get out of the vehicle to see which beam is not as bright as the others.

Some vehicle models use a single bulb for both high and low beams while others use different bulbs for high and low beams respectively.

If the beam on the side is completely out, this is an indication that the car is using one bulb for both high and low beam.

After you have identified the beam that has a problem, you can easily replace the blown out bulb.

It is not a must that you replace the bulbs on both sides of the car if it’s only one of them that isn’t working.

If both the high and low beams are on the same side and they are both not working, your car’s electrical wiring might have a problem that is preventing power from getting to the bulbs.

2. Buy the replacement bulb

Your car’s year of manufacture and model will determine the type of bulb you purchase to replace the low beam bulb that is not working.

Provide these details to the clerk at the automotive parts store so that he can give you the correct bulb to use on your headlight.

Note that the headlight codes are a mix of letters and numbers such as H11B or D311 etc.

3. Get your tools ready

Replacing a low beam bulb can involve more time and work than you expect. In some cars, you will not need any tools, but in others, you will need specialised tools to help you remove the components, the beam bulb under the hood, and sometimes even the bumper.

For a list of all tools that you need while servicing your car, refer to the car manual.

However, most cars require just a screwdriver or no tool at all to gain access to the headlight housing.

After reading through the service manual, inspect your headlight to ensure that it looks just the same as explained in the manual.

If you bought a used vehicle, components such as flat head screws might have been replaced.

4. Disconnect the negative terminal on the battery

Before you disconnect the battery, make sure you label the side where your blown out bulb is located.

Once you disconnect the battery, the headlights will go off.

Use your hand or socket wrench to loosen the nut holding the negative terminal of your car’s battery.

You do not need to remove the nut completely. Make it loose enough so that you can be able to slide off the cable from the terminal.

Fasten the cable on the side of the battery to ensure that it doesn’t reconnect to the terminal when you are working.

You don’t need to disconnect the battery’s positive terminal as the circuitry is not complete with the negative terminal loosened.

Credit: Wikipedia

How to Remove an Old Headlight Bulb

1. Remove the trim pieces

Modern vehicles come with a piece of plastic trim that keeps the headlight assembly separate from the engine bay. You will need to remove the trim in order to access the headlight bay.

In newer vehicle models you will need to remove the front bumper that covers the headlight in order to remove the old bulb.

Refer to the vehicle service manual to understand which pieces of trim you will need to remove to be able to access the headlights.

If you remove the plastic trims ensure that you don’t break the snaps and fasteners that hold the trim in place.

If you accidentally break some of the snaps and fasteners on your car, you can replace them from your local auto parts store.

3. Find the headlight holder

Modern vehicles use plastic housing for the headlights.

In some other cars, you will find that the headlight bulb is held in place using a plastic bracket or metal.

Your vehicle’s service manual will indicate how to locate the holder and how to remove the headlight and wire pigtail from the plastic housing.

Modern cars have made it easier to remove the headlight from the housing as all your required to do is rotate the headlight 1/4 turn in the clockwise direction and then pull it from the housing.

If there are any nuts to be removed, make sure you keep them safely until you reassemble that portion or your vehicle.

Note that in some cars, you will need to remove the entire headlight assembly.

4. Disconnect the cables from the headlight

Your headlight bulb will have wires attached to its base. To disconnect these wires, put the plastic clips and the cables in a safe place. Avoid accidentally removing them from the headlight bulb housing which will cause your headlights to malfunction.

Be extra careful when pressing on the clips as they are usually made of brittle plastic. It can break easily.

If you accidentally break the clip, you can secure it using electrical tape or buy replacement clip and then solder it in place of the old one.

5. Remove the headlight bulb from the bulb housing

When removing the bulb from the bulb housing make sure you hold it from the base as touching the glass top of the bulb may break it and cut your hand.

Remember that a broken bulb is harder to remove from the bulb housing.

If you accidentally break the bulb, use pliers to remove the broken bulb from the bulb housing. Never touch a broken bulb with your hands.

Discard the blown out bulb into the trash once it is completely removed from the bulb housing.

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