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How to Change a Burned Out Headlight

Your car is equipped with hundreds of lights, both inside and out. Undoubtedly the two most important ones are your headlights. Without working headlights, you have a harder time seeing the road in front of you and drivers have a harder time seeing you.

Because of the fallibilities of light bulbs, it’s likely that one headlight will burn out before the other, even though they spend exactly the same amount of time illuminated. When this happens, it’s important to change the burned out headlight as soon as possible because it’s illegal to drive with only one working headlight.

According to Record Searchlight, the law states:

“A motor vehicle, other than a motorcycle, shall be equipped with at least two headlamps, with at least one on each side of the front of the vehicle. During darkness, a vehicle shall be equipped with lighted lighting equipment as required for the vehicle.”

Of course, if you’re pulled over for having a burned out headlight, the officer is most likely to give you a warning and encourage you to replace the burned out bulb as soon as possible. At worst, you’ll receive a citation and an allotted amount of time to correct the violation. If this happens, you may be required to send proof of the correction to court and pay a small fee.

When it comes time to replace the headlight, follow these instructions from DMV.org.

Change a Headlight in a Newer Model Car

For most cars on the road today, changing a burned out headlight is simple and requires no mechanic experience. Here’s what to do:

  • Find out what type of bulb you need. The owner’s manual is a good place to look. If you can’t figure it out, a clerk at an auto parts store should be able to look it up for you.
  • Open the engine compartment hood and locate the back of the headlight.
  • Reference the directions in a service manual for your vehicle’s make, model and year for exact bulb replacement instructions.
  • No matter what type of bulb you’re replacing, be sure not to touch it with your bare fingers. The oils from your hands could damage the bulb.

Change a Headlight in an Older Model Car

With older cars, you may be required to remove the entire headlamp in order to reach and replace the bulb. Here’s what to do:

  • Find the part number for a replacement bulb. You can check the front of the headlamp, service manual, vehicle owner’s manual or a clerk at an auto parts store.
  • Remove the screws connecting the headlamp frame to the bracket. Avoid turning the adjusting screws found on each headlamp so you don’t have to readjust them after replacing the bulb.
  • Pull the socket away from the headlamp to disconnect the electrical connector.
  • Discard the burned out bulb and replace it with the new headlight, making sure not the touch the bulb with your bare hands.
  • Plug the wire socket into the new headlight.
  • Place the headlight back into the frame and the frame into the headlight bracket.
  • Reattach the screws to hold the frame and headlight bracket in place.
  • Check the headlight beam direction to make sure you didn’t disturb the adjusting screws during the bulb replacement process. Make any adjustments if necessary before driving your car at night.

If you don’t feel comfortable changing a burned out headlight yourself, or your car requires others services as well, feel free to bring your car in to Scott’s Fort Collins Auto & Repair for a headlight replacement. Stop by anytime! You can also schedule an appointment online or call ahead at (970) 682-4202.

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