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How to Change Your Headlights Or Tail Lights in 5 Easy Steps!

Save Money On Auto Repair! 5 Quick steps to changing your own headlights or tail lights right at home... do it yourself and save!
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Save some money and do it yourself!

On a Thursday evening I was driving home from work. As I approached home I realized that the lighting in front of my jeep was dimmer than usual.  My passenger-side headlight had burnt out. Due to the timing this occurred, I wasn’t able to bring it to the mechanic and get it replaced immediately.  I decided I would bring it to the mechanic in the morning

Just as I was pulling in my driveway my brother pulled in right behind me.  The first thing he said to me as he got out of his car was, “Did you know your driver-side tail light is burnt out?”  One headlight and one brake light burned out in the same day! Let’s hope this all happened in the last 5 minutes because driving with a burnt out headlight or tail light is illegal and extremely dangerous.  Although, having both my headlight and tail light burn out at the same time was a blessing in disguise because it reminded me that I should be checking all of my lights more frequently…and so should you!

I considered my options. Two lights in one day; that might be pricey to get replaced at the mechanic. I worked the next day, so the fastest choice was to replace the lights myself.  I first searched on the internet the exact lights my jeep needs.  It’s important to research your vehicle’s exact make and model as I have mentioned before. Even something as small as light bulb type varies down to the make and model of a car.

Headlight lightbulb up close

The three most popular types of automotive light bulbs you can install in your vehicle’s headlights or tail lights are: Halogen, LED, and HID (also known as Xenon).

You’re probably wondering What is the difference and which one is the best for my car?

  • A Halogen light is the standard bulb found in most vehicles. Halogens are much more delicate to install in the sense that if your finger grease touches the front of the light at all it can affect the brightness of the bulb. It’s very important to keep the bulb fingerprint-free.
  • A LED (Light Emitting Diode) light is considered a higher performing light than a halogen light. LEDs are popular amongst car manufacturers because they do not generate heat as much as other light sources and have been said to be longer lasting.
  • A HID (High Intensity Discharge) light is considered a high performance light because it`s projected to last up to 90 percent longer than the standard head and tail lights (halogen).  It can also produce light two times stronger than a halogen bulb. HID lights are not compatible with all vehicles.  As mentioned, it’s important to research what works best with your car.

RELATED: Better and brighter: Headlights go high-tech

Safety Tip:

You should not change your vehicles lights on your own unless you are confident and know exactly what you are doing.  HID lights especially are high voltage and dangerous.  Consult your mechanic before changing your lights.

For my Jeep, I chose halogen headlights and tail lights. I chose this type because of its compatibility with my vehicle and most importantly, my familiarity with the bulb.  Although HID lights are longer lasting, I am not familiar with this type of installation and do not feel safe installing it – something you should be aware of when installing your lights at home as well.  Here are the five steps it took me to change a HALOGEN headlight/tail light:

Most halogen bulbs can be accessed from the back of the headlight. Look for the headlight bulb fastener (it is in the headlight spot and has three wires coming out of it).
Disconnect the bulb from the wires. In most vehicles, wires are held in place by a metal clip, a plastic catch, or a screw cap.
Gently remove the bulb from the headlight. You may have to softly turn it.
Install the new bulb. It is important not to touch any part of the glass with your fingers. Put the fresh bulb properly and securely into the headlight.
Put the wiring harness back on by reconnecting the wires. Test the lights to ensure you did it correctly!

Replacing your halogen tail lights/brake lights consists of the exact same steps only access to the lights is found in your trunk at the rear of your vehicle.

Although only 1 headlight and 1 brake light were burnt out, I decided to change all four. As time passes, the lights on your vehicle dim due to age.  When you change just one light, it can be significantly brighter than the older light leaving a lack of symmetry on your car. In other words – it is more visually appealing. Realistically, you are saving yourself time because most likely those lights were installed together and it’s only a matter of time before the other one burns out.  Why not change both?

tail lights of cars in traffic

From now on I plan to be more proactive in paying attention to the vibrancy of my lights and you should too.  Doing walks around our vehicles as often as one can is important for so many reasons.  If I had noticed the lights dimming the day before, I could have avoided being on the road even for a few minutes with burnt out lights.  Driving with a burnt out headlight or brake light is illegal and extremely dangerous to yourself, your passengers, and other drivers… so let’s stay on top of it!

Related: Never underestimate the importance of your car’s lights

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