How to Replace Headlamp Bulbs


Headlamp bulbs are an essential part of your vehicle; without them, you'd be unable to see to drive at night or during bad weather. In most states, it is illegal to operate your vehicle in said conditions without headlamps. Therefore, you'll need to replace your faulty headlamp bulbs as soon as possible. Not only does this ensure your safety when driving, it may prevent you from getting pulled over and receiving a ticket. Several types of headlamp bulbs and headlamp setups exist, but the replacement procedure is essentially the same in each.

Things You'll Need

  • Gloves (optional)
  • Screwdriver or socket wrench (optional)
  • Replacement headlamp bulb
  • Look in your owner's manual to see what type of replacement bulb you'll need. Check in the index located in the back of the booklet; look under "Bulbs" and flip to the listed page. Some common bulb types for automotive headlamps are H7 and 3457, but the specific bulb depends on your vehicle. If you do not have a manual, or cannot find the information in the manual, visit the Sylvania resource to look up the bulb number for your vehicle.

  • Make sure your engine is off and open your car's hood. Look behind your headlamp assembly. See if the back of the assembly is accessible. If it is, you can probably replace the headlamp bulbs without removing the assembly. If this is the case, you may see the rear of the bulb or an access cover. If the area is too crowded to access, the headlight assembly requires removing.

  • Remove the headlamp assembly. This procedure varies between vehicles. Look for two or three pins on top of the assembly. In this case, you can lift the pins to to release the headlamp assembly, and then pull the assembly forward to access the back. If you don't see pins, look for bolts or screws and remove them the appropriate tool, which is most often a socket wrench or screwdriver.

  • Remove the bulb from the headlight assembly. In most cases, you'll simply turn the bulb about an inch to the left to unlock it; it other cases, the bulb is held in place by a metal spring or clip. If so, pull back the spring or clip to release the bulb.

  • Unplug the bulb from its electrical harness, and then plug the new bulb into the harness. If your replacement bulb does not have a plug, then you'll simply pull the bulb straight out of its socket, and then insert the new bulb. However, most headlamp bulbs have their own connections that plug directly into the harness.

  • Reverse the procedure you followed to re-insert the headlamp assembly into the vehicle, if applicable. Be sure to tighten the screws or bolts, or replace the pins if necessary.

Tips & Warnings

  • Never touch the glass part of a headlamp bulb. On most bulbs, you can hold onto the plastic connection. For bulbs without a connection, wear gloves.

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  • Photo Credit automobile headlamp image by jimcox40 from
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