5 Tips for Installing Headlights

Front view of car headlight

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Whether it’s nighttime or you’re driving in the rain, headlights make it easier to make your way safely to your destination while letting other drivers see where you are. If your lights burn out, not only are you putting yourself and others at risk, but you could also end up with a hefty ticket for your trouble. You don’t need to take a trip to the mechanic to get new headlights, though. All you need is a new bulb, a bit of patience and possibly some elbow grease. Here are five tips to make installing headlights a little bit easier the next time one burns out.

1. Replace Them in Pairs

We get it —  headlight bulbs are expensive, especially if you spring for the high-quality halogen models that light up the night. You should still replace them in pairs. Ideally, you’ll want to replace them before they burn out, but if one does go out on you, get two. The bulbs fade over time and lose brightness, so if you just put in one bulb, the lighting will be unbalanced. This could interfere with your visibility at night or during poor weather.

2. Always Wear Gloves

Don’t ever replace headlight bulbs without wearing gloves. We could just say, “don’t touch the glass,” but let’s be realistic — you’re working in tiny spaces trying to finagle the bulb into its socket. The chances are pretty high that, at some point, your skin will come into contact with the glass. These halogen bulbs get hot, and if you touch them, the transfer of skin oils to the glass creates a hotspot that will make the headlight burn out a lot faster. If you do touch it, wipe it down with rubbing alcohol to remove the oil — after you put some gloves on.

3. Switch to LEDs

Halogen and HID headlights are standard equipment in most vehicles, but they do need regular replacement. They also generate quite a bit of heat, with HIDs running hotter than traditional halogens. You can save money, reduce heat generation and prevent yourself from constantly your headlights by switching to LEDs. You used to have to replace the entire headlight socket, but today it’s as easy as changing a lightbulb.

4. Use the Right Bulb

If you wander into the headlamp section of your local auto parts store, you’ll see that many of the bulbs look similar to one another. The main difference is in the socket — an H11 and a 9006 might look similar, but they aren’t interchangeable. Make sure you’ve got the right bulb before you start taking things apart. Check with your local auto parts store clerk to verify that you’re bringing home the right items.

5. Check Your Owner’s Manual

Peek into your owner’s manual for any other tips and tricks you might need for your specific make and model. On some cars, it’s easy to replace the headlights. On others, you need to remove the battery, stand on your head and sing an aria to get it to work right.

Light It Up

Changing your headlights can be challenging in some cars, but for most models, it’s as easy as one, two, three. Make sure you’re replacing your bulbs in pairs and don’t touch them with bare skin, and your car will be good to go.

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