How to Replace a Headlight Bulb

Changing the headlight bulbs on your car or truck can be a simple and straightforward task. We’ll guide you through it, so you’ll know what to do when the time comes and you can get back to driving safely right away, instead of waiting until you get a ticket.

Working headlights are vital to the safe operation of your vehicle, as well as the safety of you, your passengers, and other drivers on the road. Most of the time, if a headlight isn’t working, a burnt-out bulb is to blame.

The instructions below will help you replace a burnt-out headlight bulb or mini bulb quickly and correctly. Although it’s usually a simple process, be sure to read this guide completely before you begin, and refer to your owner’s manual for instructions for your specific vehicle. Some lamps can be tricky, and your manual will usually have the model-specific tips you need.

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Duration: 5-10 minutes
  • How often: When lights dim or burn out


  • A Phillips-head screwdriver
  • A flat-head screwdriver
  • A pair of pliers
  • A small wire brush
  • A rag or a pair of gloves
  • A flashlight


Proper maintenance and service procedures are vital to the safe, efficient operation of all motor vehicles, as well as to the safety of the person performing the work—you.

Whenever you’re working on your vehicle, we recommend that you follow these important safety rules:

  • Do have a first-aid kit handy.
  • Do be careful when working around hot or sharp objects.
  • Do follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all products.
  • Do use safety stands under the frame or drive-on-ramps if you have to lift your vehicle.
  • Don’t run the engine without proper ventilation.

first aid kit


Every vehicle is different and has a different way to access the headlights. Unless you can find a YouTube video that applies to your exact make and model, you should refer to your owner’s manual to see which panel or cover needs to be removed. Being prepared is key!

Find the bulb and remove any covers or removable accessories to free up as much space as possible around the burnt out bulb. You should have enough room to move freely.

Some vehicles hide the headlight access behind a fender liner, a coolant tank, or aerodynamic shields. Others let you pop out the whole headlight with a couple of clips to gain access to the bulb. If you’re reaching through the wheel well (yup, that’s not uncommon), you’ll need to turn the wheels for access. This is a messy, dirty task, so have some gloves handy.


  • The majority of vehicles manufactured from the 1980s up until the last few years use a replaceable halogen bulb system. When a bulb burns out, it can be removed from the back of the headlamp body and replaced.
  • To change a replaceable halogen bulb, gently remove the electrical connector from the back of the bulb. Press the clip on the connector to pop it out, and unscrew the retaining ring if there is one. The bulb will normally twist in and lock, but it only takes about a quarter-turn to tighten. A gentle twist should be enough to unlock it so you can pull it out. Be careful not to knock the glass or the bulb could break.
  • Line up the new bulb in the socket (you might need to rotate it slightly) and push it in until the plastic mounting flange on the bulb touches the back of the socket. Then, turn the bulb about a quarter turn until it locks into place. If you have a retaining ring, reinstall it and reattach the electrical connector to the back of the ring.

Top tip: Do not touch the glass of a fresh bulb with your bare fingers (or dirty gloves). Touching the glass leaves behind oils that can cause the bulb to break or fail right away. Wear clean gloves and touch only the plastic base.

Make sure you’re replacing the correct bulb. If you have a two-light system, the high beam is the one closer to the center of your vehicle and the low beam is the one on the outside.


The tips above work for halogen headlight bulbs. They come in many different styles, and though they all look similarly shaped, there are different sizes. These bulbs will be labeled with numbers like 9005 (high beam), 9006 (low beam), 9012 (both high and low), H7, and H11. It’s easy to find the right replacement bulb by asking your NAPA Auto Parts professional.


More modern cars and trucks use high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps. They’re also called xenon bulbs, since they tend to be made with xenon gas.  Manufacturers use different names for these bulbs, usually starting with a D, like D1S or D4R. Again, your NAPA Auto Parts professional can help you find the right one. With HID lights, you should replace both sides at the same time, since headlight bulbs lose brightness over time and replacing one means that the other will provide less visibility. Plus, the other bulb will probably burn out not long after anyway.


Most HID bulbs can be replaced following the same instructions as halogen headlights.

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If your LED headlights have failed, we have some bad news. Halogen and HID bulbs are easy to replace at home. For factory LED lamps, you’ll likely need to replace the entire headlight—lens and all. Your NAPA Canada Auto Parts professional can still help get you the right lamp, though. Fortunately, LED lights generally last the life of the vehicle.


Your vehicle uses miniature bulbs in everything from the instrument panel and glove compartment to the turn signals and brake lights. When these bulbs burn out, you can usually see the broken filament inside the glass. Miniature bulbs come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles. CAUTION: Always be sure the switch in the circuit is OFF before replacing any bulb.

  • Three of the most common bulb stylesare shown here:
      1. Single contact bayonet (A)
      2. Double contact bayonet (B)
      3. Wedge base (C)
    • To remove a single or double contact bayonet bulb from its socket, push it in slightly and turn counterclockwise. Use a rag or a glove to protect your hand in case the bulb breaks. If it does break, use a pair of small pliers to remove the base from the socket.
    • To remove a wedge base bulb from its socket, no turning is necessary. Pull the bulb straight out of the socket. Use a rag or glove to protect your hand in case the bulb breaks.
    • To insert a single contact bayonet bulb, place the base of the bulb in the socket. Make sure the index lug on the base is lined up with the slot in the socket. Then, push in slightly and turn clockwise. Use a rag or glove to protect you hand in case the bulb breaks.
    • To insert a double contact bayonetbulb, place the base of the bulb in the socket. Make sure both index lugs on the base are lined up with the slots in the socket. If the lugs are staggered, make sure the short lug is lined up with the short slot and the long lug is lined up with the long slot. Then, push in slightly and turn clockwise. Use a rag or glove to protect your hand in case the bulb breaks.
    • To insert a wedge basebulb, gently push the base straight into the socket. Use a rag or a glove to protect your hand in case the bulb breaks.

Your owner’s manual will give you the code number you need for a replacement, or you can ask your NAPA Auto Parts professional for expert advice and the right part.

3 Replies to “How to Replace a Headlight Bulb”

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  2. lamp says:

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