Headlight Maintenance/Replacement
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Headlight Maintenance/Replacement

Without sufficient light, it’s hard to see to drive your vehicle at night and in fog, and it’s also hard for your vehicle to be seen by other drivers. Here’s what you need to know about your headlights from changing bulbs to keeping the lenses clear.

How do I Change a Headlight Bulb?

Never touch the bulb with your fingers. The oils from your skin will create hot spots on the glass which will greatly shorten the bulb’s life. Most manufacturers fit a small cardboard tube over the glass to protect it until the bulb is being installed.

If you are replacing HID bulbs, the power connector will usually need to be twisted to disconnect it before the bulb is removed. If there is a collar over the bulb, simply twist it to remove it. Take note of how the bulb is oriented in the lens: usually, the plug will have one flat side. Twist the bulb and slide it out of the housing. If you are replacing a halogen bulb, you can now disconnect it from the power connector. You may need a small flathead screwdriver to pry up or push down on the tab that keeps these two parts connected.

The base of the bulb will have plastic wings of different sizes to correctly orient it inside the housing. You need to turn the new bulb so the flat side of the plug is facing the same way as the old plug, locking it into place. Twist the collar back onto the housing, then connect the electrical plug to the bulb.

Why do My HID Bulbs Burn Out Fast?

Like fluorescent bulbs, HID bulbs use a ballast to regulate current. If this ballast is failing, it can cause current spikes that will prematurely burn out bulbs.

Replacing a ballast is simply a matter of disconnecting it from the electrical system, unbolting it from the vehicle, and fitting a replacement. However, ballasts are often located in difficult to reach places, like underneath the headlight housing. In most cases, it’s worth having this repair done by a mechanic.

How do I Aim My Headlights?

If you have HID or LED lights, there’s a good chance that the headlight focus is auto-adjusting. Other headlights can be aimed using adjustment screws. Vertical adjustment can be changed using the screw mounted on the top of the headlight, while most lights will also have a horizontal adjustment screw located on the side closest to the outside of the vehicle. If there are bubble levels on the headlight, simply turn the screws until the bubbles are centered.

If your headlights are adjustable and they don’t have levels, you can aim them at night using a flat surface like a wall or garage door. Drive the car close to the surface and turn on the low beams. Lay down one strip of tape that lines up with the center of the vehicle and a second that goes through the small circles inside the light pattern. Back up the car about 25 feet and line up the light pattern so that they’re both an equal distance from the vertical tape line and are brightest at the horizontal tape line.

With either method, you’ll get the most accurate lighting placement if there is someone sitting in the driver’s seat and the fuel tank is half full. The lights will slowly go out of vertical adjustment as the suspension sinks from wear, especially as new springs settle in after they’ve been replaced.

How Do I Clean Foggy Lenses?

Exposure to road debris and UV lights can yellow and cloud the lens surface, limiting the light thrown out by your headlights. While there are polishing kits on the market to clean up lenses, they aren’t very effective. If you want to bring back the full brightness and light spread of your vehicle, bring it to Merton Auto Body in Sussex, WI.

By using the same techniques we apply to bring the best out of our complete paint jobs, we can clean and buff your headlights to look and perform like new again for far less than the cost of a set of replacement lenses.



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