How to Change Headlights in Cars

by Contributing Writer; Updated June 12, 2017

Say the headlight just went out in your Chrysler car. There's no bezel. You opened the hood to see if there was a way to move the headlight forward. You can't get your hands in behind it, even if you can see the wires going to the headlights. Then, you read the manual and it says something about taking the front tires off. To replace a headlight? While it will make the job a little easier for arm space, it will do little for the amount of room you're going to have for your hand. Be prepared for a few scratches and boo-boos, or let a certified mechanic do the job for you.

Under The Hood:

 How to Change Headlights in a Lexus Es300

Changing the Entire Headlight Assembly

Open the hood of the ES300 and prop it open.

Look at the headlight assembly from the top down. Depending on your model year, there may be a plastic panel covering the top of the headlight assembly. If this is present, remove it by lifting all of the plastic clips around the edges and lifting it off.

Locate the three bolts that hold the headlight assembly in place. Two of the bolts are in the left and right rear corners of the assembly, and the third is on the side bordering the outside edge of the car, screwed into the back of the fender panel. Remove all of these bolts with a small adjustable wrench. Though they appear to be designed to be removed with a screwdriver, the way they're arranged makes it almost impossible to remove them with one.

Slide the entire headlight assembly forward a few inches so that you can reach the back of it.

Unscrew the plastic bulb socket assembly. This is the large, round component located right in the middle of the back of the main assembly. Turn it about a quarter turn to the left and you can pull it away from the main assembly. If you're replacing both the bulb and the main assembly, see the next section on how to replace the bulb, then resume this process.

Unplug all wiring harnesses from the back of the main assembly. Depending on your model year, there may be one, two or three wiring harnesses.

Pull the old assembly completely away from the car.

Slide the new assembly part of the way into place and reconnect all the wiring harnesses to the corresponding sockets on the back.

Insert the bulb socket assembly into the round hole on the back of the main assembly and turn it about a quarter turn to the right, locking it in place.

Push the assembly all the way into place.

Replace all three of the bolts that hold it in place. Screw each one down tightly with your adjustable wrench.

Replace the plastic cover if your ES300 has one. Push it straight down into place until you hear each of the plastic snaps make a clicking noise as they engage.

Changing the Bulb Only

Complete steps 1 through 5 in section 1.

Put on a pair of gloves. Any type will work; just make sure that you can still work well with your hands.

Grab the old bulb by its socket and pull it straight out.

Hold the new bulb by its socket and push it straight down into the cavity on the socket assembly. It won't make an audible click when it's in place, so try to wiggle it or tug on it gently to make sure it's all the way in.

Reinsert the bulb socket assembly in the round hole on the back of the main assembly. Turn the socket assembly about one quarter turn to the right to lock it in place.

Complete steps 10 through 12 in section 1 to insert the headlight assembly back into place.

Items you will need

  • ES300 repair manual specific to your model year and options package

  • Replacement headlight bulb (type varies by model year, specified in owner's manual)

  • Replacement headlight assembly specific to your model year and options package

  • Small adjustable wrench

  • Gloves

 How to Change a Headlight in a Subaru Impreza

Make sure that your Impreza is turned off. Open the hood by pulling the latch near the floor board on the driver side of the Impreza. Secure the hood with the safety bar. Disconnect the battery by removing the clamps from the negative battery terminal and then the positive battery terminal. You may need to use pliers to loosen the clamp screw.

Remove the air cleaner top piece that is on top of the headlight component. This is held on by a screw on the left and one on the right. Use a Philips screwdriver to remove these. Once the screws are out, pull the air cleaner top piece off and set it, along with the screws, in a safe place.

Unscrew the Philips screw that is on the headlight casing. This screw will be on top of the casing toward the center of the vehicle. Slide the headlight casing up. Be careful when you do this, as the headlight wires are still connected.

Disconnect the headlight wires. Grasp the white plastic connection cover with one hand while you grasp the end of the wire coming from the headlight. Pull gently until it comes apart. Pull the bulb out of the bulb slot. Wrap the bulb in newspaper and dispose of it.

Connect the new bulb to the wire from which you disconnected the old bulb. Make sure that you thread the wire through the slot in the headlight case before you connect it. Slide the bulb into the bulb slot to secure it. Replace the headlight casing to its original position. Secure it by replacing the screw. Replace the air cleaner top piece and secure it by replacing the two screws.

Repeat steps 2 through 5 on the other headlight.

Items you will need

  • Pliers

  • Philips screwdriver

  • Headlight

  • Gloves (optional)

 How to Replace the Headlights in a Pontiac Aztek

Turn your lights on and determine which headlamp is out, then turn off the headlight switch and the engine. Remove the ignition key and pull the hood latch to open your hood.

Push in on the front of the headlight assembly and pull up the white tab behind the headlight. Pull the white tab up about 1/2 inch, but do not pull it out completely. The tab has a hole in the center; if you have trouble lifting it with your hand, insert a flat-head screwdriver to help you pull it up.

Pull the headlight assembly away from the vehicle to access the backside. Remove the protective rubber cover from the back of the headlight assembly. Carefully twist the rubber cover to remove it.

Twist the headlamp socket counterclockwise to release it, and then pull it from the assembly. Pull the bulb and its attachment from the headlamp connection module, and then insert the new bulb. Hold the bulb by the plastic module, not the glass; the oils from your skin can cause premature bulb failure.

Insert the new bulb and module into the rear of the headlight assembly and turn it clockwise until it locks. Twist the rubber cover back on and insert the headlight assembly into its mount. Push the white tab back down into position to secure the headlight assembly.

Items you will need

  • Bulb No. 9005 -- low-beam

  • Bulb No. 9006 -- high-beam

  • Screwdriver

 How to Replace a Headlight on a Mitsubishi Galant

Turn your headlight switch and engine off, and then open the hood.

Examine the headlight area to find the white dome cover at the rear of the headlight assembly. No components need to be removed to access the Galant headlight.

Turn the white dome cover and remove it from the rear of the headlight assembly. Set the cover aside.

Turn the bulb module 1/4 turn counterclockwise to release it from the headlight assembly. Pull the bulb module from the connection and discard the old bulb module.

Hold the replacement bulb module by the plastic retainer tab, not the glass part of the bulb. Connect the replacement bulb and insert it into the rear of the headlight assembly. Turn the module 1/4 turn clockwise to lock it.

Replace the white dome cover and turn it to secure it.

Items you will need

  • Replacement bulb 9003

 How to Replace a Headlight on a Hyundai Elantra

Determine which headlight bulb is burned out. The Elantra has one high beam and one low beam bulb on each side. The low beam is the bulb located toward the outside.

Open the hood. To replace a driver's side bulb, you will have to remove the headlight assembly, since there is no room to work. For the passenger side, if you can access the bulbs, there's no need to remove the assembly from the car.

Remove the 2 push pins that connect the engine compartment plastic separator. Remove the 10mm bolt at the top of the separator and remove it from the car. Remove the two bolts at the top of the headlight assembly, and 1 bolt at the bottom. Pull the headlight free of its frame. Find the wiring harness connector, release the clip and pull the headlight free.

Remove the headlight bulb cover from the bulb you need to replace. Remember, the low beam is located toward the outside. Turn the cover counterclockwise and pull the cover off.

Turn the bulb counterclockwise and remove it from the headlight assembly. Insert the new bulb. Because of the small tab on the side of the bulb, it will only go in one way. Once in, rotate it about 1/4 turn clockwise to lock it into place.

Replace the bulb cover, and replace the headlight assembly in its frame. Reconnect the wiring harness connector. You might find it easier to connect the wires before you place the headlight into the frame.

Replace the three headlight bolts. Replace the plastic separator, and insert the push pins and 1 bolt.

Items you will need

  • 1/4 inch drive socket set

 How to Replace a Headlight on a Chrysler PT Cruiser

Park the PT Cruiser on a flat, level, paved or concrete surface.

Open the hood to the PT Cruiser. If anything, it will allow daylight into the engine compartment and allow you to see a little better.

Break the lug nuts loose on the front tire of the same side as the burned-out headlight. Don't loosen them too much, and don't remove them. You can try to replace the headlight without removing the tire by turning it all the way inside, but you're most likely going to find that you'll need a little more arm room to remove the door panel in the wheel well.

Lift the Cruiser with the floor jack and place a jack stand under the rocker panel.

Remove the lug nuts and wheel.

Pry the tabs of the door panel in the front of the wheel well (directly behind the headlights), using a flat-head screwdriver. The panel tabs are hard rubber/plastic and more inclined to break during colder weather. The warmer it is, the more tenacious you can be about prying them out. Pry the outside one out first and work the screwdriver around the circumference of the panel to the inside tab.

Reach inside to remove the headlight. This is a good opportunity to get up and physically look at the headlights in the front of the Cruiser. The high beams are on the inside sockets; the low beams are on the outside sockets. Make sure when reaching in from behind that you're grabbing the right bulb for replacement. Turn the headlight 1/4 turn counter-clockwise and extract it from the headlight assembly. Even with the wheel removed for the Cruiser, you're going to have limited hand room through the door panel to the headlight. If you have large hands and arms, consider recruiting someone to help.

Unclip the headlight from the wire harness and discard it.

Insert the new headlight into the wire harness until the lock clips into place. Don't touch the glass light bulb of the new headlight. Only handle it from the plastic plug part.

Insert the new headlight into the headlight assembly and twist it 1/4 turn to the right until it locks into place. Test the headlight by turning the ignition key to the accessory position and turning on the headlights. Turn the key back to the "Off" position when you're done.

Reinstall the door panel. It's going to be as much of a pain to reinsert as it was coming off.

Replace the wheel and lug nuts. Tighten the lug nuts snugly and then lower the Cruiser to the ground. Re-torque the lug nuts in an alternate fashion, using the adjustable torque wrench and a 19mm socket.

Items you will need

  • Flat-head screwdriver Floor jack Jack stand 1/2-inch drive breaking bar and 19mm, 1/2-inch drive socket Adjustable torque wrench set at 100 foot lbs.

 How to Replace the Headlight on an X3

Driver Side

Open the hood.

Lift the tab on the lamp cover, using a flat-head screwdriver, then pull off the lamp cover.

Press down on the bulb holder and pull it straight out.

Pull the used bulb straight out of the holder.

Push the new bulb into the holder.

Replace the bulb holder by pushing it back into place.

Replace the lamp cover and snap the tab back onto the cover to secure it.

Passenger Side

Open the hood.

Remove the windshield washing system reservoir. Unscrew the screw on the left side of the reservoir and pull it out. Be careful when lifting the reservoir, because it is heavy.

Follow steps 2 through 6 from the "Driver Side" section to replace the passenger-side bulb.

Reinstall the windshield washer system reservoir.

Items you will need

  • Owner's manual

  • Flat-head screwdriver

  • Replacement bulb

 How to Change a Headlight in a Hyundai Tucson

Open the hood and remove the two retaining screws on the top of the headlight housing assembly with a Phillips head screwdriver.

Slide the housing assembly forward.

Remove the power connector from the back of the headlight ballast.

Remove the bail wire clip from the back of the headlight.

Pull the headlight out of the housing assembly.

Insert the new headlight into the housing assembly and replace the bail wire clip to secure the headlight to the housing assembly.

Plug the electrical power connector back into the headlight ballast.

Slide the headlight back against the frame. Thread and tighten the mounting screws with a Phillips head screwdriver.

Items you will need

  • Phillips head screwdriver

 How to Replace Headlights on a Cadillac CTS

Turn off your Cadillac CTS and look below the front grille for the bottom pins that hold it in place. Push these pins inward to disengage them.

Open the hood. Look for the pins that hold the grille in place on the engine compartment side. Push in these pins. Pull the grille off the front of the Cadillac CTS.

Remove the side pins from the CTS fender on the side that has the headlight you wish to replace. Pull the side fender away from the vehicle to prepare for removing the headlight.

Remove the three bolts on the top and rear of the headlight.

Disconnect the wiring harness from the back of the headlight.

Push or pull the headlight through the front of the Cadillac CTS and set it aside. This part may require a lot of force if the headlight is stuck.

Insert the new headlight along the runners upon which the previous headlight sat, and attach the wiring harness. Reinstall the three bolts you removed earlier, as well as the side finder and the grille.

Items you will need

  • Socket wrench

  • Replacement headlight

 How Do I Change Headlights on a Buick Rainier?

Accessing the Headlight

Open the hood to access the engine compartment. Locate the snap retainers holding the grill in place. There will be eight retainers to unsnap. Carefully pry the grill off the retainers. If the weather is cold it may cause the snaps to break. Once you remove the grill is removed, you will have access to the headlight assembly. Locate the brackets and lift them up to move the headlight assembly. Move the assembly forward to access the light sockets in the back.

Removing the Headlight

Pull the black plastic weather seal off the back of the bulb you are replacing. The high-beam bulbs are inboard and the low-beam bulbs are outboard. Disconnect the locking wiring-harness clip by hand. Turn the bulb counterclockwise until the tabs on the socket and the assembly line up. This will free the bulb to slide out of the headlight assembly.

Installing the Headlight

Insert the new bulb into the assembly. Twist clockwise to lock in place. Fasten the wiring-harness clip to the back of the bulb. Position the weather seal back over the assembly. Relocate the assembly and push the brackets down to secure it. Push the grill back onto the front of the vehicle. The grill will snap into place once it is positioned correctly. Start the vehicle to ensure the light is working correctly.

 How to Change a Headlight on a Chrysler Pacifica

Open the hood to the Pacifica and then turn the headlights on. Go back to the front of the vehicle and locate which bulb is out and what position it is in inside the headlight assembly. The low beams are on the outsides of the headlight assemblies and the high beams are on the insides.

Remove the two screws at the top of the headlight assembly using the ratchet and a socket.

Tuck the towel in between the bottom of the headlight assembly and the bumper. You will note that the bumper has some flexibility to it. The towel is to protect the bumper from getting scratched while removing the headlight assembly.

Pull forward on the headlight assembly. There is a spring loaded clamp that is going to stubbornly hang onto the assembly, but be determined and it will come free.

Tip the face of the headlight assembly downward to expose the back of the assembly. Remove the round plastic cover from the chamber of the headlight you're replacing by prying it off with a flathead screwdriver.

Reach down into the chamber and turn the headlight bezel counterclockwise until it releases from the assembly. Pull the headlight out and unplug the wire harness from the bulb.

Plug the new bulb into the wire harness, but be careful not to touch the glass bulb part of the headlight. Insert the bulb into the headlight assembly chamber and replace and tighten the bezel clockwise until it locks into place. Turn the headlight back on temporarily to check the bulb and ensure it's working.

Replace the round cover and reinsert the headlight assembly into the Pacifica. Be sure to align the spring loaded clamp to the clip on the bottom of the assembly.

Replace the two screws, remove the tools and close the hood.

Items you will need

  • 3/8-inch drive ratchet

  • 3/8-inch drive socket set

  • Flathead screwdriver

  • Towel (an old one)

  • Replacement bulb

 How to Change a Headlight on a 2005 Subaru Outback

Changing the Low-Beam Headlight

Turn the engine off. Open the hood and support it with the rod. Examine the back of the headlight to find the low-beam bulb. The low-beam headlight bulb is the center bulb in your headlight assembly.

Turn the low-beam bulb's plastic cover counterclockwise until it slides off. This gives you access to the bulb inside. Press the tab on the bulb connection; pull the connection away to disconnect it from the headlight.

Push the metal retainer spring upward. This spring secures the headlight bulb; with it detached, the headlight comes off easily. Slide the old bulb out and discard it.

Place the new bulb in the mount. Push down the metal retainer spring; tuck the edge into the clip on the side to secure it. Reconnect the electrical connection to the rear of the bulb. Reattach the cover; turn it clockwise to tighten it.

Changing the High-Beam Headlight

Turn the engine off. Open the hood and prop it with the rod. Locate the high-beam bulb on the rear of the headlight case. It is the inboard bulb (the one closest to the Outback's grille emblem).

Unplug the connection from the high-beam bulb. Grasp the base of the bulb; turn it counterclockwise to unhook it, and pull it straight out.

Carefully insert the replacement bulb. Turn it clockwise to lock it. Reattach the connection to the rear of the bulb.

Items you will need

  • Replacement bulb H7 (low-beam)

  • Replacement bulb 9005 (high-beam)

 How to Change a Headlight on a 2003 Cadillac DeVille

Turn the engine off. Open the hood to access the headlight casing.

Remove the push pins that attach the protective panel (along the front of the engine bay, over the headlights). Use a screwdriver to depress the center of the push pins, and then pull them out. Pull the panel away when all of the push pins are removed.

Remove the three bolts from the top part of the headlight casing. Push the backside of the casing forward, toward the grille.

Grasp the edge of the headlight casing exposed above the bumper. Pull the headlight casing out carefully.

Pry off the bulb dust cover from the rear of the casing (with the screwdriver). Rotate the bulb socket counterclockwise to release it from the casing.

Pull the bulb straight away from the socket. Attach the replacement bulb. Do not touch the glass; instead, hold the bulb by its plastic connection module.

Reinsert the bulb into the rear of the casing. Rotate it clockwise to secure it, and then push the casing back into the mount. Tighten the three bolts, with the socket wrench.

Set the plastic panel back in place. Align the holes in the panel with the push pin mounting holes in the engine bay. Replace the push pins; push down on the outside rim of the pins to secure them.

Items you will need

  • Socket wrench

  • Flathead screwdriver

  • Bulb 9005 (low-beam)

  • Bulb 9006 (high-beam)

 How to Replace a Headlight in a Pontiac G6

Open the hood and remove the pair of headlamp assembly securing screws.

Remove the front grill fasteners by lifting them out from below.

Remove the front grill and pull out the headlamp assembly from the vehicle.

Release the ball stud from its retaining clamp in the fender bracket by pulling the headlamp assembly.

Turn the bulb access cover counterclockwise to remove it.

Pull out the bulb assembly by turning the bulb socket counterclockwise and disconnect the socket from the headlamp wiring harness.

Remove the headlight bulb from its socket and replace it with a new bulb.

Reinstall the access cover by turning it clockwise and push the headlamp assembly back into place, being sure to put the ball stud back into the retaining clamp.

Push the front grill back into place.

Reinstall the front grill fasteners and the pair of headlamp assembly securing screws.

Items you will need

  • Replacement bulb

 How to Change Headlight on a Mercedes C240

Ensure the power to the headlight is turned off. The way to be completely sure is to disconnect the battery from the Mercedes C240.

Open the headlight cover. To gain access, open the hood and locate the headlight cover at the front of your Mercedes, on either side of the front grille. The cover opens by pressing the clamp that secures the compartment.

Pull the electrical connecting wire from the bulb. Remove the retaining spring to remove the bulb. The spring does not need to be fully removed; un-clipping one side will provide access to the bulb.

Insert the new bulb. Only handle the bulb with paper or cloth--no skin to glass contact. Connect the power wire to the base of the new bulb.

Click into place the retaining spring. Replace the headlight cover (snaps into place).

Reconnect the battery and test the new headlight.

About the Author

This article was written by the It Still Runs team, copy edited and fact checked through a multi-point auditing system, in efforts to ensure our readers only receive the best information. To submit your questions or ideas, or to simply learn more about It Still Runs, contact us.