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Do-It-Yourself Projects
Bulbs and Lamps
By Mike Bumbeck/
Printable version
Degree of DifficultyEasy
Estimated Time60 minutes
60 minutes
Circuit Breaker
Automotive bulbs and lamps should last a good long time before requiring replacement due to burnout. A bulb that was working fine before going dark has likely simply run out of bright ideas. If bulb or lamp replacement quickly brings another burnout or no light at all, then suspect a problem with either the switch, relay, or a short circuit. A quickly blown fuse is also a sign of a malfunctioning circuit or short. While a dead dome light can be a grocery fumbling annoyance, malfunctioning brake or headlamps can be dangerous. Do not drive a vehicle with malfunctioning head, turn signal, or brake lamps. Follow along with the step-by-steps for some replacement solutions for common bulbs.
Step 1 - Modern headlamps use a front facing lens that holds a rear-mounted bulb. Removing and replacing the bulb is a snap, but be careful not to force any engine heat weakened plastic into breaking. Remember that if one bulb has winked out, the other can't be too far behind. Replacing bulbs in pairs is good thinking. Tip: Do not touch the surface of the bulb. Oils or crud on the glass surface can cause bulb failure.
Modern Headlamps Use a Front-facing Lens that Holds a Rear-mounted Bulb
Step 2 - Older style headlights may require a bit more disassembly. A turn or two with a screwdriver onto a few fasteners will usually get things apart in no time. Tip: Some screws may not need to come all the way out. Place tiny screws and fasteners that do come out in a place where they won't get spilled into the grass or dirt. As with more modern equivalents, replacing headlamps in pairs is a good idea.
Older Style Headlights May Require a Bit More Disassembly
Step 3 - A burned out dome light isn't a dangerous thing, but can lead to much fumbling in the dark. Older-style domes were simple affairs. Removing the plastic cover giving the dome light its name revealed the burned out bulb in question. More modern dome lights might not be so simple. Removing and replacing bulbs and lamps varies from easy to complex. Light from above can be useful.
Replacing the Bulb of a Burned Out Dome Light
Step 4 - Turn signal bulbs are usually of the behind-the-lens location variety. Note that the pins on the bulb base are of different heights. Simply remove the old bulb and twist in the new. Do not try to force it in. Rotate the bulb 180° to get the pins to line up right. Some turn signal bulbs are amber in color.
Replacing the Turn Signal Bulbs
Step 5 - Like larger, forward facing headlamps, brake lights feature dual filaments. One part of the lamp lights up as a running light. The other part shines bright the instant the brakes are applied. Both of these filaments are crucial to safe driving. Don't forget to check the center or "third" brake lamp for proper operation.
Brake Lights Feature Dual Filaments
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