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Bright Lights: Replacing or Upgrading Headlights, Taillights, Turn Signals and Other Bulbs

Faulty lights, headlights, taillights and brake lights compromise safety and are traffic-ticket bait. Turn signals on the fritz frustrate fellow drivers. Broken interior bulbs are a nuisance for you. The good news: Replacing a bulb is often one of the easiest DIY car projects you’re likely to encounter.

How do I know when I need new headlights, taillights, turn signals or brake lights?

Typically, there’s no forewarning the fates are going to “86” a light. Sometimes a bulb simply is fine on Wednesday night, but when you flip on your headlights Thursday evening, one of them has conked. Ditto for taillights and turn signals.

Although a lot of turn signals start to flash more quickly when one has burned out, you’re on your own for the other bulbs in the car. For headlights, periodically shine them onto a wall or garage door and check for an even beam. Don’t forget to test the high beams!

For the rest of your lights, it’s smart to do a walk-around monthly. You’ll need a helper to check the brake lights, taillights and parking lights while you turn each one on and off.

What do I need to replace a bulb?

Newer car models often don’t require use of tools for headlight bulb replacement, but taillight enclosures might be secured with a screw or clips. To get ready for a bulb replacement, you’ll need a screwdriver or allen wrench, vinyl or latex work gloves and the replacement light bulb.

At Glenbrook Auto Parts, we stock:

  • Bulbs
  • Driving lights
  • Emergency rotating lamps
  • Extension cords
  • Flashers
  • Fluorescents
  • Fog lights
  • Halogen bulbs
  • Halogen capsules
  • Headlight conversion sets
  • Heavy-duty bulbs
  • Light bars
  • Miniature bulbs
  • Mirrors
  • Osram bulbs
  • Portable lamps
  • Sealed beams
  • Tractor halogen headlights
  • Truck lights
  • Truck mirrors

Key DIY tips

Replacing lights is a piece of cake in most instances, but here are a couple of tips taken from the detailed directions from our NAPA Know How Blog:

  • Halogen bulbs burn extremely hot. The No. 1 reason for premature failure is oil staining. Halogen bulb glass must be perfectly clean. A single fingerprint can cause the bulb to burn out. Sometimes it’s instant, other times it will be delayed a few weeks, but touching the glass with bare hands always will cause the light burn out quicker. Prevent this by wearing a pair of vinyl or latex gloves and avoid touching the bulb glass. This should easily be accomplished, but some cars don’t have removable headlight lenses, and you have to work blind. Protect the bulb from any kind of oil and you should be good to go.
  • While all cars are different, most modern headlight bulbs can be changed in just a few minutes without tools.

In rare cases, a headlight will “brown out.” While not completely fried, the bulb isn’t illuminating to its full capacity. Many times, the bulb itself is fine, but a wire leading to the headlight assembly has become frayed or disconnected. This involves your vehicle’s electrical system and might be beyond a simple DIY job. If you need help, you can always stop by Glenbrook Auto Parts or one of our affiliated NAPA Auto Care Centers for a diagnosis and help.

What other repairs or maintenance should I do at the same time?

Consult your owner’s manual for directions on replacing other bulbs (taillight, turn signal, interior or other). We’ve got the stock to supply your DIY passion.

Remember, with Glenbrook Auto Parts in Glenview, you can save time by ordering your parts online and picking them up in the store. We’ll have them ready and waiting for you.

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