Have you spotted a faulty light bulb on your vehicle? It's critical to replace it as soon as possible.
Why is it important to change faulty vehicle bulbs?
Driving with a faulty lightbulb could see you pulled over by the police and being handed a hefty fine.
The Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989 states "No person shall use … a vehicle unless every lamp, reflector, rear marking and device … is in good working order and, in the case of a lamp, clean."
Moreover, driving with a busted headlamp, indicator or brake light could put you, your passengers and other road users in danger. Without sufficient light, you won’t be able to see other vehicles as clearly, and they’ll be less able to see you.
In the case of indicators, other road users won't know which way you plan to turn.
Here we cover how to change a car light bulb.
Buying new car bulbs
When purchasing replacement car light bulbs, ensure the packaging is undamaged; a bent or creased corner, or dented plastic may suggest the bulb has been dropped.
A damaged bulb may burn out more quickly, or not work at all.
Note that the brighter the bulb, the shorter the life.
If your car lights are difficult to change, you may not want to swap them out too often - in which case, look for a bulb with moderate brightness and reasonable lifespan.
Always replace bulbs in pairs
Only replacing one light bulb will give uneven light, since the newer light bulb will give off more light than the one on the opposite side.
Check your vehicle's manual
First, check your owner's manual. It will detail the exact car bulb required and how to replace it. It may also have handy diagrams.
If you've lost your manual, check online for a PDF version, or Google how to replace the desired type of bulb on your specific make and model of car.
Learning how to change your car light bulb is something most drivers can achieve. However, if you’re a newer driver, are not as dexterous as you used to be, or simply don’t have enough time - just ask your local garage to do the job.
How to replace a headlight bulb
Replacing headlights is arguably easier than other bulb types because they are larger and therefore easier to identify and handle.
However, in some cases, you may need to remove your battery or air cleaning unit in order to change the headlight bulb.
Before fitting a new bulb, ensure the engine is switched off.
Wear gloves to prevent oils from your fingers smearing the glass. Oil can create a hotspot on the glass, causing the bulb to burn out prematurely.
How to remove a vehicle headlight bulb
With the bonnet open, look for the electrical connector providing power to the light bulb. The bulb itself may be attached with clips.
Remove the electrical connector by pressing the tabs. Ensure you pull on the connector rather than the wires - to prevent the latter getting damaged.
Then detach the clips and lift the old headlight out.
With some vehicles you twist the bulb to remove it. Some vehicles also have a retaining ring that needs to be removed before the bulb can be taken out.
Fitting a new headlight bulb
When fitting the new bulb, take care not to touch or knock the light itself.
Dropping it could shock the coil and reduce the bulb's lifespan.
The new bulb should just slide in. It may have notches that ensure the bulb slots into the correct position.
Replace the clips (or twist to the right depending on the bulb type) then attach the electrical connector.
Repeat the process for the bulb on the other side.
With the new bulbs in place and with the bonnet still open, switch on the engine and check they are working as desired. They should emit a bright, even light.
If you’re still not sure how to fit a headlight bulb, you can always visit a trained mechanic, who should be able to do the job quickly.
How to replace an indicator light
The same process applies to changing a vehicle's indicator light.
Locating the indicator light may be more difficult, since it is smaller and closer to the side of the vehicle.
In most cases you detach the bulb casing from the connector, then twist out the old bulb before fitting the new one.
This is a 'bayonet' fitting as used in domestic light bulbs.
Slot the light casing with the new bulb back into position, then reattach the power cable.
How to replace a brake light
Replacing a car brake light works in a similar way. But in order to access most brake light assemblies you'll remove the brake light cover from inside the boot.
The cover may be screwed in, or it may simply pop out.
The assembly itself will need to be unscrewed from the boot. Standing outside the car, you can then lift out the brake light assembly. This should come out easily. if it doesn’t, check if you missed a screw at the rear.
You can then access the rear of the assembly and lift out the old bulb.
Most are simple bayonet attachments. Twist to the left and pull.
Slot the new bulb into the casing and turn it to the right.
Next, replace the bulb casing into the assembly using the notches. Replace the assembly and ensure all the screws are as they were before you started.
Note that some brake light bulbs can be accessed from outside the vehicle, without the need to access the boot.