There are several reasons you might want to replace your entire headlight assembly (not just the bulb). Maybe you got in a fender bender and the lens is broken. Or maybe your headlights are clouded over or yellowed from oxidation.
Regardless of why you want to replace your headlights, generally, the procedure is pretty straightforward. On many vehicles, however, the front bumper cover or grille must be removed to access the headlight fasteners. And that can make the job more complicated.
Headlight Assembly Replacement Costs
If you decide to have a professional replace your headlight assembly, expect to pay anywhere from $200 to well over $1000. The job can be even more costly if you have a high-end luxury or performance car.
Should you decide to tackle the job yourself, expect to pay anywhere from approximately $50 to $700 for each headlight assembly. Once again, if you’ve got a fancy car, the cost may be higher.
What Tools Do You Need to Replace Your Headlight Assembly?
The tools needed to replace a headlight assembly vary, depending on what type of car you have. But, in general, you’ll need:
- Ratchet, appropriate size sockets and wrenches
- Safety glasses
Should You Do the Job Yourself?
Headlight assembly replacement is typically pretty easy. Plus, unlike some other tasks, such as replacing your brakes, vehicle safety is unlikely to be compromised if something goes wrong.
That being said, you could damage your vehicle if the job is done incorrectly. You could also end up wasting a lot of time or even hurt yourself.
So, if you feel like you’re up to the task, go for it. Otherwise, leave it to a professional.
Headlight Assembly Replacement
Now we get to the fun part: headlight assembly replacement. Are you ready to grab some tools and get dirty? Good. We’re going to discuss how to replace a composite headlight assembly that uses a halogen headlight bulb.
Before we start, however, keep in mind that all vehicles are different. Be sure to follow the repair information for your specific application. Repair manuals, such as those from Chilton, are useful, but an ALLDATA subscription is even better. ALLDATA has single-vehicle subscriptions for DIYers that provide detailed factory repair information.
Note: The following are general guidelines for educational and entertainment purposes only. Consult your vehicle’s factory information for specific repair instructions and recommended safety procedures.
How to Remove the Headlight Assembly
1. Put on your safety glasses.
2. Make sure the vehicle’s ignition, as well as the headlights, are off.
3. If necessary, remove the front bumper cover or grille per the factory repair information. On some (but not all) vehicles, this must be done to access the headlight assembly retaining fasteners. The process generally involves removing a collection of screws and/or clips to free the bumper or grille.
4. Once you have direct access to the headlight assembly, remove the bolts or screws holding it in place.
5. Pull the headlight assembly out and away from the vehicle. Keep in mind: There may still be retainer clips holding the assembly in place. You’ll need to carefully dislodge the assembly from the clips as you pull it toward you.
6. Disconnect the electrical connectors from the back of the assembly.
7. Some replacement headlight assemblies will come with new bulbs. If yours do not, you will need to remove the old bulbs and sockets so they can be reused. Typically, this involves turning the bulb or its socket counterclockwise to remove it from the headlight assembly. There may be a retainer you need to remove first before the bulb can be rotated and removed.
Warning: Be sure not to touch the glass envelope portion of a halogen bulb (handle it by its base only). The bulb may experience premature failure if you touch it. Also, the bulb may shatter if it’s dropped or scratched. Be sure to handle it with care and wear your safety glasses at all times.
How to Install the Headlight Assembly
1. Compare the new headlight assembly to the old headlight assembly to be sure both are the same design.
2. Reinstall the bulbs and sockets in the headlight assembly as needed.
3. Reconnect the electrical connectors.
4. Mount the headlight assembly in place. Be sure that it slides into any retainer clips affixed to the front of the vehicle.
5. Reinstall the headlight assembly mounting bolts and carefully tighten them down until they’re snug. Do not overtighten. If needed, you can consult the factory repair information and use a torque wrench to tighten the fasteners to manufacturer specifications.
6. Reinstall the front bumper or grille as needed.
Headlight Replacement Tips
Vehicle manufacturers often recommend aiming the headlights as needed after the assembly is replaced. If not aimed correctly, the headlights can reduce nighttime visibility or blind an oncoming driver. Both scenarios can lead to an accident.
Although you can do a cursory aiming at home, proper headlight aiming and adjustment should be performed by a professional with the necessary equipment.