Headlight Replacement: Not What It Used to Be

I wonder if you, dear readers, share this same frustration in car ownership.

Back in the day, when a headlight in your car went out, you just went to your local parts store, bought a replacement headlight (not just a bulb, but the whole darn headlight), unscrewed the old one, screwed in the new one, and went on with your day.

I’m sure, unless you still drive a 1994 Tercel, you’re well aware that those days are long gone.

Headlight replacement has evolved into roughly the same category of difficulty as engine replacement.

One does not simply replace a burnt out headlight bulb anymore and carry on with the day. Replacing a bulb, it seems, involves removing major motor components and sacrificing most of a work week along with spewing a constant stream of unsavory adjectives.

This has been my experience anyway, as I attempted to change the bulb on my Legacy. Not only is changing the bulb nearly impossible, there are far more headlight options available than ever. Plus, new headlight ratings by the IIHS say that most headlights underperform anyway.

According to the IIHS,

The ability to see the road ahead, along with any pedestrians, bicyclists or obstacles, is an obvious essential for drivers. However, government standards for headlights, based on laboratory tests, allow huge variation in the amount of illumination that headlights provide in actual on-road driving. With about half of traffic deaths occurring either in the dark or in dawn or dusk conditions, improved headlights have the potential to bring about substantial reductions in fatalities.

Driving around with one headlight out makes the situation even worse, so I finally looked up a video on how to change my light and learned that removing the wheel and tire, and replacing the bulb from underneath, makes the process much easier.

I haven’t done it yet, partly because I can’t decide which bulb to use. Do I use the stock yellow-colored bulb that lasts over 200 hours, or a super bright white light that lasts 80 hours? The super bright bulb would make nighttime driving safer but require changing three times as often. Plus they cost at least twice as much as the standard bulb. No thanks.

I’m about to cave in and have a shop do the work.

Or just buy a Tercel.

Do your headlights work well at night? Do you change your own headlight bulbs?


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