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How to Change Auto Light Bulbs

Is your car interior dark? High-mount stop lamp burnt out? Can't see in the fog? Here's how to change the five auto light bulbs you never think of—until you need them.

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Auto light bulbs - how to change auto light bulbsPhoto: Shutterstock

How to Change the 5 Most Neglected Auto Light Bulbs in Your Vehicle

The auto light bulbs that burn out most often are the taillight, stop, turn signal, backup and headlight bulbs. But there are many other bulbs in a vehicle that could use your attention, too. These are the five most commonly neglected bulbs that can affect your driving experience. Check yours to see if they work, and pick up replacements at any auto parts store.

Tips For Changing Auto Light Bulbs

We’re not going to ask how many DIYers it takes to change a light bulb. But did you know there are a few tricks to changing the bulbs in your vehicle? Read the following tips and file them away in your long-term memory.

1. Check the bulb for signs of tungsten filament deposits. The darker the buildup, the closer it is to burnout.

2. If you’re replacing a bulb in an exterior socket, apply a very light coating of dielectric grease to the bulb’s contacts. That’ll prevent corrosion.

3. A long-life bulb is worth the price. It’ll last at least twice as long as the original, so you’ll most likely never have to replace it again.

4. A “blue” bulb (Sylvania SilverStar is one brand) gives off whiter light, making it easier to see in the dark. Use them for dome, map, fog, and backup lights.

5. Always wear gloves when you handle bulbs. Skin oils can cause bulbs to swell and fail. It’s especially important to prevent swelling on headlight and fog light bulbs. But skin oils can also cause miniature bulbs to swell and fail.

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Auto light bulbs - how to change map light bulbPhoto: FamilyHandyman.com

How to Change a Map Light Bulb

Pry off the lens and pull the bulb out of the spring terminals. Snap in a new bulb.

Speaking of lights, here’s why you should never ignore your car’s check engine light.

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Auto light bulbs - How to change license plate bulbPhoto: FamilyHandyman.com

How to Change a License Plate Bulb

Since a burned-out license plate bulb can get you a ticket, replace it if needed. Unscrew the lens or release the locking tab. Twist the bulb socket a quarter turn and pull it out. Snap in a new bulb and reinstall.

Don’t miss this nifty trick to prevent license plate theft.

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Auto light bulbs - how to change high mount stop light bulbPhoto: FamilyHandyman.com

How to Change a High-Mount Stop Light Bulb

A burned-out high-mount stop light bulb can also earn you a ticket. Pry off the interior trim cover. Then rotate the socket a quarter turn and swap out the bulb(s).

These pro tips for diagnosing and fixing a broken auto light socket could also come in handy.

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Auto light bulbs - how to change fog lightsPhoto: FamilyHandyman.com

How to Change Fog Lights


Most drivers don’t realize their fog lights are burned out until they’re needed most. If one is burned out, replace them both. Reach behind the fog light assembly to access the bulb. If you can’t gain access, remove the entire assembly and then replace the bulb. While your at it, you might also consider these five popular headlight upgrades for style and safety.

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Auto light bulbs - how to change dome lightPhoto: FamilyHandyman.com

How to Change a Dome Light

Pry off the dome light lens and spread the spring terminals. Drop one side of the “torpedo” shaped bulb out of the socket and lift the bulb out. Reverse to install. Next, check out 100 more car maintenance tasks you can do yourself.

Originally Published on The Family Handyman