How to Change Automotive 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 automotive light bulbs you never think of—until you need them.

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Auto light bulbs - how to change auto light bulbs
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How to Change the Most Neglected Automotive Light Bulbs in Your Vehicle

The automotive 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 Replacing Automotive 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. (Check out more reasons you should never buy cheap auto parts.)
  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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How To Change Auto Light Bulbs - Map Light
Family Handyman

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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How To Change Auto Light Bulbs - License Plate Bulb
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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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How To Change Auto Light Bulbs - High Mount Stop Bulb
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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).

Find out the 20 tools no home mechanic should be without.

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How To Change Auto light Bulbs - Fog Light Bulbs
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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 you’re at it, you might also consider these popular headlight upgrades for style and safety.

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How To Change Auto Light Bulbs - Dome Light Bulb
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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.

Now that you know how to change automotive light bulbs, find out what these strange car noises could mean.

The Family Handyman
Originally Published on The Family Handyman

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