How To Replace Headlight Assembly

In this article, we’re going to explain how to replace a headlight assembly.

If you consider how much of the world around us we experience through our eyes, you’ll immediately realize that sight is our main ability – and on the road, it is the one that keeps us safe.

Fog, rain, dawn, dusk, and nighttime are difficult for our eyes to cope with, though. Properly functioning headlights are crucial to make sure you give your eyes the best assistance possible on the road.

When a deadlight grows dim, or a bulb burns out, a headlight replacement immediately becomes due. And it needn’t be a headache. It’s a simple job that you can tackle yourself, and you don’t have to be a master technician to do it well.

We’re about to show you how. Keep reading.

What You’ll Need

All you’ll need to do the job properly, are a couple of basic tools.

  •  Ratchet
  • Sockets
  • Screwdrivers
  • Pry tool
  • Painter’s tape (to protect the bodywork from scratches)

Why Change Your Headlight Assembly

Headlight assemblies need to be replaced from time to time for various reasons. These include simple wear and tear – remember, they weren’t designed to last forever.

They are also prone to picking up damage from road hazards. Cracks may result from flying stones, and these may allow moisture to seep in and collect in the headlight.

Collision damage may occur, and even though the headlight may look fine, small hairline cracks could start letting in dust and moisture.

How To Change A Headlight Assembly

Here is a simple step-by-step process, tried and tested, that you can use to replace a headlight assembly. Keep your car’s owner’s manual close by, though, as it will contain model-specific information you might need.

  • Open the hood and locate the headlight assembly.
  • Disconnect the electrical connectors from the back of the headlight assembly.
  • Remove the headlight assembly from the headlight housing by removing the headlight mounting screws or retainer.
  •  Inspect the headlight housing for damage.
  •  Unbolt the damaged headlight housing from the header panel.
  •  Install new headlight housing on the header panel. Replace damaged mounting hardware as needed
  •  Install headlight assembly in the headlight housing.
  • Reconnect the wiring harness to the headlight assembly
  • Reinstall any remaining components that were removed to access the headlight housing.
  • Align the headlights.

Things To Consider When Changing A Headlight Assembly

There are various types of headlights – and each of them has strengths and weaknesses, and quirks when it comes to installation and operation.

The most common type of headlight, the one found in most cars on the road today, is a halogen assembly. They use gas-filled bulbs with a filament to create light. This is a composite design, which means it is easy to replace a bulb on its own, instead of an entire assembly.

HID headlights, also referred to as Xenon headlights, work on the same basis. Except, the tube of the bulb is filled with xenon gas. They last longer than halogen headlights and provide better road illumination too.

LED headlight is the latest technology. It has many advantages, but they’re more finicky to install as an aftermarket conversion, and often create problems with flickering when retrofitted.

If you change a headlight assembly, you may opt for a conversion while you’re at it. The easiest upgrade is from a halogen assembly to a Xenon system. If you want to go all the way, it is fine to opt for an LED conversion, but this is both expensive, and you have to be sure you get 100% the right kit to be sure it works without issue.

Should you opt for a different kind of assembly, also be sure that you’re happy with the unique maintenance the new configuration may require. For instance, when upgrading from halogen to Xenon, there isn’t much difference. It’s basically installing a ballast, and from there it’s about replacing bulbs if and when necessary.

However, if you upgrade to a LED assembly, maintenance becomes a little trickier. Although the LED headlights and bulbs last longer, they’re more expensive to buy, and not as straightforward to install.

A parting shot

Replacing a headlight assembly is straightforward in the case of either a halogen or Xenon (HID) system. These are easy to maintain.

The temptation is always there to upgrade instead of replacing, and this could be a good investment. But be sure you know what you’re doing if you decide to upgrade to LED, and also purchase a kit. This will make the job infinitely easier, and also ensure the desired results!

Check out our most popular pages to find the best headlight bulbs.

Check out the brightest headlight bulbs as well.

Photo of author

Richard Nickleson is the author and owner behind Headlight Reviews. He first started the site as a hobby to share his insights on car parts and specifically headlight bulbs, but it soon ballooned and now he writes on all topics surrounding headlights bulbs. If you've got a bulb question, contact Richard here.