Your Corner Wrench: Replacing your car’s lighting? Here’s where to start
|driving.ca 22 Oct 2019 at 11:54|
Having penned automotive columns for almost 40 years, the biggest group of complaints regarding our vehicles has to be exterior lights. Whether it comes from the ‘my headlights are useless’ crowd, or the ‘I’m constantly blinded by oncoming traffic’ group, everyone has a loud opinion on automotive lighting. One of the lesser populated (but almost equally loud) group of complainers are those who have tried — and sometimes failed — to change or upgrade a light bulb on their trusted chariots. Every mode year seems to bring new lighting tech that puts up more barriers do DIY swap.
A walk-around lamp check is something we should all do on a regular basis, especially on older rides. When it comes to determining what type of bulb you need, most owners’ manuals have a handy guide page that will at least list their original replacement parts numbers, and most others will list the common ‘short-form’ numbers that any auto parts store can supply. If you’re not certain after checking these listings, simply remove the dead bulb and take it with you into your preferred parts store.
When it comes to bulb replacements, exterior lamps on vehicles can be sorted into two categories: Those with bulbs that can be changed with the lamp in place, and those requiring the lamp to be removed. The former is usually in vehicles with removable access panels in the rear and supposedly enough room behind the headlight assemblies to allow for removal of the bulb.
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Many skinned knuckles, though, can attest to that sometimes being a pipe dream. If there’s sufficient room, popping out most bulbs is as easy as unplugging the wiring connector, then twisting the bulb slightly to unlock it. With headlights, it’s important to remember not to touch the glass portion of the bulb, as the natural oils on your skin may cause the bulb to overheat and shorten its lifespan.
Before attempting to remove any lamp assembly to access a bulb, get the lowdown on how it’s attached. Most lamps only use removable screws on one side of their assembly and attach the other side with locating pins. If you don’t apply your pulling force in the correct direction when trying to remove a lamp, you can easily snap one of these pins or break the lamp’s casing, leading to a very expensive bill. Getting some hands-on instruction from your favourite technician can help save these costs.
Finally, avoid upgrading your lights to LED (light-emitting diode) or HID (high-intensity discharge) bulbs. While these are certainly more powerful, if your headlamp wasn’t designed for them, they can create a blinding wash of unfocused light that will present real safety risks to other drivers. This is why Ontario, for instance, banned HID upgrades in 2017, but LEDs are no safer and may see the same fate in the future.