CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Burned-out headlight bulbs

I drive a 2005 Subaru Outback which I bought new. In 2007 a headlight bulb burned-out. In 2008 another headlight burned-out. Four months ago another burned-out. Two months ago another burned-out. Last week both headlight bulbs burned-out. Is this the result of a string of defective bulbs or is there a problem with the car’s electrical sustem?

Is it the same headlamp or are both sides burning out?  

Any extra vibration can cause problems and any oil, even just that which you would normally have on your fingers, or other contamination left on the lamp as you replace it can cause short lamp life. What kind of lamps are you using?  If you are using the supper bright mega extra bright blue or white lamp, you should be aware that they generally gain that extra brightness by sacrificing lamp life.

Is it the same bulb each time? What kind of bulbs are you buying?

Any contamination on the bulb will cause rapid bulb failure. If you touched the glass with your fingers during installation, or wipe the bulb with a rag, or they bumped up against something under the hood, they won’t last as long as they should.

If none of those things happened, there may be a problem with the electrical connection in the bulb socket. Are the contacts clean? Check the ground connection, too. It should be clean and tight.

Thanks for you reply. Both sides have been burning-out. I replaced the bulbs with standard H7 Sylviana Silverstar Vetra bulbs. I wore disposable latex gloves to keep the bulb clean.

Thanks for your reply. Each time I replaced the bulbs with standard H7 Sylvania Silverstar Vetra bulbs. I wore disposable latex gloves to keep the bulb clean. As you suggested, I will check for clean contacts and ground connection.

I had a similar problem with my truck & found that the rubber seals around the lights were bad! Once replaced, problem was solved!

Keep in mind that the “Silverstar” bulbs are known to have shorter life than regular halogen bulbs. I have to admit that the lifespan you’re getting from them is pretty ridiculous though. You might try wiping down the bulbs with isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol just before installing them to remove any traces of oil.

Sylviana Silverstar lamps by design are shorter life lamps. They trade off life for more light. The standard lamps should give you better life. I would also suggest having your operating voltage checked, it sounds like it may be a little high and that would effect the Silverstar’s before other lights.

I doubt if the Silverstar design by itself is the full cause of the problem and I don’t believe a little higher than normal voltage would cause the results you have seen, but together quite likely.

I have a 2005 Subaru Outback and have the same problem with the headlights. My mechanic has been careful in installation,etc… Now I am starting to have radio problems - first it was reception and presets acting as if they were possessed and I had the antenna wire replaced. Now, there was prolonged static on all stations for short while and again presets are not working. This is about 3 months from when the antenna was replaced. Dealer indicates that there is nothing wrong with electrical.

You and LJJ414 should both get your charging systems checked. Your voltage regulator, part of your alternator assembly, may be bad and you may be pushing too much voltage.