Headlights Burning Out

My headlights keep burning out. As in frequently burning out…nearly every other month or so I have to replace one headlight or the other. Could this be indicative of a larger problem with my car? Thanks!

When replacing the headlight lamp are you touching the lamp with your bare fingers? Because if you are that’s what’s burning out the lamps.

When you handle the lamp with your bare fingers it leaves skin oils on the lamp. This creates hot spots on the lamp shortening the lamps life.


I can’t remember whether it was my '95 Accord or '98 Honda, but there was a recall for the lights going out while driving for no reason at all. You might check for a recall on your vehicle.

I think @Tester is probably right, the install process is somehow damaging the headlight. Besides avoiding touching the surface of the lamp with bare fingers (I use latex gloves), be sure the lamp isn’t being mechanically stressed by prying, twisting, etc. i.e. It may be whoever is installing the lamp doesn’t know the proper procedure for your car. It’s also possible you have the wrong part number for the lamp. Or the store you are buying the lamps may have a batch of bad ones. I had this problem with my Corolla on the dome lamp. I installed a new one, and it would burn out within a month. Again. Burned out within a month. Finally I went to a different store and have never since in over 10 years had a problem with the dome light.

Finally, there’s a slight possibility of an alternator problem. Unlikely, but this is something which is easy for a mechanic to test so it might be worth it to eliminate the alternator as a cause.

You might also check to be sure the headlamps themselves are held frimly in place. If the bulb is allowed to jiggle, either with a loose headlamp, or by being held loosly IN the headlamp, it will burn out quickly. I once drove a company van that would burn out one of the lamps at least once a month. I found that one of the tabs that held that headlamp in the grille area was broken. I fixed the tab with a large “fender” washer. It never burned out again as long as I worked there.

Another thing you might do is have the DC and AC ripple voltage checked on the alternator. The DC voltage shouldn’t exceed 14.8 volts and the AC should be less than .1 volt.

Any condensation in the headlight assembly? It was an issue with my 2000 Blazer. I removed the assembly and used a hair dryer to dry out the interior.

Ed B.

I had a similar problem with my 2003 Kia, buying after market bulbs. I was always careful to not touch with my fingers, and gengtly wipe away anything that may have been there already, with a dry cloth…but eventually I called the dealership. They said that the aftermarket bulbs were not exactly the same as the Kia bulb…I shelled out double cost for the Kia bulb…and it’s lasted a long time. I couldn’t tell you if its a voltage issue or not…but it’s saved me a lot of time under the hood.

This might be an electrical issue so I would follow Cougar’s advice and have the output from the alternator checked but I would also check the voltage and amperage at the connector for the headlights. If everything checks out ok then I would buy a pair of OEM headlights from the dealer and, using latex gloves, carefully install them without touching the bulbs. My guess is that, unless you have an electrical problem, the OEM bulbs will last much longer.