Is it normal to have to change each headlight about 6 months apart consistently?

I’ve had a 2008 Santa Fe for five years now and it’s been pretty much on the dot that I one headlight goes out and six months later, the other goes. Except it’s continuous over the life I’ve had the car. So basically every six months I’m replacing a headlight. Bad wiring?

Modern manufacturing has been pretty much able to determine the life span of many products. So light bulbs are rated for so many hours of use like 1000 hours. There are deviations of course but generally when one burns out, it won’t be too long before the other goes. That’s their life span. So I always replace both when one goes out.

Now six months is a little early depending on how much the lights are used. I was replacing mine at about one year until I discovered one of the sockets was a little burned. It’s been about two years now. So I’d recommend having the sockets looked at the next time. They can be replaced or sometimes bending the prongs a little can provide better contact. It would make sense to actually test the bulb to see if it is really burned out or not if you have an ohm meter. ($10 at Harbor Freight for a cheap Chinese knock off)

This is EXTREMELY common with GM vehicles

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You don’t handle the bulbs with your bare hands, do you?

Because doing so leaves oil from your skin on the surface of the bulbs, causing hot spots which causes the bulb to fail prematurely.



I may have made the false assumption that a mechanic was doing the actual bulb replacement. So if not, yeah bulb replacement 101-wear gloves.

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No, it’s not normal. My Corolla is of similar vintage, a 2009, and takes a similar type of bulb, and I haven’t replaced a headlight bulb in years. The problem might be due to touching the bulbs with bare hands but frankly I doubt it.

However, the other unknown factor is how much night driving the OP does.
No, headlight bulbs shouldn’t burn out in 6 months, but that type of replacement frequency is at least a bit more understandable if someone does a lot of night driving.

I rarely drive at night, and that probably accounts for not needing to replace one of headlight bulbs on my current vehicle until it hit the 10 year mark. The other one is still working, after close to 11 years.

Also depends on if your particular vehicle uses the headlights as DRL’s also . This will shorten the life . That being said it has been many years since I have replaced a headlight .
i have a 2008 car and it still uses the original headlights. I have replaced 1 taillight on this vehicle .

The way I read the OP,
The left headlight burns out once a year, possibly every November
The right headlight burns out once a year, possibly every May

And as @VDCdriver questions, how much night driving is being done

Also does this car have daytime running lights?

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You can wear gloves if you must touch the bulb to install it. Just make sure you don’t get body oils in the glove’s fingers. Also, use electrical contact grease to prevent oxidation of the contacts.

I always have my headlights on, not just the DRL’s. I rarely have to replace any bulb. Probably 4 years+ since I replaced a headlight bulb. I am very careful to not touch the bulb.

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When one goes out I replace them in pairs. Bulb life expactancy in hours is listed on the package. I went with dumbed down bulbs as DRL kept them on all the time.

If you are using “brighter” bulbs, they do not last as long. If you read the back of some of those bright bulbs, they list the life of the bulb as 200 hours down to 100 hours for the brightest. 1000 hours is the typical lifespan of an OEM bulb.


Excessive ripple voltage or high charging voltage from the alternator can cause shorter than normal bulb life. If the max DC voltage at the battery is less than 15 volts you should be okay with that. I have had very good bulb life with lights from Phillips. They were OEM equipment in my van.

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My Corolla has DRLs and it’s still been years since I’ve had to replace a headlight bulb. I’m not sure how much that has to do with it.

This is not normal. I have never needed to replace a brake light, turn signal light, or headlight bulb with less than 5 years or 50,000 miles on it. There must be some external cause, unless you are buying super-cheap no-name bulbs online?

To put this into perspective, my 2004 Corolla has about 109,000 miles, owned it since new, and the only bulbs I ever had to change were the license plate lights and one brake light. My 2002 Daewoo Lanos probably still has all its original bulbs. I replaced all of the headlight, parking light, brake light, turn signal light, and license plate light bulbs on my 2000 Silverado since it came with 209,000 miles on it. Most of the bulbs were original based on their date codes.

In my 45+ years of owning vehicles I’ve NEVER replaced them in pairs. And never regretted it. I replaced one headlight on my 98 Pathfinder and then replaced the other 5 years later. I usually get 2+ years out of the other bulb.

Maybe it’s the vehicles we buy, but headlight replacement is very rare. 1 every 5-7 years at most. Other lights are even rarer. I don’t remember the last time I had to replace a tail light bulb or one of the marker bulbs. And now with LED’s it’s really rare.

Cougar said “Excessive ripple voltage or high charging voltage from the alternator can cause shorter than normal bulb life.”

I wondered about that – could adding a little extra “DC power” from high charge voltage or add ing some “AC power” from RMS of the ripple waveform really shorten the bulb life?

A little Google research confirmed his assertion. A voltage increase of only 5% (power increase of 11%) can reduce incandescent bulb life by half. Here is the pertinent page from one useful and interesting website :

I think it’s simple enough to understand how a faulty regulator could increase the charging voltage on the battery. But what would cause “excessive” (whatever that is) ripple? I thought the battery was supposed to smooth the rectified 3-phase AC from the alternator. So, is a bad battery the cause of excessive ripple?

A bad diode in the alternator can cause ripple.

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It also shows that running a DRL at 70% voltage uses only a tiny percentage of a bulbs life.
However, halogen lights can get a cloudy envelope from running only at that level.