Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

My outback burns through headlight bulbs constantly

My 2009 outback goes through low beam bulbs faster than should be normal. I’ve noticed online that many people have this problem. Seems to me like something isn’t working right in the electrical system. Does anyone have any information about this? We own other cars and operate them the same, all have day time running lights, etc. This is the only one that needs a new low beam bulb every time we turn around. We are really careful about not touching the bulb when we install it, so it’s not that.

Try to get or order some replacement bulbs from Phillips. They tend to do well for service life. If you are using Sylvania bulbs then that may be part of the problem at least. Make sure the DC charging voltage is between 13.2 and 14.8 volts and that there is less than .1 volt of AC voltage across the battery while the engine is running. If the voltage isn’t correct then the alternator will need to be replaced.

I think I read here in Car Talk that it was the clips holding the light bulb in that are the problem. You mighy tcheck the archives, or do a google search on Sub Outback light bulbs and clips; there are a few online groups that are dedicated to discussing various brand car issues.

Are you sure the bulb is indeed bad?

Subarus for whatever reason have a problem with the three prong connector going to the bulb. I’ve seen several burn up to the point of needing to be replaced.

Reseating it often makes it work again.
The problem seems to be that the connector gets crud in it, develops higher resistance, causing it to not make contact at all or sometimes heat up a bit to melt and fail.
Next time it happens, try reseating the connector a couple of times by pulling it out and putting it back on. That may clean it enough to make it work again. If that makes it work again, put a dab of dielectric grease* on the contacts. That will extend the life of the contacts.

*Any car part store has it. It comes in a toothpaste-like tube)