No headlights on 98 Protege

While driving at night with the low beam headlights on I noticed that the high beam indicator light was on, but very dimly lit. A few more night drives and the high beam indicator light would get a little brighter each time I would drive the car. Then both headlights stopped working simultaneously (no high beams either) and when I have the switch turned on for the low beam lights the high beam indicator light is fully illuminated. The side lights, turn signals, rear running lights, flashers and brake lights all work though. I’ve already replaced the headlight switch, tested the headlight relay and headlight fuse. So any idea what the problem could be?

Sounds like a bad ground.

Where’s the first place you’d check for a bad ground?

There should be 3 wires going to each headlight socket,1 for high beam, 1 for low beam, and a ground wire. The ground is likely black with a stripe, but it could be some other color. Trace the ground back to where it attaches to the body.

Is this the 1998 Mazda Protege that has all the rust . . . the one we advised you to get rid of quite some time ago?

If so, you may not be getting a ground through the rust . . . ?!

If that’s not you, my apologies

I’m bringing this up because you’ve obviously posted a few times before . . . and there are very few discussions concerning old Mazda Proteges

1 Like

LOL. Yes, this is the car you’re talking about. But for being 22 years old and most of it’s life spent in a driveway/parking lot it’s really in pretty good shape. Not much rust at all.

So I went ahead and tried to trace the wires back but they run right into a hole in the body so I tried tugging on them to see if I could see where they come out but was unsuccessful. After that I decided to try the lights again thinking that maybe pulling on the wires improved the connection somehow and sure enough, the passenger side headlight came on. Both high and low beams. But here’s the thing; there was smoke coming from the plug (passenger’s side) that plugs into the bulb. There’s two red wires; one with a white stripe and the other with a black stripe. And then the third wire is black and the one that was getting so hot that it was melting/smoking the plastic plug. I looked closely and could see it’s metal plug was so far down on the bulb’s electrical connector that it was in contact with the little rounded tab thing at the base of the bulb. So I pulled the black wire’s plug back away from the base of the bulb and turned it back on and no more smoke. But the driver’s side headlight still doesn’t work at all. So If anyone understands what is going on here I’d greatly appreciate you filling me in. Thanks

After looking closely at the bulb and applying common sense I don’t think the connector was too close to the base of the bulb. I’m now leaning towards the cause being corrosion of the black wire’s connector - creating high resistance/heat. I plan to clean up the connection and move the driver’s side bulb over to the passenger’s side to see if it is working and then go from there. Hopefully it’s blown but If it’s not… well, then I’ve got at least one other problem to deal with.

You are correct in your thinking that the smoke was caused by a bad connection. Headlights require a significant amount of power to operate. Standard lights can require 55 watts of power. So even a small amount of resistance in the connection to the socket can cause heat to occur. You may have to replace the socket with a new one. I suspect the other light is out due to a ground problem also. You can supply your own ground from the light to the battery to prove it.

After giving this more thought. No, I don’t think this is the same car. It doesn’t have all that much rust and I don’t remember anyone on here advising me to get rid of it. I don’t even think ‘‘rust’’ has ever come up in any of my previous threads. Doesn’t really matter one way or the other but just wanted to be accurate in my posting.

And another (insignificant) correction: It’s very unlikely that both headlights stopped working ‘‘simultaneously’’ like I claimed. The reason being is that each lamp had it’s own, independent ground problem. Based on that it seems very unlikely that they both went out a the same exact time. I must have been driving around with only the driver’s side headlight for awhile with no clue that the other was out.

Yup, you nailed it. I went ahead and cleaned up all the connections on both sockets and bulb terminals and now the headlights are working very well.