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Low or High Beams No Longer Work in Car Headlights

Updated on November 3, 2011

I was just driving down the road recently at night when my low beams went out. This was spooky as I either had to use my high beams, which blinded oncoming cars or use the parking lights. At first, I did not notice the difference until I was traveling along a darker road with no street lights.

This can happen to any car on the road. I own a 05 Subaru Outback. If this happens to you, this is what you should do:

  • Check the appropriate fuses for the headlights, usually labelled at H\L. The fuses should be unbroken. Replace and test, if not.
  • If the fuses are good, as was in my case, check the headlight relay fuse. Usually a big square shaped with three prongs that insert into the main fuse box. You should be able to see if the element is still good. Replace and test, if necessary.
  • If both items above are all good, as was in my case, it must be the bulbs inside the lamp (same applies to high beams). To remove the bulb:
  1. Turn the bulb cover counter-clockwise and remove.
  2. Disconnect the electrical connector.
  3. Remove the retaining spring.
  4. Remove old bulb. Install new bulb.
  5. Secure bulb with retaining spring.
  6. Reconnect the bulb.
  7. Install bulb cover.

If the relay and bulbs are bad, the cost in parts is minimal, only $60-65. For the 05 Subaru, the bulbs are $20 ea. The relay is the same cost. The labor time (should you have a mechanic do it) is not more than 20 min. The relay fuse is simply removed and installed, maybe 3 min. The bulbs, 10 min each,at most.

Most will tell you that headlight bulbs seldom burn out at the same time between the two headlights. That simply is not true. My lights went out simultaneously, leading me to believe the relay was bad. Nope. The fuses and relay were fine, the bulbs were bad. If the filaments in the bulbs are weak, you might see some sporadic blinking, like a short.

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