Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Headlights burn out often

Headlights burn out often — Causes

What causes frequent headlight burn out?

There are seven reasons why halogen style headlights burn out often. Here are the causes and fixes:

1) Touching the headlight bulb during installation will cause headlight burn out

Halogen headlight bulbs and HID headlight bulbs are made halogen headlight bulb bubblewith a special quartz glass envelope so they can withstand high temperatures. If you touch the glass, oil from your skin will adhere to the glass, causing a hot spot and uneven heating when the bulb is on. That uneven heating can cause the glass to break or bulge, shortening the life of the bulb. Always wear gloves or handle the bulb with a soft cloth or even paper towel when installing a new headlight bulb.

2) Extra bright headlight bulbs have a shorten lifespan

If you’ve installed headlight bulbs that claim to be brighter or whiter, you should also know that those bulbs don’t have nearly the lifespan of normal bulbs or long-life bulbs. Here’s an example of different bulb lifespans in hours according to bulbfacts.com.

Standard/Long Life halogen bulb lifespan and lumens

Sylvania Basic Halogen headlight bulb 1504 Lumens 1,134 hours

Hella Standard Halogen headlight bulb 1482 Lumens 1,205 hours

GE Standard Halogen headlight bulb 1458 lumens 2,074 hours

Brighter Performance halogen bulbs lifespan and lumens

Sylvania SilverStar Ultra Halogen headlight bulb 1626 lumens 458 hours

Sylvania SilverStar Halogen headlight bulb 1622 lumens 621 hours

Sylvania SilverStar zXe Gold Halogen headlight bulb 1345 lumens 667 hours

Sylvania SilverStar zXe Halogen headlight bulb 1448 lumens 744 hours

Philips Xtreme Vision 1586 lumens 802 hours

Philips Vision Plus Halogen headlight bulb 1613 lumens 997 hours

Philips White Vision Halogen headlight bulb 1411 lumens864 hours

Philips Diamond Vision Halogen headlight bulb 769 lumens 824 hours

GE Megalight Ultra Halogen headlight bulb 2036 lumens 585 hours

GE Megalight Halogen headlight bulb 1635 lumens 773 hours

3) High voltage shortens headlight bulb life

If your vehicle’s alternator is running at too high a voltage, that high voltage will burn ou the headlight bulbs faster.

4) Bad or corroded connections shortens headlight bulb life

Corrosion on the contacts in the headlight bulb connector melted connector awill cause the bulb to run hotter and that will reduce its lifespan.

5) Vibration shortens headlight bulb life

Halogen bulbs utilize a tungsten filament suspended between two electrodes. Vibration from a loose headlight assembly or impacts from potholes can reduce the lifespan of the filament by causing the filament to bounce.

6) Frequent starts with your headlight on will shorten headlight bulb life

Any time you start your car, the current used by the starter motor causes a voltage drop across all electrical accessories. If your headlights are on when you crank your engine, they too will see a substantial voltage drop and that will reduce their lifespan. So turn off your headlights when starting your vehicle.

7) Condensation inside the headlight assembly will reduce headlight bulb life

All composite headlight assemblies are made to breathe to accommodate expansion and contract from heat and cold. To prevent moisture from entering the headlight assembly, car makers seal the lens to the assembly and install a vapor barrier at the breathing port.

If you have condensation in your headlight assembly, either the lens sealant is leaking, the bulb isn’t properly seated in the housing, or the vapor barrier has been breached. Check the bulb to make sure it’s installed properly. If not, remove the bulb and use a home hair dryer to blow warm air into the headlight assembly to dry it out. Then install the bulb properly.

If moisture enters again, check for a leaking lens-to-headlight seal. You can try adding a sealant to stop further water migration, but most sealants degrade from UV exposure. In that case, your best bet is to replace the entire headlight with a new unit. Try finding a replacement headlight assembly at rockauto.com.

The same applies to a damaged vapor barrier.

©, 2020 Rick Muscoplat

Posted on by Rick Muscoplat


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