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Why Do My Car Headlights Keep Burning Out?


Headlights to a car are like lights to a Christmas tree. They are extremely necessary, especially in the dark. Headlights are not only less durable _ they are quite fragile and must be handled with utmost care. However, if you frequently need new headlights, you must have wondered why your car headlights keep burning out? If this is the case, then you’re in the right place.

The short answer is this! Several factors could be responsible for the frequent burnout of your headlights, including extreme temperatures, mishandling of bulbs, or water leaks.

This article provides detailed information regarding this subject and will give you several headlight protective measures. So read on to find out.

Why do my headlights keep burning out? 

There are several reasons why your headlights could burn out. Let us look at a detailed analysis of each.

Poor quality bulbs

Generally, headlight bulbs of poor quality burn out faster. Quality always matters. Cheaper bulbs are more susceptible to damage than more expensive bulbs.

car headlights burn bulb

Their filaments are very thin tungsten gauges that can not resist high voltages. So, severe vibrations or uneven flow of voltage usually destroy them. It is advisable to invest in high-quality bulbs as they last longer.

Higher than normal voltage

When voltage is higher than normal, it shortens the lifespan of a headlight bulb. This is actually quite common. If you want to verify whether this is responsible for the frequent burnout of your headlights,

  • Check the output voltage of the alternator.
  • Measure the voltage and amperage at the connector for the headlight bulbs.
  • If the voltage is within the normal range, wire a voltmeter into the headlight system and observe.
  • If the voltage spikes occasionally, the higher than normal voltage is responsible.

Water leaks

Headlights are designed with ventilation holes that allow a certain amount of airflow to keep the lens free of moisture. If water accidentally leaks into the housing, condensation will occur. This will result in a short circuit when the water comes in contact with electricity, thus, damaging the headlight.

Faulty installation

Faulty installation of headlight bulbs can cause them to burn out. An example is loose wiring. When the wiring is loose, the flow of electricity to the contact point in the bulb will be inconsistent. It will cut off and come back on at fast intervals. This constant fluctuation will heat the bulb and destroy the filament, thus destroying the headlight.

installing car headlights bulb

Additionally, if you do not fit the headlamp or bulb firmly, the headlight will burn out quickly.

Vibration induced damage

Consistent or intense vibration can result in loose bulbs, unbalanced front wheels, or a bent bulb socket. All of those will cause your headlights to burn out faster. Besides, the halogen filaments inside the bulbs can not withstand excessive vibration.

Mishandling of headlight bulbs

This is quite common. Normally, the amount of space available when installing headlight lamps is limited. Consequently, most people end up touching the bulbs with their bare hands. Whenever this happens, the headlight will definitely burn out faster.

It is not advisable to touch a bulb with bare hands. Bulbs, especially halogen bulbs, can become very hot. Touching them with your hands always leaves traces of moisture and oil.

When the bulb heats up, it will heat up unevenly due to the oils left by your hand wherever it touched the bulb. As a result, the bulb will explode.

Turning on headlights before starting the car

The requirements to start a vehicle are quite specific. The car battery must deliver maximum power to the starter motor. For this to happen, all other electrical appliances that were on will automatically switch off.

If your headlights are on, they will automatically switch off and come back on when the engine starts. If you repeatedly do this, you will shorten the lifespan of your headlights.

Extreme temperatures

Headlight bulb filaments become more brittle in freezing outdoor temperatures and are prone to breaking.

On the other hand, headlight bulbs will likely overheat and burn out when really hot temperatures. Although bulb filaments require heat to emit light, they lose their durability as they get hotter.

How do you prevent your headlights from burning out frequently?

If you want to prevent your headlights from burning out frequently, you must take several precautionary steps.

  • Get high-quality bulbs. Although they are more expensive, they will be cheaper in the long run. It is preferable to get high-quality bulbs that will last more than cheaper bulbs that need constant replacement.
  • During installation, do not touch the bulbs with your bare hands. Rather, use latex gloves.
  • Replace any burnt or corrosive connector.
  • Do not turn on your headlights before starting your car. Do the reverse.
  • Always check the suspension springs, wheel bearings, and wheel balance to prevent major vibrations.
  • Check the retaining springs that hold the bulb and ensure that they are tight and secured.

What to do when your headlight burns out?

Knowing that there are several reasons your headlights could burn out, the first thing to do is figure out the cause. Knowing the specific cause will help you know what to fix or replace.

For example, get a new headlight if burnout occurs because of worn-out assemblies.

If you can not pinpoint the exact cause, you should seek professional help. With a professional’s expertise, you would be able to figure out the cause and resolve it.

How long are car headlights supposed to last?

Several factors determine the life span of a headlight. Among these are the following;

The type and quality of bulbs

Higher quality bulbs will increase the lifespan of your headlights and vice versa. There are several bulbs. Bulbs that emit brighter light have a shorter life span than bulbs that emit less. Examples include Tungsten-Halogen (500-1,000 hours), Xenon (10,000 hours), HID (2,000 hours), and LED (30,000 hours). The lifespan of a headlight bulb is directly proportional to the lifespan of the headlight.

The Climate

Headlights would last longer in average temperatures than in very cold or hot places or seasons.


A Headlight is a relatively fragile car component. It lights up your way in the dark or fussy weather. Seeing how necessary they are, it is best to get good ones and treat them with care.

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