When you switch on the turn signal and it’s not working the most probable cause is a faulty bulb. The next thing you’ll have to know is how to change a turn signal bulb.
It will only take a couple of minutes of your time under the condition that there aren’t any accessibility issues (we’ll be talking about this lower in the article).
The whole procedure shown here is done on a Skoda Fabia but the basic principle can be applied to all cars.
You can also watch a video tutorial at the end of this article or on our You Tube channel.
WHAT WILL YOU NEED TO CHANGE A TURN SIGNAL BULB?
In most cases you’ll just need:
a spare bulb
If you want to change a turn signal bulb, you’ll need a 12 volt, 21 watt car bulb.
For bigger pick-ups and trucks the bulb may be a 24 volt one.
Also, the bulb may have an orange-colored glass balloon. This is the case when the turn signal lamp is transparent.
If the lamp is already tinted in yellow or orange then a regular bulb (with a transparent balloon) will be OK.
If the turn signal bulb is accessible, you won’t need any tools
The turn signal bulb, on most cars, is meant to be replaced without any tools.
It’s held in place with a plastic socket that’s screwed inside the headlight lamp and is removed or returned by hand.
If accessibility is poor, you may need additional tools
On some car models, replacing the turn signal bulb (as well as other bulbs) is simply not user-friendly.
The rear side of the head lamp may be partly blocked by plastic cover panels, the car battery, windshield washer fluid container or else.
In this case, you may need some basic tools like a screw driver, pliers, ratchet and matching sockets etc.
HOW TO FIND THE TURN SIGNAL BULB SOCKET?
In order for you to know how to change a turn signal bulb, you must first find the bulb socket.
On almost all cars it will be located in the rear side corner of the headlamp.
Most recognizable signs will be:
A plastic socket that has a different color then the rest of the headlamp plastic
Wires coming from it (in most cases two wires)
It may have a safety ring around the socket with a noticeable color
Worth mentioning is that some bulb sockets may not have wires coming from it (it has built-in electrical contacts). This is the case with Skoda Fabia for instance.
If, despite all of this, you still can’t find the bulb socket, then just take a look through the headlamp lens and find the turn signal bulb.
Then just take a look at the same spot on the rear side of the headlamp.
HOW IS THE BULB SOCKET HELD IN PLACE?
The most common system is a socket screwed in to the head lamp plastic (about 1/4 of a full circle). Left turn is for taking it out, right for tightening it into place.
Other systems that I came across are:
Plastic ring that secures the socket from falling out. In this case, the ring has to be lifted up with a screw diver (or else) thus releasing the socket from the head lamp
The socket is held by a rubber seal;the socket tightly fits in to place. You just pull the socket out or push in.
There may be other systems; if you can’t figure out how to pull the socket out on your car, best Google it for your car type specifically.
This way you’ll avoid causing damage and perhaps learn easier how to change the turn signal bulb on your car.
Also, in most cases, you won’t have to disconnect the wiring installation on the socket (if there is any).
HOW TO CHANGE A TURN SIGNAL LIGHT BULB?
Once you’ve located the bulb socket then do this:
1. Turn the socket counter-clockwise (or pull out the security ring, pull out the socket, all depending on what kind of the system is on your car)
2. Pull the socket out
3. Press the bulb downwards, turn counter-clockwise and pull it out.
4. Check the socket and make sure the electric contacts are clean. If not, use some WD-40 spray or contact spray to clean any corrosion or filth. For major corrosion build-ups, you can use a small screw driver or some sandpaper and scrape the corrosion off.
5. Take a new matching bulb put in place, press down and turn clockwise. Make sure that the small bulges on the side of the bulb fit properly in to the socket.
6. Return the socket in to place and turn clockwise.
7. Switch the turn signals on and check that everything works.
HOW TO TELL WHICH TURN SIGNAL IS NOT WORKING?
The fastest way to notice that a turn signal isn’t working is by listening to the signal sound.
When everything is OK, you’ll hear the well-known ¨click˝sound at an even rate.
If one turn signal isn’t working, then you’ll hear the clicking at a faster rate. The side with the faster clicking rate is the one that’s not working.
Of course, there is always the option of a visual inspection.
Downside of this option is that sometimes you won’t notice immediately that a turn signal isn’t working and can continue to drive without it for a prolonged period of time (like on a long road trip).
No need to say how dangerous this is.
You can hear the exact sound in the video tutorial below (you’ll find it near the beginning).
As we’ve already mentioned this replacement procedure can be applied to almost all cars.
But on some cars, namely ones that have very crammed engine bays, you may have to do some extra work.
The rear side of the headlamp on cars like these is partly blocked and reaching the turn signal bulb may involve additional dismantling (like removing plastic covering panels, various holders, housings etc).
On some cars the access will be possible only through unusual places like openings in the front fender plastic or else.
On cars like the Skoda Fabia this is solved very well and is user-friendly. There is space enough on both sides and for all the bulbs.
If the engine bay is crammed on your car and you see that the bulbs are not easily accessible, I would recommend to Google the procedure for your car model exactly.
Either this or ask someone who has the same car and has done the procedure already.
Main reason for this is to avoid causing damage (like breaking off parts or other).
For some car models, if you want to know how to change a turn signal bulb, you’ll have to follow an exact procedure.
WHAT IF THE BULB IS OK?
If you’ve changed the turn signal bulb and it still doesn’t work then you can check these:
Replacing a car fuse is as simple as knowing how to change a turn signal bulb on a car.
If the car fuse keeps burning out, then you have a more serious problem (like a short-circuit). Don’t keep replacing the fuse, rather find what the problems is as soon as possible.
As mentioned, check the bulb socket for corrosion or filth. Overtime, it can build up on the socket contact, especially if the head lamp isn’t sealed properly. Moist or water are the main reasons. Also, if the turn signal bulb was loose in the socket, a thin black layer can form on the contact reducing conductivity.
This is the most common reason after a burnt out bulb.
Wire connector on the bulb socket
Check the wire connector on the socket (if there is any).
Corrosion and filth can cause loss of electric contact between the socket and wire connector
Do this especially if the area around the connector is subdued to moist, water splashes or else.
Take it off, make an inspection. If it’s corroded best use some WD-40 spray or even better, contact spray.
Spray it in to the connector, leave it for a couple of minutes and return.
If this doesn’t help, try using a very small screw driver, a knife, some sandpaper or else to clean the contacts.
In this case it may take some time, especially if you have a pin-connector.
Loose connections on the wiring installation
Check all other connections that are included in the turn signal installation. Pay more attention to vulnerable places like bends on the installation, connectors, places that are susceptible to moist,rust etc.
Turn signal relay
Not that common of a fault but it does happen. Main cause, in most cases is material fatigue.
If you have to make a replacement, it’s a simple job to do.
The basic procedure is to find the relay, pull it out and insert a new one.
It’s usually located among other relays on a contact board. Also it’s a plug in-plug out system (which is the most common on all cars).
Stalk on the steering wheel (turn signal switch)
This mishap is very rare. Material fatigue and physical damage are the most common causes.
If this happens, you’ll probably have to buy a new one and they don’t come cheap.
The replacement is pretty complicated and involves taking off trimming around the steering wheel, taking of the airbag, steering wheel and so on.
On some cars the replacement is more simple, but to tell you the truth I wouldn’t recommend doing it without some serious car repair experience.
It’s much more complicated than learning the simple procedure of how to change the turn signal bulb on your car.
WHAT IF YOU DON’T HAVE AN ORANGE TURN SIGNAL BULB?
One more tip if you want to change the turn signal bulb:
If you have to change an orange-colored bulb and don’t have one (which is oftentimes the case), you can use a transparent bulb instead.
Just make sure that the watts and volts are correct and it will work fine. The only difference will be that the turn signal will be white not yellow.
Use this tip only in case of an emergency and find the proper bulb as soon as possible.
Better any turn signal than none.
Written by: Sibin Spasojevic
Former car technician, life-long car and DIY enthusiast, author for Despairrepair.com