Changing side light bulbs is one more simple procedure you can surely do on your own.
We’ll be showing how to change side light bulbs on a Skoda, but the basic principle can be applied to almost all cars.
Exceptions from this tutorial may be cars with the newest LED technology headlights.
You can also see at the end of this article how to solve a problem with a loose rear plastic covering for the headlamp (at least for the Skoda).
If you’re not in the mood for reading, at the end of this article you have a video tutorial. You can also watch it on our You Tube channel.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF SIDE LIGHT BULBS?
Side light bulbs are the ones that create the dim light when you flip the light switch in to the first position, just before turning on the main headlights.
They are used as day lights or for parking lights (the ones you leave on for better visibility of your car at night).
One more purpose is to serve as a backup light if the main headlights malfunction for some reason.
WHAT CAR BULB IS USED FOR SIDE LIGHTS?
In most cars, it will be a 5 Watt, 12 volt, small light bulb. For some pickups or trucks, it will be 24 volts.
Whatever vehicle you may drive, check for the proper voltage of the bulb before making the replacement.
If you make a mistake the bulb will either burn out instantaneously or give a very weak light.
In most cases it will be a capless bulb, meaning it doesn’t have a metal cap at the end of it but a glass one with small wires coming out of the bottom.
On some cars, the side light bulbs have a metal cap at the end of it. In this case, it looks the same as a bigger bulb (like for instance tail light bulb).
Best look at your car manual or Google what is the correct bulb type for your car.
ACCESSIBILITY OF THE SIDE LIGHT BULBS
As mentioned at the beginning, changing side light bulbs is a fairly simple procedure.
But on some (I won’t say most) of today’s modern cars, gaining access to the headlamp may be a problem.
What I mean by this is poor access to the rear side of the headlamp(through which you actually reach the bulbs aka the access hatch).
Probably due to car design, some car manufacturers have made it almost impossible to change any headlight bulb, much less side light bulbs.
Additional plastic coverings and various installations around the headlamp can pose a serious obstacle. They demand some additional dismantling or even seeking professional help (yes, on some cars the manufacturer recommends visiting a mechanic or dealership to replace a car bulb).
Manufacturers have tried to solve this problem through various hatches on the in inner side of the fender or taking out the whole headlamp out.
In any case, a much bigger job then the one that’s going to be shown here.
Main point on this part: on some cars, changing side light bulbs or any other bulb may be a big task involving some serious dismantling.
Because of that, take a look under the hood before you start the procedure. See if there is free access to the rear side of the headlamp.
If there is, proceed without hesitation.
If not, then inform yourself about the procedure for gaining access (what do you need to take off or even do you need any special tools). Google it or maybe ask someone who has the same car.
This is best in order to avoid getting yourself in to trouble (like causing damage to your car) and starting something that you maybe can’t finish.
Good example of this is the Fiat Stilo which I’ve owned. Changing the headlight bulbs was not user-friendly at all. I’ve written about this in a separate article which you can read by clicking here.
WHAT WILL YOU NEED?
For this task all you’ll need is the mentioned 5 Watt bulb, your hands and some patience.
This is if the access to the rear side of the head lamp is good.
If you have to do some additional dismantling around the headlamp, then perhaps you’ll need some screw drivers, ratchets, sockets, pliers or else.
At least on the Skoda, the procedure is very simple and you’ll just need a spare bulb.
In case you also want to learn how to change a headlight bulb, click here for a separate article on that topic or watch a video tutorial.
HOW TO FIND THE SIDE LIGHT BULBS?
This question is just in case you have a problem locating the side light bulbs.
They are most easily recognized as being the smallest bulb in the headlamp.
You can see them through the front of the headlamp through the lens.
It will be located just under the low beam light bulb (on most cars).
Logically, once you take of the protective covering and gain access to the bulbs, just take a look at that same location just from the inner side.
From the rear side of the headlamp, you’ll also recognize it by having the smallest socket with two wires coming from it.
If you have problems finding side light bulbs despite this, again take a look at the user’s manual or Google it.
To explain one thing before we start the actual procedure: the basic principle of changing side light bulbs is the same on every car (except LED lights).
The basic principle is:
Gain access to the rear side of the headlamp
Remove plastic or rubber protective covering
Pull out the bulb socket (in some cases you’ll have to disconnect the socket)
Remove old burnt out side light bulb
Insert a new bulb
Return the socket back in to place
Put the rear plastic covering back on
Check that the side light bulbs work
Whatever car you may drive, this is what you’ll have to do. The difference may be in accessing the rear part of the headlamp, type of protective covering (rubber or plastic), type of bulb socket (holder) and the type of light bulb (capless or with a metal cap).
So reading or watching this tutorial should give you a good idea of how to solve the side lights bulb problem on almost any car.
Now back to our procedure:
1. Raise the hood
2. Gain access to the rear of the headlamp
3. Take off the rear protective covering. It will be held in place in various ways (clips, holders, it can be screwed on). Take a look and work your way around it. On the Skoda, the plastic covering is held in place with two clips. Push them down and release the covering. Remove the covering.
4. The side lights bulb socket is located just under the low beam bulb. It has two wires coming from a round socket. Your task is to pull the socket out together with the bulb. The case will be similar for most cars.
5. Take firm hold of the socket (it will have small bulges where you can grab it). Wobble it right and left a bit while pulling it out. It may take a bit of a budge but be patient. Depending on the car, the socket can be held in place with rubber holders, clips, you have to turn and unscrew it etc. Again, take a look and work around it. Just don’t use excessive force so you don’t break off anything.
In case of the Skoda, the socket has small clips on the side of it. This is why you have to wobble and pull in order for it to come out.
6. The socket stays connected to the wires, don’t disconnect it as there is no need. It will probably be the same case on most cars.
7. Pull out the old bulb. Take firm hold of the bulb and just pull it out. If your car has a metal cap bulb, then just push it down and turn counter-clockwise (like taking out a tail light bulb for instance).
8. Take a new bulb and re-insert, Make sure that it sits in the socket properly. While you’re at it, check the socket for corrosion. If there is some, put some contact or WD-40 spray in before inserting the bulb.
If you have a metal cap bulb, push the bulb in to the socket and turn clockwise.
9. Return the bulb socket back. Again wobble and push the socket back in until you hear a click sound. That’s a sure sign it’s in place.
10. Return the plastic covering. Make sure it sits properly in to place. If it doesn’t, overtime dust and moist can get in to the headlamp.
11. Turn on the side lights and check that everything works.
HOW TO FIX A LOOSE REAR PLASTIC COVERING ON THE HEADLAMP?
This fix is mainly for the Skoda Fabia and is something that I “invented” on my own.
On the Skoda, the clips that hold the plastic protective covering in to place tend to break off over time.
This is mostly due to material fatigue as the plastic becomes brittle and once you want to take it off, the clip breaks.
On various cars these coverings have different design and ways they are held in place. Nevertheless, if you don’t drive a Skoda, maybe this fix will give you an idea of how to solve this problem on your car.
Anyway, one day I raised the hood an noticed that the protective covering on the headlamp almost fell off. It just barely held on the lower hinges.
Since I wasn’t in the position to order new ones and get them soon, I took a look around the headlamp in order to make some kind of improvisation.
I found that on the Skoda Fabia there are two convenient holes on both the headlamp plastic and the protective covering.
It almost seems as the covering should have been held in place by screws instead of clips.
I took two small screws, inserted them through the plastic hole on the headlamp and in to the plastic “tube” on the covering.
I just made sure that the screws were not too big so the plastic didn’t crack or break.
After that I tightened the screws and made sure everything was in place.
The plastic covering held perfectly.
To make things clear, buying a new protective covering is the best solution. I just wanted to share this if you find yourself in a situation where you can’t buy one for some reason.
Even if you can, to tell you the truth this fix can last for a long time.
The only bad part is that you need a screw driver every time you have to change any of the side light bulbs.
Written by: Sibin Spasojevic
Former car technician, life-long car and DIY enthusiast, author for Despairrepair.com