Replacing the Headlight Bulb - Takes about 40 min

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New member
Jun 15, 2015
If you are handy and get the right tools you can do it. For everyone else just take it to the dealer.

How often do you change a bulb? Almost never. My 1996 Saturn is going to be 19 with 160K and I have never changed a single bulb (except one over 10 years ago that was smashed in an accident) although the headlight bulbs are "dim" and yellowed.

The headlight bulb burned out around a month ago. Replaced the passenger side high beam? (the one on top) bulb yesterday It took about 40 minutes. 10mm socket, and / or use a #3 Phillip screwdriver tip. The thin galvanized L or Z shaped bracket can be carefully removed with a #3 SQ or standard square drive bit.

You should also get a tool to remove the plastic push down connectors - available at any auto store for about $5.

There about 6? bolts and 2 screws and 9? push connectors that must be removed along with the black plastic cover above the light. Partially remove the bumper cover - YOU DO NOT NEED TO REMOVE THE ENTIRE BUMPER COVER (just a few spots and peal it back.

DON'T force the headlight - it lifts out with little effort. If you must force it you have missed a screw or hidden bolt. DO NOT touch the glass part of the bulb the oil on your fingers will shorten the life. After installing the new lens TEST the light before reinstalling it.

Final result: no damaged pieces.

NOTE: pictures are on my website and I can't guarantee they will be available so please save a copy and feel free to repost.


How do you unhook that tiny black plastic hook that's next to the top headlight bolt?

It's spring-loaded and hooks into a sheet-metal tab. With the bottom two bolts removed, and the top one loosened, I STILL can't get the headlamp out! I am not able to pry with a screwdriver or hook that tab in any way to unhook it! What's the special technique?
OK. I THINK I found the answer to this.

First of all, the full front bumper cover must be removed. You can't just loosen it. It must be completely out of the way. With the three bolts that hold in the headlight removed, you need to sort of push the headlight back at the same time that you bring the front of the light down. Then slide it down and forward while lifting on the back of it. I was only able to get this to work on one side, but not the other.

I still have no idea what this little tab is supposed to do. As far as I can tell, it's only there to frustrate people trying to replace the headlights. It MAY be there for something as simple as to temporarily hold the headlight in place while the cars were put together on the assembly line. It does NOT seem to hold the headlight in any better - that's what the three bolts do. I also couldn't find any reference to that little hook and tab in the service manual procedure for replacing the headlights.

Here is the top of the light from the driver's side, where the tab broke trying to remove the headlight. I'm holding the broken-off piece in place where it came from

Here's a view through the top-most bolt port, showing the metal tab with a square hole in it that the hook latches in to.

Here's the passenger side light, which I managed to remove WITHOUT breaking that hook.

I'm putting this information here in hopes of it being useful to someone else. I found it very frustrating to try replacing the headlight - this little hook thing is mentioned NOWHERE, including the actual guide that the dealer service center folks use!
My tab is broken, at least on the driver’s side. I probably broke it the first time I replaced the headlight. It doesn’t seem to affect the operation any.