Thursday, October 27, 2011

Changing Toyota Prius Driver's Side Headlight

A great way to save money with a car is to do simple maintenance yourself.  Last weekend I replaced a failing driver's side headlight on a 2007 Prius.  The Prius comes with HID headlights, which are pretty spendy.  Parts and labor for this task from a mechanic shop can run $250 to $400.  To save money the HID bulbs can be purchased for $45-55 per bulb from Amazon.  This was the first time I attempted to replace the headlight on my Toyota Prius.

I have changed headlights on a couple of different cars.  Normally, this is an easy task. The hardest part is having to squeeze a hand behind the light assembly and unhook the bulb.  With the Prius, this was a complete pain because of how tight everything is under the hood.  The recommended way of replacing the bulb is to pull the bumper and then pull the headlight assembly out.  To see if there was an easier way, I ended up watching some videos on YouTube.  They made it look easy to pull the bulb without removing the bumper.  I don't understand how they can do it for they must have the smallest and strongest hands in the world.

It is also very hard to do this when the mechanics of the light are unknown. The videos don't really show how to work the bulb out.  I was able to unscrew black cap on the back of the headlight assembly, but could not get anything unplugged.  My hand was in pain from wedging it between the fuse box and headlight assembly.  So, I gave up and decided to pull the bumper to get the headlight assembly out.  This is how I accomplished the task.  It took me about an hour to do the full job.  The extra time was because I had to work around a stripped screw.

The first step is pretty easy.  There is a black plastic cover over the bumper and radiator.  The push pins are a bit of a pain to get out.  These require using a Phillips screwdriver and a flat head screw driver.  Notice there is an inner ring and outer ring.  They don't really unscrew, just turn with the Phillips and slide the flat head under the inner ring to pop them out.  I only had two hands so getting a picture was not happening.


Once this piece was off, the next step was to take off the top of the bumper, the blue strip of plastic exposed by removing the black cover.  These push pins are easier to pop out.  To remove, slide a flat head under the inner ring and pop it up.  Now pull the pin.  All that is left is the two hood stop screws.  These will unscrew with a Phillips screwdriver.  This is where I was hosed.  One of the screws stripped out on me.  It was the screw on the passenger side, so I figured I could work around this issue by flexing the plastic where need be.


After the top part of the bumper is loosened, it was time to get on the ground.  Underneath the front bumper are a bunch of bolts.  All the bolts are 10mm.  Grab a socket wrench and undo the underside bolts.  There are 6 bolts in the front and two bolts back by the tires.  The back bolts are a bit longer for they secure 2 pieces of plastic, remember this when putting the bumper back together.  After removing the bolts, the bumper is still not ready to move.


For the next part, a flashlight is needed.  Look inside the driver side tire well to find 2 push pins to the front top of the tire that need to pulled from the plastic well cover.  One is in the center and one is toward the outside.  Once these are removed, the plastic wheel well can be pulled back exposing the final bolt.  The bolt is where the seam is between the plastic bumper and metal frame meet.  Take this bolt out.

With all the bolts removed, the plastic bumper can be pulled out, exposing the headlight edges.  The headlight clips into the bumper, so work the bumper off with ease.  In my case, because of the stripped screw, I pulled the bumper out a few inches on the drivers side.


Once the bumper is loosened, the headlight assembly can be pulled.  It may be helpful to pull the lid of the fuse box for a little more room.  I did this, but mainly because I was trying to get my hand behind it before deciding to pull the whole thing.


There are three bolts that connect the headlight assembly. One is at the top of the assembly above the fuse box.  Another is on the lower right (if facing the car), underneath the top of the bumper.  The last bolt is on the left side inside the bumper that was just pulled.  It is under a black plastic piece with the silver bolts.  It is black as in the picture on the left above.


Carefully, slide the headlight assembly out.  At the top of the assembly is a wire that branches into two connectors.  These have to be removed so the assembly can be rotated.  Once removed, rotate the assembly so the back is face up.


To get to the bulb, disconnect the wire that goes to the giant round cap.  Then unscrew the cap.  It only takes about an 1/8th of a turn to pop out.


A bright silver connector is exposed with a silver shielded wire.  Turn this counter clockwise.  Now the bulb is finally exposed.


There are two wire clips that hold the bulb in.  Unclip these and pull the bulb.

To put the new bulb in make sure you have rubber gloves on.  Oils from the hands can get on the bulb and shorten its life.   There are metal guides to ensure the bulb slides in properly.


Now the fun part of reconnecting everything again begins.


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