Friday, March 27, 2009

PT Cruiser madness. "You have to do what to change a headlight?"

PT Cruiser madness. "You have to what to change a headlight?"
Robin's PT Cruiser and I are not getting along too well. When we left on vacation, the water pump froze up and broke the timing belt. We had to leave the car at Thurston Chevrolet in Ukiah for 11 days while they ordered parts. It was over $1,200 because they had to almost take the engine out and we had to rent a car to finish our trip to Arizona for nearly $600. (I wonder how much a new engine would have been?) Big financial ouch. So I was hoping to not have any maintenance issues for awhile. Then I find out that the one of the headlights was out. No biggie, Robin left me the car to fix, and I am pretty good at taking care of small issues like changing batteries, hoses, lights, fuses, tires and such. So I went to Kragen and bought a light and opened the hood in the parking lot and could not figure how to replace the light. I asked the Kragen guy if he was familiar with how to change a light and he told me you had to go in under the wheel wall. I read the car manual and it didn't say how to change the bulb so I went online and this is how to change a headlight on a PT:


Step 1 Park the PT Cruiser on a flat, level, paved or concrete surface.


Step 2 Open the hood to the PT Cruiser. If anything, it will allow daylight into the engine compartment and allow you to see a little better.


Step 3 Break the lug nuts loose on the front tire of the same side as the burned-out headlight. Don't loosen them too much, and don't remove them. You can try to replace the headlight without removing the tire by turning it all the way inside, but you're most likely going to find that you'll need a little more arm room to remove the door panel in the wheel well.


Step 4 Lift the Cruiser with the floor jack and place a jack stand under the rocker panel.

Step 5 Remove the lug nuts and wheel.

Step 6 Pry the tabs of the door panel in the front of the wheel well (directly behind the headlights), using a flat-head screwdriver. The panel tabs are hard rubber/plastic and more inclined to break during colder weather. The warmer it is, the more tenacious you can be about prying them out. Pry the outside one out first and work the screwdriver around the circumference of the panel to the inside tab.

Step 7 Reach inside to remove the headlight. This is a good opportunity to get up and physically look at the headlights in the front of the Cruiser. The high beams are on the inside sockets; the low beams are on the outside sockets. Make sure when reaching in from behind that you're grabbing the right bulb for replacement. Turn the headlight 1/4 turn counter-clockwise and extract it from the headlight assembly. Even with the wheel removed for the Cruiser, you're going to have limited hand room through the door panel to the headlight. If you have large hands and arms, consider recruiting someone to help.

Step 8 Unclip the headlight from the wire harness and discard it.

Step 9 Insert the new headlight into the wire harness until the lock clips into place. Don't touch the glass light bulb of the new headlight. Only handle it from the plastic plug part.

Step 10 Insert the new headlight into the headlight assembly and twist it 1/4 turn to the right until it locks into place. Test the headlight by turning the ignition key to the accessory position and turning on the headlights. Turn the key back to the "Off" position when you're done.

Step 11 Reinstall the door panel. It's going to be as much of a pain to reinsert as it was coming off.

Step 12 Replace the wheel and lug nuts. Tighten the lug nuts snugly and then lower the Cruiser to the ground. Re-torque the lug nuts in an alternate fashion, using the adjustable torque wrench and a 19mm socket.

Pretty crazy.

20 comments:

J rat said...

Well did you get it in? Now you know why shops charge so much. You have to be trained just to put in a headlamp. Get rid of the dodge and get a toyota! Ha , Jeremy

samoasoftball said...

J rat: I am going to confess my wienyhood. I did the first few step and then worried I would mess up the tabs on the cover, so I took it into Lithia with the part. They treated me well and I was charged $25. More than worth it for me.

Fred said...

I've been wondering just how hard it would be to replace a headlight on my Ford F150. Haven't had to deal with it yet, but know I'll have to eventually. Looks like it would be a different operation than on any of the other older cars I've owned.

Anonymous said...

"confess my wienyhood"

Thanks for your honesty. I was going to recommend your blog to my PT friends but now I'll just tell 'em to call the shop.

Which is worse? The trouble or the humiliation?

samoasoftball said...

9:25am- I read about people bad experiences doing this job. But one plus is that we have owned the car for 7 years and this is the first time a headlight light went out.

Anonymous said...

How many times do I have to say it???????? Plymouth f---ing Neon (with a fancy body). J rat is right. Dump it and buy a Toyota.

Anonymous said...

Lesson learned: Don't buy American. How's your BMW doing, Richard?

samoasoftball said...

My BMW is fine. We own 6 cars. 5 American. My Tracer has over 200,000 miles and has been a great car. My two Rangers don't cause me trouble. And the Escort must have nearly 150,000. Put all of our cars on a lot and I could probably get $700 for my beat up Ranger, $1,000 for my other Ranger, $1,500 for my Escort, $750 for our Tracer, $3,000 for the PT Cruiser and $4,500 for the BMW. Add them all up and we couldn't by one new Toyota.

Rambo said...

Yup, dont buy Americian. After seven years of a car with good service your lightbulb may go out. My neighbor has replaced his front lights in his 2003 Accord about 3 times and has had engine issues. I know engine issues are rare for a Honda but the point is they happen to all makes. Of course the only thing around our condo's I know is truely Americian made is my bike LOL. Custom frame, S&S motor and trans, Sheet metal from Choppers Inc. No Japanese in it

Anonymous said...

Doubt you could get $4,500 for your BMW in this economy. What year is it? 325, right?

Anonymous said...

The engineers of American cars were pretty smart as they changed easy to do tasks into difficult so you would have to take your car to the dealer and pay them to change your headlight lamp. Used to be changing a heater core was pretty easy and could be determined pretty early as it leaked flud on the carpet of the car. Now it leaks outside and you might not notice until it gets a big leak and all the water is being drained. Now to change the heater core - you first remove the dash . . . and after reading the first thing you fill the car with water and get it to the dealer ASAP. Job cost - around $1,300 for a $120 heater core.

All the newer cars have changed to halogen lamps and that is why you can't touch the glass part as it makes it burn out pretty quick - maybe days later. We have outdoor halogen security lights and the instructions are the same. You can weat rubber gloves that haven't been treated with powder or the "blue" ones that no chemical gets through and that works as it is easier to install the little light by handling it by the glass part.

Glad to hear you didn't wreck your engine.

Anonymous said...

Cars. You can't live with them. And you can't live without them. Dang!

Stephen said...

What does "PT" stand for? "Part time"?

fred said...

the only way to change the headlights in a PT cruiser is to remove the front wheels cover arch on the left end side only and then unscrew the 2 bolts holding the front bumper on each side (easy access,easy to remove)then it gives you space and you can easily work on the headlights changing the bulbs or removing entirely the headlight to replace it.

Grandpa Clark said...

Changing a headlamp on a cruiser takes 5 minutes. In the wheel well directly behind the headlamp is a square plastic cover that is removed by prying out with a screwdriver. The socket that holds the lamp is right there. Pull it out with your fingers and replace the bulb. Re-insert the socket and put the square plastic cover back. Job done.

Anonymous said...

5 min. job to replace the low beam bulb. Did not have to remove the wheel, just turn the wheel toward the opposite side of the car. Pry off the panel on the outside edge (Toward you) first with a flat head screw driver. Bulb is right there, turn a quarter turn counter clockwise, out it pops with plenty of slack on the wire to pull it out to remove the bulb from the socket.

Colleen said...

HI there, would like to add, first I am a first time do anything to a car person and followed the page posted on www.ehow/how_4796393_change-headlight-pt-cruiser well like Grampa Clark said maybe a little more than five minutes but less than 10 minutes for sure.... oh and did I mention I am also female and a first time... but thanks for making me feel good about changing this head lamp in less time and less effort then you fellows... by the way love my PT Cruiser and wish they were still manufacturing them.

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