Replacing a headlight on more conventional vehicles is usually quite simple: remove the electrical connector, rotate and remove the bulb and put in a new one. The Versa replacement is no different, except that access to the bulb is limited by the car’s raked design and a structural crossmember that is ideally placed to make it seem impossible.
Here’s what you’ll need: a new replacement bulb (I used the Sylvania 9003) and a flashlight.
The bulb sits low in the fender, at the very rear end of that massive headlight assembly. You can’t see the bulb itself, but, by shining the flashlight through the hole between the fender and crossmember you can spot the wires leading to it. The wires terminate in a rectangular connector located in the center of a rubber doughnut.
Gently pull that connector straight back, being careful to pull on the plastic connector itself and not on the wires. There is no locking tab here, as the connector is held in place by friction against the doughnut. Bend the wires a little to get them out of the way.
The rubber doughnut comes out next. Although there is a little pull-tab on it to help you get it out, the tab is too small for my fingers and in the wrong place. I found it easier to work my fingers around the edge of the doughnut, gently pulling it out of its socket until it comes free.
A spring clip holds the bulb in place, and this is the most annoying part of the operation. To see the clip clearly you have to stick your head into the engine bay and shine the flashlight through the hole behind the crossmember. I highly recommend that you do this, as a visual orientation will make the job a thousand times easier. You’ll see a little “T” shaped retainer on one side of the bulb, under the crossbar of which are sprung the wires of the clip. Pushing the wire clip towards the front of the car and away from the “T” releases it.
Once you’ve released the spring clip, the bulb is ready to come out. BUT DON”T REMOVE IT YET!!! Use the flashlight to visually check the orientation of the three electrical connection spades on the back. Make a mental note of how the bulb sits in the headlight assembly. Now you can pull the old bulb out.
I find the bulbs themselves to be strikingly beautiful little objects – automotive art and function combined in their finest form. If you look carefully with your flashlight into the damaged bulb, you might be able to see the dangling hair-like filament that has caused your woes. Enough about that, though. You can’t fix it, so just throw it away.
Be careful not to touch the glass part of the new bulb. The oil from your finger will create a hotspot that could cause the bulb to explode. If you do accidentally touch it, wipe it off with denatured alcohol.
Insert the bulb into the socket exactly the same way the old one came out – there are tabs around the edge of the bulb holder to guide you. With the bulb in place, take a look at it through the headlight lens to make sure it is sitting firmly in the socket.
Carefully snap the wires of the spring clip under the “T” shaped retainer to lock the bulb in place. You will want to stick your head in the engine compartment again just to make sure that the clip is seated firmly.
The key to replacing the doughnut is to remember that it fits inside the ring-shaped holder, not outside. It takes a little cramming, a little shoving, and little squeezing, but eventually it will pop into place. Make sure that the back end of the bulb sits clearly in the hole of the doughnut.
The electrical connector only fits one way, but you can’t see which way that is. I found that the wires have a natural memory – they will guide you as to which way the connector wants to sit. Gently press the connector onto the spades of the new bulb – be gentle, as you don’t want to bend anything. You’ll feel when it’s lined up. Again, there are no locking tabs: it just pushes in to place.
There are two kinds of resistance you might feel on the connector if it won’t go on. A hard resistance, where it simply won’t fit, means you don’t have it turned to match the spades on the bulb. A soft resistance, where it feels kind of spongy, means that bulb isn’t completely fitting inside the hole of the rubber doughnut. Reworking the doughnut will fix this issue.
Wipe your hands on a rag – there’s a protectant oil on the connector – and test out your headlights. Your reward should be immediate and bright. Check the high beams, too.
The dealer is a great place to take your Versa for a variety of ills, but changing your headlight bulb doesn’t have to be one of them!