I have been having a problem with my wife's 2008 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. It is blowing headlamps every 3 or 4 months. Usually one at a time, so it is probably really 6 months of life per lamp before it blows. I have made sure not to touch the bulb glass, but that doesn't seem to affect the time to failure on the bulb. I have not been using electrical grease.

I guess I should go measure the lamp voltage. Has anyone heard of such a high failure rate on headlights before? Other than high voltage, are there any suggestions of things I should look at?

  • Welcome to Motor Vehicle Maintenance & Repair! I think you're on the right track with checking the voltage. I'm wondering if the system is putting out too much voltage and causing the shortened life span. The thing is, though, you may not find it very easily if the voltage fluctuates. Say it starts where it's supposed to, then over time while running the vehicle continues to get higher. Don't know, just throwing it out there. Only other thing is if you're getting bum headlamps. If you keep buying the same brand, you might try a different one. Feb 9, 2018 at 20:56
  • Is there a fuse associated with the headlamp assembly? Maybe the wrong amp fuse is letting a short occur somewhere Feb 9, 2018 at 22:17
  • @sjfklsdafjks You clearly do not understand how electricity works. The size of a fuse only determines the maximum current that is allowed to flow. it does not "let a short occur somewhere".
    – SteveRacer
    Feb 10, 2018 at 5:40
  • If the size of the fuse is too large for the dedicated purpose the current that can be drawn from said line is increased, and if something is drawing that power through headlights for example, there could be too much power causing premature failure Feb 10, 2018 at 5:43
  • 1
    Is just the filament breaking or is the socket burnt?
    – Ben
    Feb 10, 2018 at 13:23

4 Answers 4


I have the answer AND it certainly has to do with the age of the car.
So, the 2008 Toyota highlander lens are made of plastic and they develop a white film over time that is a product of UV damage and the elements.

At some point, that film begins to contribute significantly a reduction in visible brightness, but it also means that a significant portion of the light is being reflected back into the lamp housing, thus making it much hotter than it was when the lens was new and more clear. The increase in temp cause the life of the bulb to be significantly reduced.

The solution is to clean the lenses. The cheapest way is to use a headlight lens restoration box kit, which can be obtained from Amazon or your local auto store. Just requires some elbow grease to clean it up.

Alternately, and this is what I did, I took it to my auto shop and they used a fine sand blaster and polisher. The lenses look new and no more blown bulbs.

  • Nice find. And heat is the enemy here. What's good is this will apply to other vehicles and provides a reason to clan those foggy headlights!
    – geoO
    Aug 17, 2018 at 18:33
  • That's really interesting. My passenger lens is super clear and that bulb has lasted for years. I've replaced the driver one twice since then and it's dirty. I'll try cleaning it.
    – drfence
    Jul 21, 2023 at 15:41
  • Also - what about the grease that's in the plug? I've never done anything with that? Should it be cleaned out and replaced with new grease?
    – drfence
    Jul 21, 2023 at 15:43
  • 1
    Leave the grease where it is. It's electrical grease. Keeps moisture out and corrosion low.
    – Rich Maes
    Jul 21, 2023 at 16:32

Had similar problem with 2010 Toyota [another model]. Recently Toyota admitted there is a problem (years around 2010) and dealership made some fix.

Another problem could be water in a headlight.


Look for long-life bulbs. There is a tradeoff between light output and bulb lifetime if you keep the wattage of the bulb constant. Some vehicles (which probably includes Toyota according to my experiences with a 2011 Toyota Yaris) might have slightly higher charging system voltage than others, and therefore, the bulb lifetime is reduced due to a high voltage, but the light output is increased. If you choose a high-output bulb to such a car, the lifetime will be very short indeed.

The solution of using long-life bulbs means the inherent low light output of the long-life bulb is compensated by the slightly higher charging system voltage, and thus, in a car with slightly higher voltage you get about the same light output and lifetime you would get from a regular high-output bulb in a car with normal charging system voltage.

In a car with normal charging system voltage, the long-life bulbs would last very long indeed, but the light output would suck.


Switch to LED head lights. I had this problem with a blinker and now it is fixed. You could install a dimmer switch, dim your head lights a touch and they may last longer.

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