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I have a burnt out license plate bulb on my 1996 Volvo 850.

In looking for a replacement all I can find is bulb type 2825 which is sort of a generic bulb identifier.

My bulb looks just like these 2825s, but on it the reading says [E1] 2GL / W5W9Q4. Am I safe in just using the 2825?

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Yeah that should be fine - the W5W part of the code you've got indicates that it's what I (in the UK) would know as a "501" bulb and that's the right type for an 850 and if you look at the pics for the Sylvania longlife bulb from the link you gave you can see the W5W code printed on the bulb.

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After some more research and long discussion with a guy at Autozone I found that mini bulbs basically come in two flavors: 5 watt and 3.5 watt. As long as you get the right wattage they are interchangeable.

So, for example, in my case the W5W9Q4, the "W5" means it is a 5 watt bulb, so I can use a 5W mini bulb. I used a 2821 Sylvania mini bulb which looks pretty much identical to my bulb and worked well.

I could have used a 3.5 Watt bulb, but it would not have been as bright.

The main mistake you want to avoid is putting a 5 Watt bulb in a plastic housing designed for a 3.5 Watt bulb, because you could melt or discolor the housing or lens.

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From what I can see, the bulbs listed for the 850 of this year, and those in the photographs on the site you have linked to are 501 bulbs. These are small bulbs which push into the holder.

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