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Q: Headlights and taillights

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The headlights need replacing every few months and the red on the taillights melt away partially like the bulb is overheating and the inside of the plastic that covers the whole assembly is partially cloudy as if there was heat damage. I have replaced the bulbs and the whole taillight assembly but it continues to happen. So when I hit the breaks it shines mostly a dim white because the red is mostly melted. Does this sound like an electrical problem or could it possibly be fixed if I replace with aftermarket parts instead of OEM parts?

My car has 180000 miles.
My car has a manual transmission.

A: Bulbs that frequently burn out can be hard ...

Bulbs that frequently burn out can be hard to figure out. I can give you a few ideas to look into though. Let's begin with the headlights.

If your headlight assemblies have leaks and moisture getting inside, this is the most common reason for frequent headlight bulb failures. Your headlight assemblies will need to be replaced.

Following this, make sure you are not touching the glass of the bulb. Moisture and oils from your hands will cause the bulb to expand and different rates and this will contribute to premature bulb failure. Poor connections at the headlight bulb connector can cause excessive current that the bulb isn't designed to carry. This can drastically shorten the life of a bulb.

Lastly, your alternator may be having a potentially excessive ripple. This is not an easy thing to explain here, so I won't attempt to. If this is the case, you will usually have other strange symptoms as this will affect every system of the car. It is what can lead to the whine in your radio - particularly on the AM band.

Concerning the rear tail light assembly. Everything above applies. In your case, you have excessive heat. This is predominately caused by bad connections at the bulb socket. After market parts are rarely better than factory when we are talking about light assemblies. I have replaced many after market assemblies for factory ones and as of yet have not done the opposite to fix such a problem. I would make sure you are using the correct bulb. Bulbs come in different wattage's but still will look exactly the same. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a good resource to tell me what bulbs have what wattage. In your case, I would try several bulbs that all look the same and see which one is the dimmest. That is the bulb that produces the least amount of heat. Of course, if there is a bad connection, none of the bulbs will help you. Fix the connection first. If your in doubt, just replace the bulb connector. Nine times out of ten this will fix the problem.

If you need some help sorting this all out, a qualified technician, such as one from YourMechanic, can diagnose your car's headlight and taillight problems and perform any needed repairs for you.

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