My headlight was working fine. Then I got an oil change (continued)

My headlights were fine. I got a full service oil change on Friday (5 days ago) that the invoice says covered a light check (and the lights were marked OK). I just realized today that my front right headlight is not working. Can I go back there and demand (or ask nicely) that they fix it for free? Is a headlight something that can be affected when changing oil?

I hadn’t had any service on the car in the 6 months prior to this and I haven’t been in an accident or anything that would have knocked out the light. It’s a 2006 Ford Five Hundred.

Thanks for any advice. I really have no idea if the oil change affected it or not, but that’s the only thing I can pinpoint that might be responsible for this. Of course it might just be random chance, I suppose. Is there a way to know for sure?

You can ask, but there’s no reason to suspect that an oil change had anything to do with your headlight burning out. There’s nothing in an oil change that would even touch your electrical system.

It’s most likely just random chance. Headlights burn out, that’s what they do.


A light bulb just burned out in my bathroom. I just replaced the toilet paper roll. I’m thinking of suing the toilet paper manufacturer.

You should, they’re flush with cash.

I started typing a snarky response then changed my mind. I’m glad you had the good sense to ask first if there is possible a connection. I owned a service shop for many years and can’t tell you the number of times a customer would come in “demanding” that we “make this right” when they didn’t have a fricken clue of what they were talking about.

When the oil change guy at GoofyLube says they “checked your lights”, they simply turned on the light switch (or ignition) to make sure they illuminated. They didn’t physically touch any of the bulbs or sockets, just turned the switch.

It’s a bulb. They wear out. Coincidence that it happened when the car had the oil changed.

I appreciate you refraining from the snark, Ruby. I don’t know shit about cars and this was a huge, huge coincidence. Too huge of one for me to not ask, at least. I hope it’s not an expensive fix.

rachelellogram, I may be a PITA, but I can change a headlight. I have, even (twice in 2 months). And If I can, I Know you can. It doesn’t take a subscription to Snap-On Tools or some certification.
All it takes is an auto-parts store, an owners manual, some patience, possibly some WD40… and a sincere belief that if you follow directions and don’t over-torque your parts, you really can do this.


Well, this all depends on the design of the car. I offered to fix a buddy’s headlight and I had to remove a fluid reservoir to access the bulb. What would take 5 minutes in a sensibly designed car took over an hour to fix. My own headlamps on my 4Runner required removing the grill and then bending a bracket so I didn’t have to remove the bumper. Fortunately, my mechanic told me this when I asked him about it.

Car designers do not necessarily make it easy to fix headlamps. Spend some time perusing car forums about your particular model of car.

True, its not all wine & roses and some models are a pain. But the last thing I ever want to do is to reinforce the “you can’t do it, its too hard” mindset. Suggesting to her to invest even a small amount of time on a car forum for her make/model to see if its something she’d be willing to take on
is great advice. Personally, I’d love to hear back from her to find out how she tackled it.

Ask yourself whether it makes any sense that an oil change would have anything to do with a headlight burning out. And it may have been an old headlight as well. The prime time for a bulb to burn out is when it is first turned on. Once turned on they usually last until next time. It worked at the oil change place. They maybe would have been in a position to change it. If so, then you might be saying it worked last time you used it so they must have done something. The bulb most likely failed at the time YOU turned it on.

People who don’t know about cars often make these associations with servicing and failures. I believe that people should make it a point to become more knowledgeable about vehicles and basic service. This is easily done with the Internet or even reading the manual that comes with the vehicle. A bit of knowledge can save you a ton of money.

One thing you were right about doing though is wondering about it to begin with. The first thing I look at when a failure occurs on any vehicle is “What was the last thing serviced” on that vehicle. Sometimes there is a link. The only link in your case was that the shop used up the second from last start of that bulb that was near failure.

It’s not really a huge, huge coincidence. How often do you get your oil changed? If it’s twice a year, then there are 10 days per year in which a burned out bulb would be within 5 days after an oil change. That’s a 1/36 chance - not what I’d call a coincidence at all.

I moved yesterday, after living in my house 4 and a half years. Monday night, the light in the laundry room burned out, having never touched it the entire time I was there. I had a good time rifling through 3 sealed boxes to find my light bulbs.

I’m blaming the movers, BTW. If that doesn’t work, my house is pissed we left.

Your owner’s manual might also have information about changing the headlight in it - mine does. (I’ve a 2002 Mazda Protege5.) On my Mazda, it’s a pretty straightforward procedure that doesn’t take long; I’ve done it a couple of times. However, the last time one burnt out, I wasn’t too far from an oil change. I’d already bought the replacement light, but hadn’t had the chance to install it yet. When I went for the oil change, I gave them the light and had them install it for me. It added a couple of bucks to the final bill for the labor, but was so worth it.

You can always ask some big, strong guy if he’d like to adjust your headlights. :slight_smile:

Was it a Hyundai, Elantra?

If you change it yourself there may be one thing to keep in mind. I don’t know what your light is going to look like, sometimes they’re big and encased like a floodlight and sometimes they’re just the small, naked bulb. Particularly if they’re Halogen though you want to make sure you don’t handle it directly as this may leave oil from your hand on the surface which can cause it to heat unevenly and burn out faster. I just wear thin gloves or hold it with a paper towel when putting the bulb in the housing. For whatever it’s worth…

My business is auto repair, and here’s what bugs me:

Granted, the OP knows little/nothing about cars (and thank you for asking first, instead of complaining/demanding first), but surely everyone old enough to drive a car knows something about lights. As in light bulbs burn out. As in the first thing to check when a light suddenly stops working is the bulb. As in a bulbs can and will and do burn out for no discernible reason other than age and use.

Now why does it seem that the first thought upon seeing a single car light* not working is not “maybe the bulb burnt out” but instead “whoever touched my car last broke it?” Is it really that hard to imagine that car lights might be like household lights, flashlights, Christmas lights, etc. and have a bulb go out without someone actively breaking it?

I can tell you that if I sense this “shoot first ask questions later”/“if it happened after you looked at it then you must have broken it” attitude from a customer, I’ll stop working on their car. Then they’re more likely to have to deal with the kind of jackleg mechanic who WILL screw things up (and try to avoid responsibility for it). Give some thought to the advantages of extending people the benefit of the doubt.

*A single light out is different from a light system out, e.g. (both) headlights, (all) brake lights, (all) turn signals, etc. – a system failure is usually not multiple bulb failures.

If I were in the OP’s position, I would wonder a bit too, simply because none of the oil changes I’ve ever gotten (all from the same place) have included a “light check,” so I wouldn’t know for sure what one entails. My first guess would be that it is what Ruby said:

which makes total sense, but I wouldn’t have been able to help wondering whether a “light check” involved some actual futzing around with the lights (e.g. physically checking to see if they were screwed in properly) that could conceivably have had an effect.

It’s visually observing the exterior lights to see if they all work.

No. All the bulbs are covered by lenses, and they don’t screw in.