All Wheel Drive Auto: Independent Seattle Subaru Service


Subaru Head Light Bulb Life Explained.

One of the more recent trends on the 2005 and newer platforms is for the head lights to live a very short life.  There are a few reasons as to why this happens.  One of the key reasons the bulbs don’t last, is that the lights spend a lot of time on, which over time weakens the element as the constant heat is hard on the bulb.  Now add the fact that as the car and the suspension ages the head light bulb now vibrates more than it did when the car is new.  Heat coupled with vibration is ultimately what causes the element to break.

One of the things I often try to convey is that there is a major difference between in parts quality.  Your Subaru needs what is called a long life bulb or for the point of this article an H7LL in most 2005 and newer Subaru Models.

Per application in many parts catalogs it will call for an H7.   Subaru recognized the standard bulb wasn’t up to the task and superseded the part to another part number indicating a Long Life bulb part number 84920 AG020.  The H7LL bulb has a much stronger element that will last longer than the standard H7 bulb, yes it is a little more expensive but only a few dollars.

In the pictures below, I have tried to point out how it’s nearly impossible to look at the bulb and see a difference but on the Box itself there is a different part and catalog number.

Subaru head light bulb

Subaru head light bulb

Here is a link to buy the bulbs if you want to do it right

As always it’s up to you the owner of your car to know what is being used in the care and service of your Subaru, I will try to point out trends as I can to help you along the way.

Thanks for reading



Update to an older post! 

Subaru began sending out letters to Subaru Owners of 2010-2012  Legacy and Outbacks offering to reimburse for prior bulb replacements as well as cover bulbs for 10 years. This only applies to the 2010 to 2012 Legacy and Outback models, the original post apply’s to Subaru Cars made as early as 2005.  

If you have an affected vehicle and you have paid to replace the bulbs Subaru will reimburse you but only until November of 2016. after that you must go to a Subaru dealer to have them done under an extended warranty.  You can find out more information buy Calling 1-800 Subaru 3.

Please understand the entire point of this post was to inform about the Dealers as well as aftermarket part suppliers are not always selling or installing the Long Life bulb the car requires.



108 Responses

  1. Hey Justin,

    I too am glad I found your post. I wasn’t sure long life bulbs would help on my 2006 impreza. I am pretty religious about turning lights off before shutting car down and turning on after started. Was still blowing more bulbs than any car I’ve owned. Will give it a try! Side question…I have same issue with tail lights and brake lights having extremely short life. I bought car used with pretty low mileage. I have check harness and connectors and also had subura mechanic I happen to know double check me. Still haven’t found much info about rear lighting issues. Any help there?


    1. Hello Kevin,

      The Long life bulbs should help with the Headlights for sure, but as far as the rest of the lights go. Its kind of the more you use them the shorter the life span will be kind of a thing. For example here in the Pacific North West we have gone into our annual “plunge into darkness” period. For us here pretty much just about every drive cycle for the last month and the next couple will be with all of the lights on, add to that we are literally under water most of fall and winter which is just not good for bulb life as moisture in the air creates damp conditions which is just not good for anything electrical. I don’t know what part of the country you are posting from, but if it’s anything like it is here, bulbs just are just not going to last as long as they will in places with dryer, lighter climates.

      Hope that helps


  2. Hello,

    I don’t know if this has been gone over here yet(I Ctrl+F searched this page for ‘ground’, no relevant results), but on another Subaru forum, on a post about replacing corroded-off engine ground straps, they discovered that improvements to a few ground points greatly reduced voltage spikes at startup(verified with a multimeter) and drastically reduced premature bulb failure.

    It seems like the general recommended recipe is 4ga from battery to chassis, alternator, and starter, 8 or 10 ga for grounding block, both heads, throttle body, coil packs, fuse box, and pretty much anything else you think might benefit, up to and including transmission, rear diff, and suspension.(sounds crazy, but it’s true; )

    This seems to fit the symptoms and known fixes quite well, and seems like a cheap and easy way to reduce the problem, though of course using the headlight on/off switch as designed and using proper LL bulbs is still also the best bet.

    Might be worth an updated post.

    Your experience, persistence in the face of well-intentioned ignorance, and levelheaded snark are much appreciated!


    1. Hi Matthew,

      Yes I address the ground strap thing in the Head gasket article I wrote in 2007, however you can’t just blindly add ground straps I am afraid, if you have failed ground straps yes they should be replaced for a host of reasons. Also that statement was more true prior to 2005, and less so since in terms of not having enough from the factory.

      If Subaru drivers would stop using the ignition switch to to turn on and off the headlights the issue at start up would be nullified.

      Thanks for posting

  3. Hi Justin,

    I’m really glad to have discovered this thread, and in particular have very much enjoyed some of your replies — your level of snarkiness rivals my own, so it’s been a fun read. I have a 2005 Outback, which I purchased in August of 2017, and am about to put my third set of headlight bulbs in: the first in January 2018 and the second in June. I made O’Reilly’s take back the first pair, as I found it unacceptable to be replacing them five months later, and they were still under warranty. So at least I’ve only had to purchase two pairs (so far).

    Both headlights went out last night, and after checking all my (perfectly intact) fuses today, I picked a friend’s brain about possible electrical problems (I hadn’t pulled out the bulbs yet, but didn’t really believe I had purchased yet another bad pair). Taking the car’s age and value into account, I decided that grudgingly replacing bulbs once a year or so would be ultimately simpler and cheaper than chasing down a wiring problem. So I bought another pair and made a plan to keep some spares in the car. Then my friend found this thread, and after reading I’ve decided that my next purchase will be the long-life bulbs, to see if that buys me more time between changes. And I vow to be more religious about turning the lights fully off before turning the car off.

    Thanks again! I’m hoping to squeeze four or five more years out of this car, and this solution has me breathing easier.

    1. Hey Erica,

      I am glad you found the post, give the Long life bulbs a shot and try not to use the ignition switch to run the headlights and you will cut down on how often you replace bulbs on the Subaru. The 2005’s really need the long life bulb, they get very hot.

      Thanks for being realistic and I hope the Subaru keeps you safe and gives you lots of good use going forward.


  4. Hi, Justin – Thank you for taking the time to respond to all of these questions over the years.

    I wanted to add what happened with our situation in case it is helpful to anyone else. We own a 2014 Outback and have had 11 bulbs burn out in the time we bought it new, having replaced four and now currently have seven bulbs out.

    When it took it to the dealership where we bought it, they offered “it must have been a run of bad luck” as the explanation for seven bulbs being out. I told them that was not an acceptable statement and left.

    I recently engaged the help of a mechanically-savvy bulldog friend of mine who contacted everyone he could until he finally reached someone at Subaru who offered us a $250 coupon for parts and labor to replace the bulbs (and created a case number in the event we continue to have problems).

    I will make sure that they use the bulbs you suggested, including asking for the packaging and ensuring that there is a solid warranty.

    This has been the most helpful information I have found online so thank you again for the guidance.

    1. Hi Natalie,

      Thanks for the feedback. Wow so besides the Head lights burning out you ave also had to replace a lot of other bulbs? We see a few license plate bulbs go frequently on cars that always have the lights on but that’s really about it. You have a real unique and unfortunate situation I am afraid.

      Whiles its nice that Subaru has sent you a Coupon for $250.00, I think it might be a bigger deal than that over the life of your Ownership, a real thought is to maybe try and identify which bulbs seem to not last and possibly look for a LED option if a diagnoses cant prove whats causing the problem to occur.

      Hope that helps


  5. oh, Justin…help! I saved and bought used 2008 Outback
    dec 2016.
    single, no help, I am Really Old, no dealership in my little hick town. OMG, out of money and lights not working. I have read all these posts. freaked out! My son helped me buy the car, lives far away, we thought it was good deal. Hah. Now what? Broke. I noticed when I turned lights on at night, the radio display dimmed. I wondered…I thought they were Great Cars. So, this is not going to be cheap, huh? Sounds like tax refund isn’t going to cover it.

    1. Hello Deborah,

      If the head lights are not working, I would start with checking the bulbs, they can and do burn out at the same time in some cases.

      Start there.

      Hope that helps


  6. Justin,

    Thank you for the great info! I know I got in the bad habit of leaving the lights on and using the ignition to turn them off from my wife. I will try to train her not to do that any more. She also likes to have the lights on all the time even though we have daylight running lights. The explanation of the LL bulbs makes sense to me and I can see the dealerships not using them to save costs. The smart dealerships won’t because it can mean lost business because it’s not just the expense but the hassle of having to go to get the headlight replaced. I may have missed the reason that the 2010-2012 legacy and outbacks have the extended warranty on bulb replacement for 10 years but it does seem that Subaru acknowledges there is something wrong but doesn’t want to fix it.

    1. Hey Todd,

      Subaru found on some 2010-2012 thew Auto feature was to sensitive causing frequent on and off cycles which shortens bub life

      So they offered to replace bulbs for a period of time, they are also trying to control the experience by making sure the Dealers are putting in the proper bulbs, which we are aware many do not


  7. Justin,
    While the auto on and start with lights on should not cause bulbs to die early, I concede that it could contribut. I replaced mine twice on my 2010 Outback since buying it a year ago. My big concern is that the low beams went dim on me. Even the new ones I just installed are dim. Is there a right way and wrong way to install them that would effect this?


    1. Hi Mark,

      We do see drivers not get the bulb installed correctly, causing it to be dim. Look through the lens and see if its pointing anything but straight.


  8. Justin,

    Bought a used 2007 Impreza 4 months ago. Car still runs fine, yet low beam bulbs burn burn out way too quick. Think it is a car problem and not a bulb one. Put in two new ones tonight, and yes I know I installed them correctly. Both burned out at around 10 miles. The driver side one always goes out first. I have tested the alternator with load on it and it is not the alternator. High beams have always continued to work. The low beam bulbs that came with the car worked fine for 3 months. Can’t get new low beam bulbs to last no matter what type.

    1. The 2007 is a vehicle that should only have a long life bulb installed, I am not sure if that’s what you are using, they would only be available from Subaru and not a general parts store.

  9. My daughter has a two year old Subaru Crostrec with the same problem. I have changed the headlights three time each and the fog lights one time each. I have only replaced the lights with the best available from Auto Zone. It doesn’t seem like they should go out that often.

    1. He Steve,

      Your right that is to often, so lets talk about things we can do differently.

      The bulbs the Cross Trek requires are not available at Auto Zone. The stuff available to a DIY at an Aftermarket parts store are just not on Par with the OE component.

      I would suggest you buy OE bulbs (for the head lights) and see if you cant achieve better life.

      Next ask your Daughter if she uses the Ignition switch to turn on the headlights. It has an ignition switch and a head light switch, all to often people just leave it in Auto. This is kind of like never turning off a flashlight, instead of using it to see in the Dark. Which is fine if you do it from a stand point of wanting to be seen and be safe, but the more you use the lights the less time they will last. Last point here why is it not under warranty?


  10. Justin, we have a 2005 Legacy we bought used after it had been in your shop in May 2015. We had a 1995 new until then. We have never had to change a headlight bulb. The problem is the low beam is so dim we bought new bulbs after being told they can dim over time. We can see no difference The bright lights work like normal.

    My understanding is the daylight driving lights use the low beam after lowering the voltage using a resistor, relay and lighting control module. It would also have to have a light sensing photocell of some sort. I see no evidence of one. Would you please tell me where I can find it just to make sure it is clear with nothing blocking light or needs to be changed.

    I see the relay in the wiring diagram but no relay marked as such in the fuse panel.

    Everything seems to work properly with the exception of the lights going to full brightness after dark.

    Any ideas as to how to fix it?

    Thanks, Bob in Renton

    1. Hi Bob,

      There are right and left head light relays in the fuse block under hood marked as such, I would doubt that was the issue however.

      The head light switch on an 2005 is ultimately what controls it from “Day time always on” to Low beam. There is a sun load sensor on the dash for the Auto climate control models, is possible that the headlights themselves are set to off? Thus only allowing the day time lights to come on?


  11. I took the bulbs out and turned them 180 and reinstalled. Same problem. The lane to the left of me is well lit, while the lane in front of me is dark.

    1. Hi Larry,

      That’s just something that’s going to need to be looked at locally, I cant see from here whats going on.

      Sorry I cant offer More


  12. I have a 2012 Outback. I’ve had it for three years. First time I had to change head lights. Not knowing about the problem I put in Sylvania Silverstar Ultra H7s. My problem is they are so dim I can barely see the road. They shine off to the side but straight ahead it’s black. Did I do something wrong?

    1. Hi Larry

      Many times we see DIY’s not install the bulb properly so it doesn’t project in the lense as it should.

      Check that first


  13. I have a 2013 Outback and have had to have the headlight bulbs replaced numerous times…more than any other car I’ve owned. When I took the car to the dealer for the wiper problem recall, they informed me I had Five bulbs out (not the headlights this time). They could find nothing wrong with the system. Two days later another low beam went. I’ve already been ticked for this (it was nullified with the submission of a repair statement).

    I don’t see how this can be considered “normal” in any sense of the word. It is clearly a design flaw. And the engineers who designed the headlamp access….well you can imagine what I think about their competency level.

    I love the care in every other way….it’s my second outback, but I really doubt I’d buy a Subaru next time around.

    1. Hi Bill,

      Your car could very well have some sort of an issue, this article was written a very long time ago before your vehicle was even in production. It’s meant to advise Subaru owners that were using Chinese bulbs to cease. It’s really about the 2005-20009 Legacy and Outback.

      As far as your situation, it would be best to call 1 800 Subaru 3 and voice your concerns.

      Hope that helps


  14. Justin,

    I think it may be something with the circuitry and starting the car with the light switch in the Auto On position. We have a 2012 late year Outback not covered by the extended warranty and I am now replacing my 4th set of headlights after 84K miles.

    For three of the replacements I have had to make, the bulbs burned out at the exact same time, making me think that there is some sort of surge going through the system and into the headlights when they are in the Auto On position. I switched to the LL bulbs after the 2nd set of lights and I get about 24K miles per set as compared to about 18K per set for the first two sets of lights.

    Similar to Sam above, I think there is a problem in the design, specifically in the circuitry of the Auto On switch that allows some surge of electricity to go through and blow the bulbs. This is why I keep losing the lights as a set rather than individually.

    Needless to say we are now heeding your advice and ALWAYS turning the lights off.

    1. Hi Ken,

      I truly believe if owners would stop using the ignition switch as the head light switch the bulbs would last longer, Ive commented about this many times.


  15. Justin, you are as full of s**t as a Christmas Turkey. All of your comments and “knowledge” are proven bogus by Subaru’s acknowledgment of a manufacturing flaw. I’ve tried the LL bulbs and they still do not last a reasonable length of time. Subaru’s offer to replace bulbs for 10 years from date of purchase is still not fixing the inherent problem with their design or specs.

  16. Hi Justen,







  17. Justin,
    Thank you for the wealth of info here.

    Subaru finally admits there is a problem with (at least) the 2010-2012 cars.
    They’ve now issued an ‘extended warranty’ for head light bulbs for the 2010-2012 Legacy/Outback cars.

    Unfortunately for me, it comes after I’ve replaced my bulbs about 6-7 times…and have the scars to prove it.

    I don’t know how the <2010 auto-headlight circuit looks, but if it's the same cheap 'no delay' as the 2010-2012, that's probably the issue. Lights are constantly turning on/off every time you pass thru a shadow, under a bridge, etc.

    2010-2012 owners rejoice ! I suggest you have your Suby dealer replace your bulbs at every oil change as they won't last long with the 'no delay' circuitry and you don't want to be caught some night with a failing bulb.


    1. 2011 Owner

      Actually All this is is Subaru forcing the Dealers to use the proper bulbs and not generic aftermarket cheap bulbs, and it allows the dealer to upsell you a timing belt, K service or sell you a new car when your in for a free headlight bulb replacement.


    2. Not all 2012 Outbacks are covered by the extended warranty.

      Ours, which we bought in November, 2011, is deemed a late year 2012 model and we have been told it is not covered. Hopefully this will change as we are starting our 5th set of lights tomorrow!!

  18. Justin, does this problem plague the 2003 Foresters? I believe ours is the H4 bulb, correct? If so, you got a link for what to buy for my model year?

    1. Hi Blake,

      Doesn’t affect the 2003 Foresters like the cars that require the H7LL bulbs.

      As far as waht to use for your car a Osram/Sylvania H4 is perfect.


  19. Hi Justin

    Thanks for clearing this stuff up.

    As far as the brands go for the bulbs, which are recommended? Osram? Philips? These are the two H7LL I’ve located on Amazon below. Will either of these work on an 2008 Outback?

    2 Piece Set of Osram / Sylvania Halogen H7 Long Life Headlight Bulbs 64210L – NEW OEM – 12V / 55W / PX26d – Made in Germany

    Philips 12972LL 55W H7 Long Life / Subaru 84920-AG020 / 2 pack – Product arrives to you in about 3-4 days

      1. I just got the bulbs (From Ebay) in the mail but the packaging isn’t the same as in your photos. Is it possible they’re not authentic Osram bulbs?


        1. It’s possible, you never know with some Amazon Sellers. We have had quite a few buy the Osram from Amazon with no issue, but the sellers do change from time to time, its probably good to ask the seller why the difference in appearance.


  20. My daughter bought a used 2004 H6 Outback and has spent a lot of money replacing H1 low-beam headlamps. Lamp life has been a few months at best. A few days ago I pulled the headlight assembly, on both the most recent bulb fatality (driver side) as well as the side that is till working. Close inspection revealed that water is almost certainly the culprit – road water, car wash or maybe both.

    There is clear evidence that water has been coming through the seal on all three of the wires which penetrate the service port housing at the back of the assembly. This is based on my observation of mineral residue from evaporated water on all the wires. It was also clear that water had reached the low-beam lamp and caused it to fail, more mineral deposits on both the metal connector and the glass of the lamp. The exposed nature of this bulb makes it much more vulnerable than the other bulbs housed in the assembly.

    The little rubber seal at the back of the service cover has aged to the point that it looks like it no longer seals tightly around the three wires coming through the removable housing. The driver side looks quite a bit worse than the passenger side, but both show evidence of water on the wires and metal lamp socket. This would explain why it has been a bigger problem than the other side.

    I put some silicone caulking around the wires – both inside and outside the housing – right at the OEM seal on both assembly covers. Just to be thorough, I also cleaned the big O-rings on the removable housings with WD-40 and confirmed they aren’t cracked or stretched and still seem pliable enough to seat and seal properly.

    Hopefully this will solve the problem. I replaced both bulbs with best-quality available lamps. I will be very surprised if my daughter doesn’t see an immediate improvement in lamp life, but time will tell of course.

    Prior to pulling the headlamp assemblies, I did a web search on “headlamp problems Subaru Outback”, and discovered it appears to be an endemic problem across multiple model years, with no known remedy.

    I then called both the local Subaru dealership service department and a local shop which services imports. Both confirmed that it is a common issue and that there is no known remedy. Subaru have evidently chosen to turn a deaf ear and have no recommended solution – that came directly from the dealership guy.

    I called both shops back and told them what I found, maybe it will result in some other people getting their problem resolved…which is also why I took the time to find this forum and write this lengthy reply. I would be interested in hearing if anyone else can validate my conclusions.

    I took some before and after pictures on my cell phone. If you are interested, I can email them to you.

    Dave Whisenhunt

    1. Hi Dave,

      So the 2000 to 2004 do not use the bulb outlined in this article, the common thing on the model you own is the socket can fail over time. This is the Large grey cover you must rotate off to access the bulb, that also houses the pink wire, the pink wire over time from heat will develop to much resistance.

      The problem with newer model head lights is the use of cheap bulbs from generic suppliers mostly made in china as a replacement rather then the correct bulb.

      Hope that helps


  21. My Outback is a 2010 with 64,000 miles. I have an appointment at the local Subaru dealership to get my headlights replaced. I’ve replaced all but one, that’s 8 times plus my mechanic has replaced them twice, of the bulbs since the original manufacturer’s bulb went out. I’ve been using Sylvania H7 bulbs from Advanced Auto Parts. I wonder if Subaru is aware of the LL lamps? I was told there is a one year parts and labor warranty on the replacements I will get installed tomorrow. The service department told me they haven’t heard of such problems with the headlamps. I’m laughing…can you tell? I’m going to print out as many posts as I can and bring them in.

    1. Hello JJ,

      It’s possible that a Subaru Dealer using the proper bulb would not be aware of a problem as there generally isn’t a problem when the correct bulbs are used. You can’t use the normal H7 it just isn’t capable of handling the demand and that’s why you are always replacing them.

      Stay away form general auto parts stores for parts for you Subaru and you will have a much better ownership experience.


  22. Hello Justin,

    Is the labour time the same as changing a bulb in the headlight than it is changing the headlight unit altogether?

    I have a burnt bulb and I also would not object to changing the headlight unit all together because the abrasion on the glass is pretty bad…

    I’m trying to figure out which option is more economical and the smarter option.


    1. Hello Alexx,

      No the bulbs time is much less then replacing the assembly, the headlights can be refinished in place if they are dull or scratched.


  23. I have a 2013 Outback bought new in August 2013 with 73000 miles. Drive interstate 60-70% of the time. The rest is city suburbs. Garage-Kept. Have been waiting to get info from someone like you to buy my 3rd & 4th bulbs since Nov of 2015. My local dealer has just taken over from a smaller dealer. The service manager at the former dealer mentioned getting an HID Conversion “kit” from I have not checked it yet. Want to see what you know about using the “kit”. Thanks, Jim

    1. Hi Jim,

      We have installed HID kits, but it’s a projector lens housing so it’s not quite right. have you just tried buying the long life bulb and moving on from the issue?


  24. Justin,
    Great thread and info, Thanks tons.
    I just have to congratulate you on your patience with people and ability to see all the good out there in spite of the folks who may be slightly inexperienced in all things mechanical. I have a 2010 Outback CVT with 180000 miles with no issues other than about 6 bulbs replaced. I wish your shop was in my area. I really appreciate an honest, reliable and intelligent technician/shop owner. Too few out there.
    And I certainly do not want to start anything but do you have any experience with the Osram European version Off Road Rally H7 65w bulbs? I have seen them for sale in the U.S. and supposedly they have a sturdier filament that is not manufactured in China.

    1. Hello Cris,

      The Osram bulb is the right way to go, I however do not know 100% if the Off Road Rally version is a LL bulb, I would suspect it is and if so I wouldn’t hesitate to use it.

      Thanks for the kind words and I hope you continue to get solid use of your Outback!


  25. Justin – Thanks so much for theverything LL info. I have a 2011 Forester that I first replaced both low beam lamps in November 2015 (only the drivers side was out). The drivers side went out late last night driving home from roller derby practice and 8 miles from home I got pulled over, but the officer was nice and only gave me a warning. The closest Subaru dealer is 60 miles so I’ll be hitting up an auto parts store today. But next time I’m near the dealer I’ll buy two LL bulbs to keep on hand. I know the right way to replace (clean gloves, bulb grease, don’t touch the lamp) so don’t mind doing it myself, just don’t wanna do it every 3 to 6 months from now on. Thankfully my hands are just small enough I don’t have to remove or move anything to get to it lol. Again thanks for the info, it’s much appreciated!

  26. Justin,
    Just bought a 2011 Outback and had to replace low beam today. Wish I had read your information first before I installed a standard bulb. Next time it will be LL. On my other car (not a Subaru) I remove two bolts and slide the whole headlight assembly forward so I can easily access the bulbs from the back of the headlight assembly. 2011 Outback has two bolts in the same location. Is there anything to stop me from removing those and sliding the assembly forward rather than going through the inner fender liner?
    Thanks for all the great information on your site. It has taught me a lot and helped me choose the Outback I bought.

    1. There are lower fasteners to contend with, it only takes moments to remove a few clips form the inner fender liner and go through that way.


  27. Really useful thread. My 2011 Outback: Driver side headlamp lasted ~5 years and I replaced it. Passgr side lasted 3 years and 2 years so brought into dealer today. The pssgr side lamp compartment cover with the gasket has been missing from it’s location (never installed) I discovered when I did the replacement after 5 years. This would have increased ventilation and reduced heat build up yet allowed moisture in. I have asked for a cover to be instslled. But maybe this will result in deleterious overheating of the third new pssgr side bulb?!

    1. Haven’t ever really tested that out as we try to reinstall the covers better then that, but there is also the inner fender liner that will keep water, but not moisture out


  28. Justin,
    Nice try but I’ve replaced 15 headlights since 2012 in my 2011 Subaru Tribeca. Ranging from all brands and price points. Silver star was the priciest. There is a Subaru dealership in my hometown of Salina, KS and they have replaced half of these Ive purchased the others. They are not lasting longer than 2 months and it does not matter if I keep the lights on or turn them on when needed. They burn out. There IS a problem mechanical, electrically or something somewhere and I will get to the bottom of it! It’s NOT just a low life bulb!

    1. Melody,

      You can look for help or argue about the truth. I mean what’s the point the whole “nice try” thing.

      If we know OE Long Life bulbs are being used and those bulbs are in fact blowing Quickly then YES there would be an issue, if we don’t know however, that the first place to start is with the proper bulbs, not anything you want to try, not anything a small market dealer may want to put in to make $, but the Specified Bulb.

      Don’t make it a bigger thing than it is. Read the post, Or don’t and continue to replace bulbs. But you can’t state it’s not the bulb, because you have no idea whats being used.

      1. Your Subaru dealer is a small market dealer and may not be using the OE Long life bulbs as specified for customer pay invoices, did you ask to see the box? If the answer is no, then you do not know what was used. Like I have stated here time and time again, for NON WARRANTY bulbs replacement the dealer can use what ever they want.

      2. You mention all prices and brands, and like I’ve tried (obviously in vain) to point out that there is only one choice, and that’s the same bulb the car came with, and there is no other option.

      3. The bulbs should have a warranty, so why are you constantly buying bulbs?

      4. The Subaru dealer should be providing you with a 1 year 12 month warranty, the car came with a 3 year 36000 mile warranty so at best on a 2011 you should have paid for maybe 4 bulbs. This assumes each side has burnt out twice since being out of warranty.

      Lastly, I am here trying to post some useful information as to why the bulbs may not be lasting as long as they should. I suggest maybe you should read the article again, because its obvious you didn’t read it, or didn’t understand it or didn’t want to.

      Call 1 800 Subaru 3 and let them know your experience. Tell them when you buy aftermarket bulbs they don’t last, tell them Money Subaru has replaced the bulbs at your cost 10 times, tell them you request a Subaru rep come have a look. Then Call Money Subaru and ask to be refunded for all of the times you paid them to replace bulbs covered under warranty.


  29. Hi Justin:

    I just wanted to thank you for the information regarding the lights on the Subaru. I have a 2011 Subaru Legacy and I have had to change the bulbs a few times. You’ve given me some great tips within your responses, and it’s greatly appreciated.
    Happy Holidays!

  30. Justin, Just wanted to commend you on your ability to keep your cool and level of professionalism while answering to some of these posts. It is blatantly obvious you are trying to do nothing more than help people with an unfortunately annoying and recurring problem. I wish there were more shops/owners with your attitude. If I lived in the northwest I would be bringing my car to your shop for service. Funny….just before reading all these posts I was removing the rear tail light assembly from my 2009 Outback. I recently bought it used and the PO had installed LED brake lights. They are not the brightest so I wanted to see if maybe they were white instead of red, which might explain the issue. Well, I started the car and guess what? The headlights came on, so I am guilty of not using the switch to turn them off. While the car was running I pulled the signal stalk to check the hi-beams against the garage door, and within less than a second of being on both burned out! Strange thing is the daytime running lights and fog lights also no longer function. Maybe I have another issue. It did sound like the start solenoid didn’t disengage immediately when the engine started, so maybe that caused something. Damn, it’s a long drive to Seattle!

  31. I guess Subaru has done right thing to my 2013 legacy 3.6r Limited. It’s been 2.5 years and 41K miles and I’m still on my original bulbs, I’m 100% satisfied. I have a question though, should I consider replacing them for next oil change at 45K anyway?

    1. I would wait until the first burns out, then replace both and only use the Long life Bulbs.

      Thanks for the great post by the way!


  32. Hello Justin,

    This is fantastic information! I have a 2011 Legacy and go through bulbs every 6 months. The H7LL is great information. I’ve tried all levels of the Sylvania bulbs and finally started reading on the back the brighter versions do have a shorter lifespan due to more heat. So I started getting the basic Sylvania bulbs. Just because a lot of people are responding to this thread I did want to let everyone know that Sylvania does offer a year warranty on their bulbs. Just save the receipt and get your replacements. Still a pain to replace them on a 2011 model. It’s funny, one of the first things I do when I look at a new car is check to see how easy the bulb replacement is and the new Subaru’s are very nice.

    Now a question …..I do want to get LED bulbs….I had HID and yes….it was the cheap china crap and one of the ballast went out so I removed them and back to basic bulbs but now that I’ve went through two sets in the last year I’m ready to try something different (H7LL is now #2 choice). I like the color better on HID and LED so that’s the main reason.

    Question #1 is there a brand of LED bulbs that you have had success with?

    Question #2 Are the dust caps important? What are they really for? (to me they trap in heat and reduce life of bulb) When I install the LED’s I’m afraid they will not fit back on.

    Thank you for your expertise!
    All the best,

    1. Hello Kevin,

      The aftermarket LED’s just done seem to last. The dust caps prevent moisture not just dust.

      Sorry I don’t have a LED option, but its all just made in China type stuff of poor quality.


  33. Hi Justin,

    I have a 2011 Subaru Outback. I have the same symptoms and the dealership keeps telling me that the light bulb is burnt out. I know for a fact that the light bulb was not burnt out. We went back and forth on this for one day. They replaced the driver side headlight bulb even though I gave strict instructions not to replace any bulbs. I made them put back the original headlight bulb and it worked fine. Based on what I am reading from people posting they should question if the light bulb is truly burnt out. The reason I knew the light bulb was not burnt out is when I was going to replace the light bulb myself I had the lights turned on and as I started to remove the light bulb it started working.

    I agree with some of the posters that indicate there is something wrong with the design. I have used non OEM bulbs in my other vehicles for many years without problems of life expectancy. Why would they only be an issue for Subaru Outbacks?

    Thank you.


    1. Dan,

      First of all the Head light not lasting long is not unique to Subaru, it’s more about the era and I wouldn’t use any aftermarket bulb on any modern car. A car that is 10 years old maybe, but not on a later model anything. The issue NOW is that any bulb you buy in a parts store is made in China, that wasn’t the case in the past and that’s the bigger issue, also your Subaru requires a LL bulb, these are also not found at the parts store. The socket takes an H7 and that’s all the store knows. This is also an issue on many German models, it’s just that German car owners are less likely to go shopping at Auto Zone or O-Reilly’s.

      Keep in mind that as the element goes out it may work intermittently before failing completely, so it’s quite possible it did not work when the Tech checked it, it’s also possible they got it wrong, but there isn’t much $ in bulbs so I don’t suspect it.

      Biggest issue with Subaru head lamps are the drivers using the ignition switch as the head light switch, rather then shutting the lights off, then the car, starting the car and turning the lights on.

      My wife does the same thing, drives me nuts.

      I have tried in vain to educate about this, but many wan’t to believe it’s a bigger issue then turning your lights off and using the proper bulbs, not much else I can do. In your home you can still buy a cheap incandescent type bulb, the cheaper the bulb the less time it lasts, or you can buy a Long life type bulb. When I bought my house the builder used the cheapest bulbs they could banking on the fact that I would just replace them and not try and call them on the 1 year home warranty, in cars the bulbs have a longer warranty, they use the best bulbs they can to not have to hassle with paying a tech to replace the bulb. Many just go to the parts store not understanding it’s just not the same bulb and yes it’s a big deal in the era we are in. TV’s used to last decades, now they last just years and are disposable, it’s all the “cheap China” effect and this is one of many ways it affects your car.


  34. Justin, my daughter has a 2004 Legacy Outback. When the driver’s side low beam went out, I naturally thought the bulb needed replacing so I replaced it. It came back on for a few weeks and then went out again. I thought, “Wow, that did not last long!” As I went to replace the bulb again, I noted the little metal wire clip that holds the bulb in place was bent and the bulb seemed somewhat loose. I “re-bent” the clip so as to make it tighter. When doing so, I also noted the plastic housing socket for the bulb basically crumbled in my hands. I am assuming the integrity of the plastic simply was old and eventually gave out due to the immense heat of the bulb, engine, etc. I reconnected it anyway and made sure everything was snug. The bulb came on but the wire clip that holds the bulb became white hot. I could literally see it glowing. The bulb is now out because it’s loose again but when snugged up again, it glows white hot.

    I don’t want to spend a lot of money replacing this. Do I need a new plastic wire/socket housing for the bulb? A new wire clip? Any ideas? Thanks.

    1. Yes the sockets on the 2000-2004 can get hot, this happens a lot when low quality bulbs are used. Stick with the Sylvania- Osram bulb if you can.


  35. Justin I think you’re right about the headlight switch being a big part of the problem. My daughter has a 2007 Impreza and she too has been chewing through some bulbs. All have been low beam and on both sides. Thankfully they are very easy to change. One bulb actually disintegrated. I tested the charging voltage and was around 14 volts so this was quite normal. It started around when my daughter was leaving the lights on all the time even daytime driving and relying on the ignition switch to turn them on and off. Maybe H7 bulbs are more susceptible to failing from this, I don’t know? We have a fleet of work cars which the company has just renewed and they have H7 bulbs for low beam. These vehicles are required to have auto on for low beam to be ‘mine spec’. There have been a lot of bulb failures in these utes. Some of the other vehicles in the past seemed to have a delay of a few seconds for the lights to come on after starting. These vehicles never required a bulb in all the time we had them.
    You mentioned that it is wise to use the long life bulbs and quite a few people seemed to get upset that this doesn’t fix the problem. I can understand their frustration with having to fork out for the replacement let alone the inconvenience of having to fix it so often. However I also get your point that whether there is a problem or not, using these bulbs and using the light switch how it was meant to be used will, no doubt, help greatly.
    The bulbs I bought for the daughters car were exactly the same as I bought for my 2014 Honda Civic. I haven’t had any issues with the bulbs in my car but in saying that I use the light switch as my car’s lights aren’t linked to the ignition switch. The car does have daytime running lights connected to the ignition which don’t seem to have a problem? I wonder if LED lights handle voltage spikes better?
    It would be interesting to see how long an LED H7 bulb lasts for these people having problems?
    Apparently the LED bulbs look very bright when you’re looking at them but from inside the vehicle the don’t have the ‘throw’ of light as a halogen or HID.
    Still, maybe worthwhile experimenting.

    1. The reason headlights don’t last is;

      1. People use the ignition switch as the head light switch rather then shut the headlights off then the car, then start the car and turn the lights on when its dark out.

      2. Assume the Stealer is installing OE LL bulbs when in fact they are buying cheap bulbs in bulk to keep profit high.

      I don’t know why everyone feels the need to make it more difficult then that but so be it.


      1. Hi Justin,

        You may have a point, except for the headlight switch. My 2010 legacy has an automatic setting, where I am supposed to leave the switch there and if it’s dark enough outside and/or in my garage, the headlights automatically come on as soon as I turn the key. If you are saying this is one of the major causes of bulb failure, then why would Subaru put this feature in the car? Another thing that causes me to doubt your reasoning is that if this were the case, the DRL would have to be replaced once a week.

        1. Yes the vehicle as an auto feature, to be used once the car is started to avoid you forgetting to turn on your headlamps in the event while driving it turns from day to night.

          The head light switch has an On and Off feature as well.

          You can put it on auto and leave it that way, just like you can put a 4wd vehicle in 4wd and drive it that way all the time.

          I advise all customers, all readers, all family, all friends, any car they drive that prior to shutting off the car they turn off the wipers and the headlamps.

          This isn’t an issue everywhere, but where I reside it may be pouring down rain when you shut your car off, the next morning it could be frozen or dry, if you start the car and you left the wipers on you will take the chance of damaging the wipers, linkage or motor.

          If the head lights are on when you start the car, you may decrease the life of the bulb.

          It’s just that simple.

          It’s just a little tip for those that want to potentially prolong head lamp life, prolong wiper blades, linkage, wiper motors etc.


    2. I spent the extra money, purchased LED H7 bulbs and had them installed professionally in December 2014. You are correct that they don’t have the “throw” of regular HID bulbs. The first bulb, passenger side, flashed several times while I was driving and then burned out. The driver side is still working. Being disabled, I bought a newer vehicle, 2011 Outback, so that I wouldn’t have to work on it. The first set of bulbs after I purchased the car in December 2012, lasted until May 2014. Those bulbs failed by November 2014, both side, two weeks apart. I had new bulbs installed in November and ordered the LED bulbs to try to avoid having issues with my car. Having headlights that require the removal of the nose of the car to replace is ridiculous. All lights, being a safety issue, should be user replaceable with minimal mechanical knowledge, especially if they blow every few months. I agree this is a sad issue for the Outback. I love the car, but this issue will most certainly influence my decision to purchase another product from Subaru.

      1. Hi John,

        So while I am sorry that you feel the way you do, here is my issue with your post and thought process.

        Ive still never had anyone come here and state the following.

        “I bought the exact bulbs you told me to Justin, and installed them, and they only lasted a few months”

        That’s because it just doesn’t happen.

        Instead you bought some made in China LED Garbage, paid way to much for it and paid to have it installed.

        The entire point of the article is to help you understand why the replacement bulbs you may have purchased did not last as long as the first ones, but rather then read and try to understand, you did something else and the whole entire car is now garbage because of the Chinese bulbs you chose to install, I mean really?

        The whole point of the post is to help you avoid the exact thing you just did. I just want to help, but you gotta meet me half way and do what I suggest.

        My advice is to buy the long life version of the H7 Bulb and nothing else, ever. Have them installed properly and revisit in another couple of years, do anything else and continue to have issues.

        The nose does not have to come apart to change the bulbs? I am not sure where you are getting that from? One clip must be removed from the inner fender liner (some with large arms will remove two clips), pull the liner back, and the bulb is right there. You have to reach up to it, and it’s not comfortable, but neither is the dentist’s chair.

        By the way the 2015 and newer Outback bulbs are very easy to replace.


        1. Hold on there, Justin. I was responding to the previous poster’s comment about trying out LED bulbs. Yes, they were junk, and yes, I paid too much. As for the comment about the nose doing off, I have a picture of the Toyota dealer where I live removing the nose of the car to change out the bulbs. Since the nearest Subaru dealership is about 150 miles away, I relied on what was available at the time. Please don’t feel the need to chastise me for not taking your advice over 9 months BEFORE I ever read your advice. It’s not my fault that I didn’t follow advice I didn’t know about, and not your fault that I hadn’t read it yet.

          After going through that, I bought good bulbs, I climbed out of my wheelchair, I scooted myself to the car, and I learned to change them myself in less than 15 minutes per side. As for the local mechanics, I trust only one. I Did take my car to the Subaru dealer for service and was very pleased with their knowledge and treatment of my car and how I was treated as a customer. 150 miles is a long way to get service work done, but it was major stuff and the only local mechanic that I trust recommended that I take it to the dealership.

          I absolutely refuse to meet you halfway on this issue. Your article is spot on and your advice was followed. I wish I had read it before. I will meet you all the way on this. Since I have learned to do this myself, and have realized that the dealership where I bought the car are fairly clueless when it comes to repairing any automobile, my opinion, I have rethought my position on not owning another one. My 2011 has 111,000 miles on it with 58,000 put on since I bought it used the end of December 2012. I drive the heck out of that car and anticipate another 5000 miles before the end of the year. It might be several more years before I decide to get rid of this Outback.

          The hardest thing about changing the bulb is putting the cover back in place. The rubber seal might need replacement as it seems a tad bit swollen. If you want me to send you the picture of the nose cone off the front end of my car, I can email that to you. It really did happen.

          1. Hey John,

            When I inform that the nose doesn’t need to come off, its to factually inform not just you but anyone who reads that it doesn’t.

            When I comment that I don’t want you or anyone else to spend money on LEDS its to save you money and trouble.

            The purpose of the posts, and the Subsequent Q and A is to help. The idea is, it’s less for you right now, and more for the next reader who won’t even post a question because it was already answered.


  36. Good read! What gets me is that my lowbeam is burning out quickly but only on the drivers side? I have both bulb replaced, have tried all sorts of recommended long life/rally bulbs, but with in a few months the drivers side is out again which is a pain due to the headache of changing the headlamps on the 2011 Outback.

    1. Are you specifically using the long life bulb I have specified?

      Are you using the head light switch to turn on and off the head lamps, of instead letting the ignition switch to control head lamp function?


  37. Have replaced the driver side low beam bulb on my 2011 Subaru Forester at least 4 times since buying it new. Had the dealer change it less than a year ago $$ – I changed it twice prior and a private repair shop 5 months ago. Noticed last night it was out again. I don’t think it falls under your cheap bulb theory as the dealer fixed it less than a year ago and it is always on the driver side – low beam.

    1. Hi Timothy,

      Because many Dealers use generic aftermarket bulbs we have no idea whats been used in your Subaru, nor have you mentioned what you have used, I have yet to encounter anyone who has used the proper bulbs have to replace the bulbs 4 times in a year.

      Because at many parts stores, the standard h7 is whats sold to people, I thought it important to get this information out.

      I really believe if you properly install the proper bulb you will have less occurrence of this. Or keep not knowing whats being installed and go down the same path.


  38. Thank you to Justin for starting the thread. There is a wealth of info from all contributors.

    I do side with posters like Reese and Wolf. This is a safety issue and there should be a safety recall. My 2008 Outback has required bulb replacement every 6 – 3 months. Just last night I found myself driving with no headlights. My last replacement was three months ago. I always replace in pairs and never touch the bulb.

    Driving without headlights is a spectacular saftey issue. Most companies do monitor social media for opinions expressed about them. I will forward this thread to Subaru Canada and Subaru USA.

    I own a 2004 Highlander, 2008 Forester and a 2008 Outback. The headlight burnout problem is limited to the Outback and I use the same halogen bulbs in all three. The forester and highlander went three or four years before needing their first and only bulb replacement.

    The outback is standard transmission from the US, the forester is automatic transmission from Canada. Both were originally manufactured for Day time Running lights.

    Posters to this forum seem to be exclusively Tribeca and Outback owners. Forester owners are conspicuously absent.

    Whatever the wiring system differences are, Subaru should be taking care of customers instead of leaving them to drive dangerously into the dark.

    If starting the car with the headlights on does cause bulbs to fail then the wiring should be modified to disengage the bulbs when the ignition is in the starter position. I could wire this up myself with a $5.00 relay.

    If the problem is improper voltage regulation, that to should be easy to fix with a capacitor or spike filter. Its another wiring fix that I could try myself for $10 – 20$. But I should not have to perform surgery on my outback just to avoid the high probability of a headlight induced collision or police citation.

    Expecting customers to drive with lower intensity bulbs is a poor solution and according to this forum does not consistently provide proper bulb life.

    Perhaps Subaru will respond to a lawsuit from a family who is injured or loses loved ones when their headlights spontaneously pop during a night time drive through a busy intersection.

    The complaints or accolades of customers have a strong impact on future sales. My 1995 legacy earned accolades. My 2008 Outback — not so much.

    Is my outback a great car outside of the frequently popping headlights. Sure. But that does not make me feel any safer knowing I have and likely will continue to find myself suddenly without headlights.

    Oh yes, and the bulb replacement procedure is insanely difficult for man-sized hands.

    1. Hi Paul,

      Subaru is an engineer driven company, the car has a head light switch that was engineered in that no one uses, my wife included. Adding a relay to a system that already has 2, voltage spike filter to the primary circuit for $10??

      We don’t replace bulbs on the same cars here at the shop every 3 to 6 months but I am very aware that lots do, which is why I tried to make the info about the proper bulbs.

      We offer a 1 year warranty on replaced bulbs here, anywhere you buy a bulb from should have the same, based on what you have mentioned you are not using the long life specified bulb and that’s part of the issue. The 2005 to 2009 models are easy to replace in my opinion, the 2010 and newer not so much.

      This post was aimed at letting others enjoy what our customers do by letting you know to use the long life version of the H7 bulb, nothing more. I have yet to have anyone tell me, that they are using the proper bulb only get 3 months of life.


      1. Hi Justin,

        Very interesting information. I do find it odd that you think no one turns their headlights off before turning off the car, though. Everyone I know does. That’s what an on-off switch is for. Also, you can’t assume it’ll still be dark when you turn the car back on, so why would you want them to come back on again? I’m wondering whether the issue here isn’t that the “daytime running lights” are on all the time. It isn’t the driver’s fault that these come on with the engine.

        – Larry

        1. Larry,

          Because I own shop and look at our customers habits, I know the majority leave their lights on and use the ignition switch as the head light switch. I also live in an area heavily populated with Subaru’s and see most have their lights on during the day. It’s good that you dont.


  39. Great info here as always Justin!

    I have personally replaced many bulbs on our 2005 Outback, especially on the passenger side. First, I disabled the daytime running light feature by yanking the white connector under the steering column. Ugh. I hate the DRL feature – instead we drive with the amber corner indicators/city lights for visibility. (When travelling to Canada I guess I need to plug the connector back in by law. has lots of info on the DRL debate.) Well disabling DRL didn’t help bulb longevity as far as we could tell. Neither did making sure to turn off the headlights before parking the car each and every time they were used.

    With each bulb replacement I’ve inspected the housing and ensured there is no built-up moisture. I always pay attention to not jolt the bulb in any way or get moisture or oil/debris on the glass (wear clean latex gloves). I also inspect the wiring for corrosion and whatnot but it always checks out. I disassembled the wiring one day and tested with the Multimeter but there was no evidence of a problem. I did not test the power relays though. I tried some premium Philips high lumen bulbs (not blue tinted or anything silly like that) as well as the expensive “professional” long life bulbs. I did not have much luck with either. So now I’m just buying the cheapest Wagner brand for $3/bulb from RockAuto. They are much brighter than the LL bulbs and last about as long (about 1 winter season in Seattle). I just keep a spare bulb in the glove box at all times, since you never know when one will pop. Having a Philips screwdriver ready to remove the plastic screws holding the air intake/ washer fluid reservoir is a good idea. The regular bulbs are noticeably brighter than the long life bulbs – maybe a 200-300 lumen difference? DanielSternLighting .com has lots of info on that.

    I suspect the problem is that the 2005 model was the first Subaru to use the projector style lenses with H7 bulbs and the low/dipped beam housing is small, gets hot, and does not have adequate ventilation. I have an updated suspension with refreshed factory bushings and KYB OEM replacement struts, so I don’t think vibration is the root cause. Perhaps the 2010 models and Tribecas have a redesigned projector with more air volume and better ventilation so they fair better on average?

    Another plausible theory is that the alternator from this generation is sending too high a voltage or spurious voltage spikes. That could be tested with a storage Multimeter or Oscilloscope hooked up in the engine bay while driving at load. Testing at idle in the driveway didn’t show anything out of the ordinary in my case. If there was a problem with the voltage regulator on the alternator, you’d expect other electrics to fail early. Since that isn’t the case, I reckon the root cause is with the light housing getting too hot.

    Specifying the LL bulb is a band-aid fix IMHO and results in a noticeable dimmer beam pattern. To prove this, install a LL bulb in one side and a regular bulb in the other side and you’ll see the difference at night. The solution is to upgrade to HID xenon lights for $600 🙂 Of course they are heavier, far more complex, and require replacement lenses so as to not dazzle oncoming traffic, but they are 2X more efficient (lumens/watt) and the “bulbs” and ballasts last 10+ years.

    Even with frequent incandescent bulb replacements, we still love our Subaru. Well its almost Summer time, so not as much need for headlights for the next few months. Happy driving.

    1. Hi Dan,

      The cars came from the Factory with a LL bulb as do the 2010’s and newer, Many parts stores do not carry that version of the Bulb and honestly buying a head light bulb in a Subaru package is expensive, even the Dealers were not using Subaru bulbs during replacement until they realized the mistake. Even now some Dealers still don’t know or just don’t care, this is especially true if its a dealer that sells multiple lines of cars. They will buy cheap bulbs and increase margins.

      We service a lot of these cars, if we use LL bulbs and teach the customer to use the head light switch, we don’t see them in nearly as often for head light bulb replacement and almost never once every few months like so many rant about.

      The number one cause of premature bulb failure is starting the car back up after shut off when the lights were never turned off by the switch, the cranking amperage draw is felt through all powered systems if the elements are still warm when this occurs they will be in a much more fragile state when there are peaks and valleys in amperage.

      If you want to test that use an amperage meter at the headlight circuit with the bulb connected and see if you can spot a change at the bulb, cold bulb VS hot bulb, if most would just use the head light switch instead of letting the key be the head light switch they would replace bulbs less often in my opinion.

      Thanks for posting your experiences, its good to have a spare bulb in the glove box they seldom burn out when its convenient to go get one.


  40. I have had 4 bulbs go out in 12 months on a 2011 Outback. 2 on each side. 2 dealer bulbs and 2 Sylvania’s. When the second dealer bulb went out I put the 2 Sylvania’s in at the same time (with gloves, dielectric grease, etc.) The 2 Sylvania’s lasted 3 and 4 months respectively.

    If a “long life” bulb is the answer or not, it does not seem to be the underlying issue. I have had many other cars that have had headlight bulbs last for years and years, even over a decade on my after market “HID type” high output halogens headlights on my Wrangler. I only swapped out the OEM headlights for higher light out put, not because the factory ones were bad or blown after 4 years…

    For non long life bulbs to last 3 or 4 months (or 6 months), it is a joke. For a “long life” bulb to last 9 – 18 months is a joke. There is an issue. A “long life” bulb should last many, many years, like they do on almost all other vehicles.

    If normal H7 bulbs lasted 3-4 months on all other cars, then I would say “it is normal.” And everyone would be upset at the bulb maker or the headlight bulb issue at large. But other cars do not have this issue. With regular bulbs or long life bulbs.

    The fact Subaru cars have normal H7 bulbs that blow after 3 or 4 months, when the same bulbs last far, far longer in other vehicles, indicates an issue. The fact the “long life” “Genuine Subaru” bulbs only last 18 months, there is an issue. And it is not with the bulbs….

    I have noticed (and swapped) other auxiliary bulbs going out too. Rear lights, the DRL bulb or little bulb next to the high beam, etc…

    As much as my Wrangler had electrical issues (the radio would double in brightness for a split second when hitting the brake, only sometimes) I never had hardly any auxiliary or headlight bulbs go out in 14 years that I had it when I bought it new. This “new Subaru” has had a lot of bulbs go out already in 12 months. Specifically the low beam headlights.

    And yes, the wheel well liner thing is a nightmare just to change a low beam bulb (that needs FREQUENT changes.) If a VW Beetle is more difficult, that does not make it so that this design is “good.” And those stupid dust caps are the poorest designed thing ever, almost IMPOSSIBLE to get back on and sealed/seated correctly. I spent more time getting that stupid thing on than the entire time spent on peeling back the wheel well liner and swapping the bulb. (just on the drivers side, the passenger side dust cap seems to work “better.”)

    And as far as Reece and her comment, she did not say “recall the car”, she said “issue a recall.” Just like the remote start recall I recently had done, and the transmission software upgrade bulletin. Not recall the entire car. Duh.

    If the electrical system has voltage irregularities, shortening bulb life on low beams and auxiliary lighting, they need to address it with a recall to fix the issue with surge suppressors or whatever, not recall the entire car. If it is something else, it too needs to be addressed, because it is not normal the way it is.

    I see one-eyed Outbacks at night all the time. Pathetic. But good for your business Justin.

    1. Wolf,

      “I see one-eyed Outbacks at night all the time. Pathetic. But good for your business Justin.”

      I am not sure what you are implying here Wolf, I have written a post about how there is a long life version of the H7 bulb to help Subaru owners AVOID a situation where they are installing or having a service provider put in the less expensive bulb only to have it not last very long. My intent is to help Subaru owners understand one of many possibilities, the guy that switches to the long life bulb and ceases to replace his head lights every 6 months appreciates the information. We observe Dealers using generic H7 bulbs lots and often, just like not every Mcdonald’s franchise participates in every promotion. There is no guarantee the dealer bulbs were long life unless it states so on the invoice and even then who knows, unless you verified the Sylvania was the Long life version of the H7 most likely it was not. That’s the point of this to help you understand there is a difference. If everyone used the LL bulbs, I would replace less of them, so I posted an article that if followed by all would result in less business. I see the same cyclops Subaru’s you do, which is why a wrote the article, Wolf.

      As far as why does the H7 last a shorter amount of time in a Subaru than something else? Do you use your headlight switch as the head light control or do you rely on the ignition switch?

      I would let Subaru know how unhappy you are, ranting here will never help.

      “And as far as Reece and her comment, she did not say “recall the car”, she said “issue a recall.” Just like the remote start recall I recently had done, and the transmission software upgrade bulletin. Not recall the entire car. Duh.”

      Perhaps you’ve heard in the news verbiage such as that Toyota today is recalling_______ pertaining to_______, or General Motors has issued a recall of _______, to correct a faulty______ it’s almost never the whole car instead a system. If it could be proved that the original equipment bulb was failing in just a couple of months on a percentage of Subaru’s than yes perhaps there could be a recall.

      Saying recall the car means issue a recall pertaining to one or more affected systems, but I will pass on the DUH. The terminology to remove a vehicle from service entirely is different.

      Much of your post feels like a personal attack on someone just trying to help more than you looking for any potential causes for shortened headlight bulb life.

      1 800 Subaru 3 is the place to voice your concerns,I get your upset, but trying to twist the good I try to do, to fit in your box is wrong.

      Best of luck.


    2. Wow, you hit it right on the nail. It’s ridiculous that I spent so many hours replacing the bulbs and the amount of money. The first two times I did try the dealership buying the most expensive light bulbs and after a few months I tried Wal-Mart and guess what…same results. They all last a few months. It’s funny how people try to justify a very bad design

  41. I agree with Reese and Karl. I own a 2010 Legacy and have changed the headlight bulbs every 6 months. I have also had to replace the liner clips a few times. I don’t think one should have to go to the service department to have a headlight bulb changed. Having said that, I will heed your advice and go to my dealership and request that they check the amp draw on my lighting circuitry,(for background data). Then I will have both headlights replaced with long life bulbs. The dealership, by the way charges $80.00 per bulb. I am also going to request that they guarantee at least 12 months on the bulbs,clips and liner. I will report back to let everyone know how it goes. Wish me luck.

    1. Hi Jerome,

      It would be helpful to know what kind of bulbs have been used? Who is doing the work etc.

      When I read posts that indicate they replace bulbs every 6 months and I know that’s not what happens here at my shop, there is a huge disconnect somewhere.

      A Subaru dealer can be and will be guilty of buying a cheap bulb and installing it in your car just like any other general auto repair shop that just doesn’t know better, anything you purchase that is not either specified as the long life bulb, isn’t a long life bulb I have never seen the aftermarket auto parts stores that sell to the general public ever sell anything but a chines bulb that’s not going to last.

      We charge much less than you are paying at a Dealership, what you need to look for is a good independent Subaru shop, it will change your entire ownership experience.

      The inner fender liner must be partially removed to replace the bulbs yes, but that’s not exclusive to Subaru try replacing a bulb on a VW beetle sometime you will wish it was your 2010 Subaru.


      1. heck, we replace bulbs in our imprezza 2009 bout 2wice a month. and no i dont touch the bulbs. i can change the out in under 5 min. in fact, 1 is out rite now. been doin probly 10 a year. winter roads are little tougher. always just took whatever they handed me at napa or s/a. gonna check into these LL bulbs.

        1. Hi Greg,

          Napa does not sell a LL Bulb, your just getting Junk. Don’t the bulbs come with a warranty?


  42. Short-lived headlight bulbs are bad enough…but having to remove the inner fender liner to replace a HALOGEN bulb (as opposed to HID or LED (2010 Legacy Sedan)) is very serious design flaw.

    I didn’t think to ask the salesperson about a simple thing like changing a headlight bulb is handled. Here’s a newsflash: I SHOULDN’T HAVE TO.

    1. Hello Karl,

      Your right changing the head lamp bulb on many modern cars is a challenge.

      I can give you a long list of cars that are much more difficult, but I am sure that wont matter as you own a Subaru.

      The sales person would have no idea how to change a bulb, thats what the service department is for.

      It’ not a design flaw its a way to add $ to the service departments, there is no money in making cars that everyone can work on.

      Lastly the fender liner does not have to be completely removed, but It is easy don on a hoist.


  43. Its a nice theory but it still doesn’t adequately explain why a “long life” bulb installed by the dealer will go out in one year. I have owned a dozen cars in my life and have replaced headlights three or four times on all those cars. On my 2008 Subaru Tribeca I have replaced headlights 4 times and the dealer replaced 1 before it was out of warranty. There’s a defect somewhere…I think it is a design problem. That is literally the only problem I have ever had with this car and it has 120,000 miles on it. Subaru would do well to figure it out and issue a recall for the sake of their reputation.

    1. Hello Reece,

      “Its a nice theory but it still doesn’t adequately explain why a “long life” bulb installed by the dealer will go out in one year.”

      Is a comment like this supposed to compel me to want to help you?

      The point of this post is to help Subaru owners understand there are cheap generic bulbs sold at parts stores and long life bulbs sold at the professional level, if there is nothing wrong with the circuit and the bulbs are not lasting this is the first thing to look into, whats being installed.

      Thats it!

      You cant read a post and expect it to explain every possible reason a headlamp may not last. I am merely pointing out the single most common thing we see.

      If you are only getting a year out of a bulb, you need to talk to whomever is putting them in, or as you already suspect you may have something else going on such as a faulty connector at the head light which is common and allows for spikes in current, or an alternator that has an issue. Having someone look into the amperage draw of the circuit when loaded is the first step. There is no guarantee the Subaru dealer you take it do is actually using a LL bulb either, and unless you looked at the package and verified what you installed is a LL there is no guarantee either.

      Of the other cars you owned how many had a head lamp switch that forced you to shut the head lamps off after shutting down the car? Do you turn off your head lamps before shutting the car down like you should or do you just leave them on and let your ignition key act as the headlamp switch?

      “That is literally the only problem I have ever had with this car and it has 120,000 miles on it. Subaru would do well to figure it out and issue a recall for the sake of their reputation”

      So the only problem you have had is having to replace the head lamps once a year, but Subaru should recall the car?

      1 800 Subaru 3


  44. Justin,

    Thank you for addressing this issue. I kept wondering why the bulbs were only lasting about 15K miles. I finally decided to search the internet and found that many owners were complaining of the same problem. I found all sorts of ‘opinions’ ranging from problems with the wiring harness, corrosion and the DRL feature which some owners were disabling (personally, not in favor of sacrificing safety for longer bulb life!). Your article makes the most sense to me and I appreciate the information. Now I just have to apologize to my wife for asking her what the hell she was doing to burn out all those headlight bulbs – LOL


    1. Hi Mike,

      First thing I need you to do is look at your keyboard, third row from the bottom, and all the way to the left is a button stating “Caps” or “Caps lock”.

      Sounds like you didn’t read the article, and are still using the non long life bulbs.


      1. Sorry Justin you obviously didn’t look at his question seriously. I have the same problem and it’s as if the bulb is short-circuiting. Upon installation smoke appears from the headlight and it overheats causing the bulb to burn out. Can’t seem to find the answer to this anywhere, but thanks anyways.

        1. Hey Elliot,

          Not sure where that would be coming from, I believe I read his post as much as I needed to to answer his question.

          As far as yours, if you have smoke coming out, yes you have a non typical problem that needs to be diagnosed, I am not covering smoke from the electrical system at all in this post or the Q&A.

          I would start with looking for a melted connector.


  46. Thank you Justin I have been searching for the answer to this dilemma since I purchased my 2005. I recall returning the dealership in the first few months after purchasing the car for an oil change and that they kindly offered to replace the recently burnt bulb. Alas I was not wise enough to inquire why they were SO willing to replace the bulb.

    Keep up the great work! It’s wonderful to have a such an experienced Subaru shop in Seattle.

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