Changing out the headlamps on your Windstar is quick, easy, and inexpensive. Best of all, you already have all the tools you need.
Tools Needed: A flat bladed screwdriver and a flashlight
Supplies Needed: One headlamp bulb.
Time for this Repair: About ten minutes
Cost of this Repair: $10-$22
Step One: Acquire the Lamp
Visit your local auto parts store and take a look in the Light Bulbs section. You’ll find a wide selection of headlamps, tail lights, stop lights, just about any kind of lights you can imagine being used on a car. It can be daunting, but look around the section and see if you can find either a book on light bulbs or a digital “light bulb finder” mounted to one of the shelves. Look up the right year for your Windstar, then look under Ford, and under Windstar, and, finally, under Headlamp. You’ll see a code number that matches the packaged light bulbs on the shelf. My ’01 Windstar uses the Sylvania number 9007 – yours probably will, too.
Now, you have a choice here. The replacement lamp costs about ten dollars. If you’re feeling flush and haven’t replaced either headlamp before, buy TWO of them and do them both at the same time. Think about it: both lamps have been burning for exactly the same amount of time. If one lamp went, the other will soon. If you don’t have the extra ten dollars right now, just buy the one and we’ll cross the other headlamp bridge when we get to it.
Step Two: Remove the Old Lamp
It used to be that a headlight looked rather like a floodlight bulb, and when you replaced it, you replaced that whole massive piece of glass. Today’s headlamp replacements look more like the filament inside the lamp itself.
IMPORTANT:DO NOT REMOVE THE NEW LAMP FROM THE PACKAGE YET!!! Your new headlamp burns very, very hot. So hot, in fact, that the grease from your fingers on the glass bulb will cause it to shatter when switched on. The best way to avoid contaminating to lamp is to leave it in the package until you need it.
Open the hood of your Windstar. You’ll find the hood release lever on the lower left side of the dashboard. There’s a second release under the center of the hood itself. When you open the hood, make sure you place the prop in the hole marked by the arrow on the hood’s underside: you don’t want to dent it.
The headlight assemblies extend through the grillwork and are accessible from inside the engine compartment. Draw an imaginary line from the front of the headlight to where it passes through the grille and look back there. You might need a flashlight. What you’re looking for is an electrical plug about an inch in diameter with a couple of heavy wires leading to it. That plug sticks into the backside of the headlight.
Once you’ve located the plug, feel with your fingers around its base and you’ll find a plastic ring about two inches in diameter. This is the retaining ring that holds the lamp into the headlight assembly.
Turn this retaining ring about a quarter turn counter-clockwise and you’ll feel it come loose.
Pull the retaining ring and the electrical plug straight back, towards the windshield, and you’ll see that it comes out. Take a look: that’s the old headlamp.
The lamp has a rounded side and a flat side. On the flat side there’s a heavy plastic rectangle locking tab with a smaller rectangular cut-out in it. There’s a rectangular lug that sticks up inside the cut-out. The plastic lug fits inside the locking tab, which holds the lamp securely against the socket of the plug.
Use your flat-bladed screwdriver to carefully lift the edge of the rectangular locking tab until you pop the lug out from under it. A word of caution here: the heat of the lamp can cause the locking tab to become brittle. I was too aggressive with my screwdriver and broke it right off. If you do that, it’s okay, but try very hard to not break it. It’s not an easily replaceable piece.
With the lug free of the plastic locking tab, you can now pull the bulb straight out of the socket. It’s okay to touch the glass on this one; it’s going into the recycling bin.
Before you toss it, though, take a look inside the glass bulb part. You’ll see two little springs which, when powered up, glow with an amazing intensity. Look carefully: one of those springs will be broken. That’s your lamp failure. Now you can toss that thing in the recycling bin.
Make sure that the retaining ring is still on the wires, behind the socket. It’s important that it stays on those wires, as, when you go to plug the new lamp in, you’ll need to lock it in place with that ring.
Step Three: Replace the Lamp
Now you can open the package on your new lamp.
IMPORTANT:BE VERY CAREFUL TO NOT TOUCH THE GLASS PART. Again, these burn with a temperature that is so high just the natural oil from your skin, if smeared on the glass bulb by your touching it, will create a hot spot and cause the lamp to shatter. If you think you might have touched the glass part, polish the glass with a soft, dry cloth. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!
As noted before, the base of the lamp has a rounded side and a flat side. It can only fit into the socket one way. Push it into the socket until the little plastic lug snaps under the locking tab.
From here on, handle the lamp by the electrical plug, not the lamp itself.
Insert the lamp/plug back into the back of the headlight assembly. Turn it slightly if you have to until the plug lies flat and firm against the back of the headlight. Again, it will only lie flat one way. If you can wobble it, it’s not right. Turn it until it fits firm against the back of the headlight.
Slide the plastic retaining ring over the wires and over the plug. Pressing it firmly against the back of the headlight, turn it clockwise until it latches into place.
Step Four: Testing
Go turn on the headlights. The new lamp should illuminate exactly like the other headlight. Test the high beams, too; the two headlights should light up exactly the same. If they don’t it’s because your replacement lamp is in upside down: go back and make sure it sits flush against the back of the headlight assembly. Test them again.
If you’ve purchased two lamps, now is the time to replace the other one. It’s exactly the same procedure.
Make sure and toss your used lamps in the recycling bin: don’t throw them out.
By replacing your headlamps yourself, you’ve saved yourself a trip to the repair shop, as much as $50 in repair costs, and carved another notch in your “things I can do myself” belt!