Honda CR-V Headlights Burning Out? (10 Common Causes)

The Honda CR-V is one of the most popular compact SUVs in history due to its reputation for reliability and overall versatility.

Like any other car, the CR-V’s headlights can give out over time and you’ll have to replace the bulbs every few years.

But if your CR-V’s headlights keep burning out, this article is here to help.

Why Do My Honda CR-V Headlights Keep Burning Out?

Premature headlight failures in a Honda CR-V are usually caused by improper handling of the bulb during installation. Other common reasons include wiring issues, voltage issues, corrosion, excess moisture and using aftermarket bulbs.

If your Honda CR-V’s headlights are constantly burning out, this list of common issues might help you successfully figure out the actual cause. 

1. Improper Handling of the Halogen Bulb

Holding the halogen headlight bulb with your bare hands during installation can significantly decrease its lifespan.

This is a common issue in pretty much every car, so it’s not exclusively a CR-V or a Honda problem. 

All generations of the Honda CR-V use halogen headlight bulbs, although some higher trim levels in newer models might be equipped with either HID (High Intensity Discharge) or LED headlights. 

Halogen headlights operate at really high temperatures which makes their glass bulbs very fragile. 

When you hold the bulb with your bare hands, you can smear oils, salts and other contaminants onto the glass which creates hotspots that make it weaker. Over time, these hotspots will eventually cause the glass to crack or even explode in some cases. 

To avoid shortening the lifespan of the halogen bulb, you need to wear clean gloves any time you handle the bare bulb, or at least use clean paper towels. 

If you think the bulb is already contaminated, you can always wipe it down with high purity alcohol or electrical cleaner then let it dry out completely before installation.    

2. Using Aftermarket Bulbs

Aftermarket headlight bulbs usually don’t last as long as OEM bulbs, especially ones that are rated for higher watts to produce more light.

Even high output bulbs from name brand manufacturers have shorter lifespans compared to standard OEM bulbs because they produce more heat which causes the tungsten filament to burn out quicker. The extra heat can also damage the headlight assembly, bulb sockets and wiring as time goes by.

OEM bulbs are typically rated for around 1,000 hours while some low quality replacements might only last a few hundred hours at best. 

If you’re already using OEM bulbs or name brand replacements, but they still keep burning out in just a few months, you might want to grab a set from your nearest Honda dealer to make sure you’re getting the original part. 

Here’s how one member from the CR-V Owners Club forum described their experience:

“Had the issue with my 2006. Bulbs will blow every 3-6 months (low beams). Usually the passenger side more than the driver’s side. Been using the sylvanias from AutoZone. I make sure to not touch the bulbs and I always use dielectric grease.” 

“This went on for a few years, then I finally got fed up changing them and picked up a set from the dealer, and they haven’t blown out for the past 2 years.”

3. Corrosion

Corrosion on the headlight bulb connector or some other part of the lighting system’s wiring can cause electrical gremlins that will make your headlight bulbs burn out quicker.

Headlight bulbs will have shorter lifespans if they’re:

  • Constantly turned on and off
  • Not getting the right voltage
  • Operating at higher temperatures

Corrosion increases the resistance in an electrical circuit which leads to more heat. It also prevents the electrical connections from making good contact which can make the headlight appear dimmer than normal or flicker, ultimately reducing their lifespan. The loose connections can also cause electricity to spark which creates voltage spikes.

Here’s how one CR-V owner described their experience:

“As soon as I pulled the block connector out of the dimmer switch, I could see a small burn mark on the block connector! And the male pins that connect into the block connector were slightly corroded and had some burnt plastic between the pins. Cleaning and scraping corrosion off of pins and connector solved the problem.”

“This also may be the root cause of excessive bulb failures. Our CR-V did not start blowing bulbs till this year, after 4 years of ownership. The dimmer switch is a low current switch that really just turns on the relays for the headlights. Increased resistance in the block connector and pins may have been the root cause all along.”

If you’ve already replaced your headlight bulb several times or notice that your headlights are flickering or getting dim, check the socket for signs of corrosion and scrape it off with a screwdriver or sandpaper.

After cleaning out the corrosion, apply some dielectric grease on the electrical contacts to protect them from excess moisture and oxidation.

Related: 9 Most Common Honda CR-V Problems (Explained)

4. Bulb Connector Issues

A broken or worn out headlight connector can cause the bulbs to fail prematurely.

Loose connections can cause the headlight to turn on and off intermittently which shortens their lifespan. It can also cause sparks that create voltage spikes that can blow out the bulb.

If it’s only one side that keeps burning out, you might have a connector or wiring issue with that headlight.

The first to third generation Honda CR-Vs have similar headlight bulb connectors that you can easily pull off. The bulb itself is hidden behind a removable rubber cover and is held in place by a metal clip that you have to push in and swing downward to release.

Newer Honda CR-Vs use a plastic connector with a small plastic tab that locks it in place.

If any of these locking mechanisms are broken, there’s a higher chance for the connectors to come loose. When you plug in the connectors, they should also fit snugly. If they’re old and worn out, or just plain broken, they can be easily knocked loose and will need to be replaced.

In the newer generation CR-Vs that have a plastic clip to lock it in place, you can insert a piece of rubber, foam, or even just a cut up piece of a latex or nitrile glove, in between the two connectors’ interfaces to make them fit snugly again.

5. Wiring Issues

Exposed or broken wires can also make your CR-V’s headlight bulbs have shorter lifespans.

Over time, the wires leading up to the headlight assembly can rot away. The wire insulation can also be chewed up by rodents which can cause short circuits and sparks.

The copper wire inside the insulation can also have a break somewhere that causes the lights to intermittently turn on and off. Faulty wiring can also result in higher resistance and more heat. This can be difficult to trace without the help of an auto electrician

You can visually inspect the wiring for any obvious breaks or exposed wires. Burn marks or signs of melting are also telltale signs of wiring problems. 

If you don’t see anything amiss, turn on the headlights and check if any of the wires get too hot to touch. If there are broken strands of wire somewhere, the remaining wires that are still intact produce more heat because they are getting overloaded. 

You should also check if any of the ground wires connected to the body of the vehicle look damaged or corroded because this can cause all sorts of electrical issues. 

6. 12-Volt Battery Issues

Problems with the 12-volt battery can cause your headlights to go out repeatedly, as well as other electrical issues.

When halogen lights run at lower voltages the bulb will have trouble reaching proper operating temperatures and the halogen process will basically stop working, causing it to look dim. 

More importantly, the lower temperature prevents the tungsten from evaporating properly which causes the bulb to turn black and also decreases the lifespan of the filament. 

According to Osram, a five percent deviation in the operating voltage can affect lamp life by up to 50 percent.

If the bulb is still working but just looks blacker than normal, you can reverse the process by running it at its rated voltage which should make the tungsten deposits evaporate properly.   

Here is one CR-V owners experience:

“I have an 06 SE and after about 2 years started going through bulbs every 6 to 9 months. At 3 years,  dealer said battery was weak, but since it was Spring, waited till Fall to replace it. Been about 3 yrs and haven’t replaced one bulb.”

Most 12-volt car batteries last about 3 to 4 years, so if you haven’t had a new battery fitted in a couple of years, it might be time for a replacement.

Aside from a weak 12-volt battery, the battery terminals may be corroded which can cause electrical problems. 

To make sure it’s not caused by corrosion, disconnect the battery terminals and clean them out using a toothbrush dipped in a baking soda and water mixture. Make sure the bolts are tight when you reconnect the terminals.

Before replacing the battery you can test it with a multimeter or take it to AutoZone where they can do a proper load test.

How to Test the Battery

  • Turn the headlights on for 2 minutes to remove the surface charge
  • Set the multimeter dial to the ’20 Volts’ setting.
  • Turn off the car
  • Connect the red probe to the positive battery terminal; black probe goes to the negative

If you see less than 12 volts on the meter, you might need to replace it as it can no longer hold a charge.

7. Alternator Problems

A faulty alternator can also cause your CR-V headlights to burn out faster.

When the engine is turned on, most of the car’s electrical system runs off the alternator which normally produces between 13.5 to 14.9 volts.

If the alternator or its voltage regulator is not working properly, the headlights might be getting too much or too little voltage.

For these types of issues, it’s best to take your car to a mechanic or an auto electrician for a proper diagnosis.

You can also test the alternator’s voltage output using a multimeter. The process is similar to the steps outlined previously to test the 12-volt battery. The only difference is you’ll need to turn on the engine to get a proper reading.

When testing the alternator, you can also turn on the lights, AC and other electrical systems to see if it’s able to keep up with the extra load. Try revving the engine to see if it goes past 15 volts, which would mean it’s overloading the electrical system and the headlight bulbs.

You can also insert the multimeter probes into the headlight sockets to check if it’s getting the right voltage with the engine running. If not, there might be something wrong with the wiring.

Related: Honda CR-V Beeping Problems? (7 Causes & Solutions)

8. Excessive Vibration

Too much vibration can cause your headlight bulbs to burn out quickly because it can damage the filament which is quite fragile.

It can also knock loose the electrical connectors of the headlight bulbs which causes intermittent sparks and voltage spikes.

Excessive vibration can result from:

  • Going off road 
  • Large potholes and bad roads
  • Headlight assembly not properly fastened
  • Headlight bulbs not locked in place
  • Worn out engine mounts or suspension

The easiest thing you can do is check to make sure that the headlight assembly is bolted down tightly, then inspect how the headlight bulb is installed and make sure it’s not just rattling about in the housing.

Older CR-Vs have a metal retaining clip to lock the headlight bulb in place. Starting with the fourth gen CR-V, the headlight bulbs have to be turned so that the connector is pointing downward to lock it in place.

Excessive vibration can also be caused by worn out engine mounts which many owners simply dismiss because their vehicle is already several years old. But this could be the root cause of your headlight issues.

Some aftermarket engine mounts cost less than $100, and depending on how many you have to replace, it might take a mechanic roughly 2 to 3 hours at most.

9. Water Damage

If you see too much condensation or water pooling inside the headlight assembly, it could cause a short circuit and blow out your headlight bulbs quickly.

First, second and third generation CR-Vs also have a rubber cover in the back of the headlight assembly that protects the bulb from water damage. If this gets damaged or cracked, the bulb is more susceptible to electrical shorts and the contacts can corrode quickly.

Condensation forming inside the headlights in cold and humid environments is actually normal, especially in newer vehicles such as the fifth gen CR-V which has vents in its headlights assembly.

To get rid of the fogginess, you can simply turn on the headlights for a while to make it evaporate faster.

If you’re seeing excessive condensation and there’s water pooling inside the headlight, you can take the car back to the dealer if it’s still under warranty.

Otherwise, you’ll have to replace the entire headlight assembly if you suspect that causing your headlight issues. 

You can also attempt to reseal it if you don’t want to spend money on a new set of headlights. The easiest way is to just apply a thin layer of silicone sealant around the edges of the lens. 

The more involved method requires heating up the headlight for a couple of minutes to get rid of the old adhesive, then pry the lens off and apply new sealant.   

10. Automatic Headlight Feature

Some CR-Vs come standard with automatic headlights which turn on the low beams whenever it’s dark outside.

Since your headlights are turned on more often, you’ll also have to replace them more frequently.

Here’s how one owner on the CR-V Owners Club forum described their experience:

“I busted through a set of bulbs in only a few months too. When I wondered why, it occurred to me that I was driving a lot, and because of the auto-off headlights in that car, I had my lights switched on pretty much all the time.”

“When I made a point of having them off when I didn’t need them, they lasted way longer.”

Aside from turning off the auto headlight feature completely, you can also adjust its sensitivity in the vehicle settings which should turn them on only when necessary.

If you suspect that the automatic headlights are not working properly, check if there’s anything blocking the dome-shaped sensor in the middle of the dashboard. 

Resources

https://owners.honda.com/vehicle-information/manuals

https://owners.honda.com/help/customer-relations

https://owners.honda.com/service-maintenance/recalls

Author:

  • Ian Sawyer

    Growing up with a father who was a mechanic I had an appreciation for cars and motorcycles from an early age. I shared my first bike with my brother that had little more than a 40cc engine but it opened up a world of excitement for me, I was hooked. As I grew older I progressed onto bigger bikes and...

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