Headlight Installation For Toyota Prius Gen 1-3
Headlight Installation – There’s nothing the media loves more than a nice juicy auto problem. Imagine that your Prius headlights fail, and replacing them cost you THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS !!! This is very common to hear.
Well, that’s the premise of a late June story in AdAge, which discussed a potential problem with the optional high-intensity discharge (HID) headlights fitted to the second-generation Toyota Prius in model years 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008. Are you aware of this Prius issue?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received hundreds of complaints from Prius owners about HID lamp failures and, according to this bogus story, opened a full blown investigation into the matter.
Watching the statistics of the Prius
The AdAge story cites well over 338 complaints received, although our search of the NHTSA complaints system produced just 117 listings for complaints about the 2005-2008 of the title ….Toyota Prius – categorized under “Exterior Lighting-Headlights”.
The bulk of them, numbering almost 80, were for the 2006 model year. And it’s worth noting that those complaints covered all headlight problems, not just those having to do with the HID lights. So..what should you do if you have headlight problems?
Many of the complaints cite dealer repair costs exceeding $1,000, in some cases as high as $1,800 to replace two entire HID light units and two control modules, which are electronic components that provide power to the lights. We can replace them for just $450.00. That is for 2 headlamps! Really a fraction of the cost!
We’ll wait to see what the NHTSA comes up with, but as the commentor on the AdAge story notes, headlight bulbs are a consumable item for cars–like wiper blades, brake pads, and tires. Which is to say, sometimes they do fail and need to be replaced. My own father-in-law had his Gen 3 lights blow at 85,000 miles where as I, with my Gen 3, never replaced my headlamp bulbs ever and surpassed the 187,000 mile mark.
Whether they are failing at a higher rate than expected will depend on statistical analysis, and the NHTSA wrote to Toyota in May asking for more data.
Price / Sticker shock?
The HID bulbs have a rated life twice as long as standard bulbs, and give three times the light while using about half the power. But they’re also much more expensive: the list price for one bulb is $150, against $12 to $15 for a standard headlight bulb. Ouchhh!
We suspect the high cost of a new HID bulb may come as a shock to Prius owners, making them more likely to suspect a defect. Either way, we can replace these at a much cheaper price.
It may be, that unscrupulous dealers are exacerbating the high cost of the bulbs. They may be imposing exorbitant labor charges for unnecessary work, like removing the Prius front bumper shield to swap out a dead bulb, or even replacing entire HID units at $330 apiece. Replacing a single Prius headlight bulb, according to the service manual, takes less than 15 minutes.
It may also be that the problem lies not with the lights themselves, but with a $250 control module and/or associated wiring.
Meanwhile, perhaps inevitably, a lawsuit has been filed in Los Angeles on behalf of a Toyota Prius owner in Putnam County, New York. The firm of Girard Gibbs is seeking class-action status for their suit, calling the bulb failures “a dangerous but undisclosed safety defect.”
This reminds us somewhat of the supposed Prius “sudden acceleration” issue, in which a handful of owners claimed that their hybrids experienced complete brake failure while accelerating wildly out of control.
What should YOU do?
If you have a Prius with HID headlights, and one of your bulbs fails, it may be worth trying to repair it yourself. But good luck, you will need some specialty tools to remove the rear of the headlamp assembly to access the bulb! I will also add that you may need to get some help, most likely from a dealer, to finish the project! Dealers can charge you $275 to $375 (per bulb).
Do yourself a favor, call Paul and ask him for an estimate. You will thank us later.