How to Change the Headlight Bulbs in a 2005 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SE

by Richard Rowe

    How many mechanics does it take to replace a Maxima's headlight bulb? Three: one to remove the bumper cover, one to replace the headlight bulb, and a third to look smug while he charges you more in labor than the headlight's worth. Yes, it's true: High fashion, high comfort and low cost very rarely go together. And that certainly is the case when you start looking at bulb replacements on vehicles with those snazzy, integrated, acrylic headlight assemblies.

    Items you will need

    • Flat-head screwdriver
    • Phillips screwdriver
    • Socket set and ratchet
    • Extensions
    • Pliers
    Step 1

    Pop your hood and identify the black, plastic pins that secure the ends of the front bumper cover to the chassis, right next to the headlight assemblies. Slip your screwdriver into the detente under the pin head, pop the pin up and carefully remove it with a pair of pliers.

    Step 2

    Look under the front bumper cover, just ahead of the front wheels; you'll see a pair of Phillips-head screws. Remove them. Pull the bottom of the bumper cover out to free it from the plastic inner fender lining. Once you have it out, pull the fender lining back to reveal the inside of the bumper cover.

    Step 3

    Reach behind the side marker light on the bottom of the bumper cover and unplug the light's wiring harness. Now, look up at the top of the bumper cover, just ahead of the fender liner, and you'll see a Phillips-head, 10 mm bolt that connects it to the metal fender. Remove it. Look further inside the fender and remove the second, matching bolt, using a long extension.

    Step 4

    Go under the car and identify the pins that secure the flat, tray-like bumper extension to the bottom of the chassis. Remove the pins as you did the ones under the hood. Be careful not to break them -- these pins get crusted with dirt and mud, and they get stuck easily.

    Step 5

    Grasp the front bumper cover just ahead of the headlight and pull firmly outward. Remove the bumper cover and lay it face-down on a blanket to avoid scratching it.

    Step 6

    Look around the headlight assembly and remove the five 10 mm bolts that secure it to the chassis. Pull the assembly out, unplug the electrical connector and set the assembly on a workbench. You'll see a large-gray cylinder on the back of the headlight assembly; grasp it firmly, and turn it counterclockwise. The plastic "cup" will come off to reveal the bulbs beneath.

    Step 7

    Push in on the two locks on either side of the light bulb, then pull the bulb and socket out. Put on a pair of latex gloves to keep skin oils off of the new light bulb. Now, turn the light bulb counterclockwise in the socket while pushing down on it. Pull the bulb out and install the new one. Push down and turn clockwise to lock it in place.

    Step 8

    Push the socket back into the housing and press down to engage the locks. Put the "cup" back on and turn it clockwise to lock. From here, installation is essentially the reverse of removal. When you plug the headlight back in, go ahead and test the lights. Better to find out about a problem now than after you've put everything back together.

    Step 9

    Push the assemblies back into the car, reinstall the bolts and tighten them snug with a ratchet. Put the bumper cover back on, and reinstall the top plastic pins first to hold it in place. Install the lower pins, reinstall the bumper cover bolts and tighten them so that they're just snug -- about 8 to 10 foot-pounds of torque, and no more. Plug the lower light harnesses back in and reinstall the lower Phillips-head screws. Test the lights again to make sure everything works.


    • If you're going through all of this to replace a single headlight, then you might as well do the other one. Nissan installed them at the same time, and it won't be long before the other burns out as well. And, while you're in there, you'd to just as well to replace the turn signal, parking light and fog light bulbs -- they're on equally borrowed time, and you won't get a better opportunity.
    • Lastly, while you've got the headlight assemblies out, you should take this opportunity to wet-sand them with 2000-grit sandpaper and polish them with a headlight polishing compound. If the bulbs are burned out, then odds are good the lenses are starting to haze over. A little bit of polishing now can save you a lot of money later in replacing those irrevocably scored headlight housings. And it's a lot easier to sand and polish something on a work bench than on a car. If you do wet sand the lens, leave all of the old bulbs in while you do; otherwise you stand a good chance of getting water in the housing, and that's just going to ruin your night later.