Changing Headlight Bulb on Volvo S40

Today I helped a family member change the headlight bulb in their 2008 Volvo S40.  At first I thought this was going to be an easy job, like replacing most headlight bulbs, but as with everything on Volvos you need to know the special tricks to do anything basic.

First I had to search around for the hood latch, which is a red lever but has no hood or car marking on it.  Most cars have this so I was thrown already just trying to open the hood.  Thankfully I figured it out but I am sure a lot of people get frustrated by the fact this isn't straightforward.  I certainly did and I have been working on cars for awhile.

After that I got the hood opened and started looking at the headlight housing I wasn't sure how to get at the bulb.  It was clear there was a door but there wasn't enough clearance to release the springs to open it.  I started looking around the headlight housing and thought, “Ok… how do I remove this thing?”  That was clearly the only way to get at the headlight bulb but there weren't any screws.  This is where your best friend comes in when you don't know how to do something on a car comes in, Google.

Yes, I Googled it!  There is a metal piece and bracket mechanism that holds the Volvo S40 headlight housing in.  No screws!  Very smart and very Swedish in it's design.  I thought it was quite cool actually and removed the headlight no problem once I knew how to do it.  Then I undid the electrical connection when I had the headlight off.  I removed the housing, got out the old headlight bulb, and then made a quick trip to the local auto parts store to get a new H11 and put it back everything back in.

Now I know how to replace headlight bulbs on these Volvo S40's and it will be hella easy next time.  It was sort of annoying though having to figure it out, but that is how it is working on cars sometimes.  You got to figure things out as you go since some cars are completely different than what you are used to.

Most likely I will post a guide with some pictures in a couple of days.  I am sure there are a lot of Volvo owners who would like to know how to do this right.  I might even shoot a video if I have time as I think a lot of Volvo S40 owners would appreciate this.

Sylvania SilverStar zXe’s, The Best Headlight Bulbs

Slyvania SilverStar zXe
Slyvania SilverStar zXe

As the days are getting shorter with winter upon us, I am sure you are using your headlights more. Inevitably one of your headlight bulbs is going to burn out or be on it's last legs, putting you in the market for new headlights. When you take a trip down to the auto parts store you should consider upgrading to some better bulbs, like the Sylvania Silverstar zXe's.

Sylvania was nice enough to send me a set of zXe's for my 96′ Honda Accord. Some fans of Adam's Auto Advice might remember I also wrote a review of the Slyvania SilverStar Ultras.  (Also see my review of the Sylvania Headlight Restoration Kit.)  After using the zXe's I wouldn't bother with the Ultras because the zXe's are hands-down better.

This was made obvious one night while driving to a friend's house in Northern Baltimore county. The roads to his house are small, twisty, and lack streetlights where walls of trees line the side of the roads. This forced me to rely on the zXe's. With the brights on, they effortlessly lit the way for my Honda Accord. I had driven this same route with the SilverStar Ultras which were great, but definitely not nearly as good as the zXe's. The dark roads were simply no match for the light that the zXe's produced.

Another night, driving home on a dark Baltimore city street, I noticed two people walking in the middle of the street. I mean they were literally walking in the middle of the street! I braked and swerved around them honking. Luckily I saw them far before an accident would have occurred, but I am pretty sure I wouldn't have seen them as early without the zXe's.

Also, when driving in rain or bad weather, the zXe's shine. They are particularly useful at night when it is raining.

What makes the zXe's superior is fullness of the white light and the intensity. Some headlight bulbs provide a wide lighting area but the light diminishes around the edges, reducing their effectiveness. This doesn't happen with the zXe's crisp illumination.

“SilverStar zXe headlights use a proprietary cobalt blue coating combined with xenon halogen gas technology to generate a color temperature that rivals HID.” according to the description on Sylvania's website. Part of the appeal of the zXe's for auto enthusiasts and tuners is they mimic High-Intensity Discharge (HID) headlight housings without the expense and hassle of installation. A big advantage to the zXe's is they are 100% legal and Department of Transportation (DOT) approved so you don't need to worry about running into any legal trouble. Sylvania hopes you will consider these before buying a set of HID's. While the zXe's did slightly improve the look of my Honda Accord with slicker lights, I am not sure the zXe's are a true replacement for the overall look of HID headlights. This is strictly my opinion though, maybe they look better on other cars.

One complaint I have read about the zXe's is that they do not last as long as regular bulbs. Slyvania doesn't really advertise it in big bold letters but on the box it does say, “Slyvania SilverStar zXe lamps are engineered to achieve the highest performance possible, which results in product life that is less than standard lamps.” So they are not trying to hide this or mislead Sylvania customers. It states this limitation clearly and it might be something to be aware of before purchasing them.  I have been using my zXe's for a number of months and haven't noticed that the light has diminished or had a bulb burn out though.  If they do I will let people know.

Once you use Slyvania's zXe's you will most likely not care about what the box says. It would be hard to go back to using any other type of bulb for your headlights. They are better and brighter then anything I have ever used and if you buy a set, I am pretty sure you will be happy with that choice.