How to Change 2005-2011 Tacoma Headlights

Changing Tacoma headlights, although intimidating, is not as difficult as you may think. In my case, I am changing my Tacoma headlights for two reasons. These headlights I have on now are severely de-laminated. They are also aftermarket, I made the mistake of buying factory smoke tinted lights. These lights soak up so much of the beam, you can barely see anything at night. So I went ahead and ordered a replacement set that have a clear cover but have a black background to maintain the blacked-out look. Another reason you may want to change your lights as for the fogging and haze that you are vehicles seem to develop over the years.

Tacoma headlights are not too difficult to change. Granted, you have to take the grill off to do this, but all in all it could be far worse. I would say that removing the grill is the worst part but there is one thing you’ll have to also do to change the Tacoma headlights out.

There’s an evil little bolt that is cleverly hidden in side the fender. You can get to this bolt either from the engine compartment or through the wheel well. I’m either case you’ll be working blind and by feel. I’ve removed this bolt both ways. When going in through the engine compartment, my arms get a bit torn up. Kind of look like they’ve been through a flaying machine of sorts. Going in through the fender well is a little easier, but you still have to contort your arm and hands a bit.

Lets Start Removing the Tacoma Headlights

Remove the Grill

The first thing you have to do to remove your old headlights is remove the grill. This is a fairly easy step. Across the top of the grill are two 10 mm bolts and two body panel clips. Remove the bolts and the clips. The grill should lift right off. Some models have two clips on the bottom at either end of the grill. You may have to release these. My Tacoma has two points that slide into sockets at those points.

Once the grill is off you can pop out the slender body panels underneath each of the headlights. There is a small body panel clip on the lower inside edge of the headlight. This clip holds the headlight as well as that small body panel on. You can get away with leaving these in but it makes it easier to work with the headlight if they are out.

Remove the 10mm Headlight Bolts

At this point, You can remove the two 10mm bolts on the top of the headlight. Now for the fun part. The evil little 10mm bolt that is hidden on the inside of the fender towards the front. You can pick your evil but my preference is to go in through the fender well. To get to the bolt through the fender well, you will have to remove the 10mm bolt holding the fender well shield to the fender (see picture), Once this bolt is off, gently pull the shield away from the fender far enough to get you hand and arm in there.

Removing Headlight Bolts
Removing Headlight Bolts
10mm Bolt Holding Wheel Well Shield
10mm Bolt Holding Wheel Well Shield

Next, Get the one Evil Bolt

Evil Mounting Bolt Location
Evil Mounting Bolt Location

Once you have the shield out of the way, it’s torture time! You’ll have to get your arm inside of the fender well and search around for that last insidious bolt holding the headlight on. If you have the replacement headlight on hand, you can look at where that bolt mounts (on the lower right hand side as you face it for the drivers side headlight) to get a reference. I’ve found that a 10mm socket on a quarter inch drive does the trick to get that bolt out.

Once that last bolt is out, you can disconnect the wiring from the bulbs, or if you have specialty bulbs, remove the bulbs, wiring and all from the old headlights. reconnect the wires and bulbs to the new replacement headlight and start the installation process. Note: it’s a lot easier to deal with the bulbs and wiring when the headlights are off the truck! In essence it’s the reverse of the way you took the old one out. The only exception to that is I install the bolt inside the fender last.

Moving Lights to New Headlight
Moving Lights to New Headlight

Putting the New Tacoma Headlights On

Start by setting the new headlight in place. Install the two top bolts to hold it in. Don’t tighten those yet though in case you need to do some minute adjustments to the headlight. Next, place the slim body panel in place, slide it in toward the fender and make sure the hole for the clip is lines up with the hole in the headlight and frame. Insert the body clip you removed earlier.

Now for the fun part. You need to re-install the headlight bolt inside the fender. Getting that bolt back in can be trickier than getting it out. The hardest part is finding the hole. I’ve found that if you have the old headlight as a reference, it’s easier to get an idea of where the hole is. Having a helper to hold the old one up is a great help!

Once you find it, finger tighten it and then tighten it with the 10mm socket and wrench. After that you can tighten the two bolts on top of the new Tacoma headlight. Repeat for the other side of the truck and your almost done!

The last thing you’ll have to do is replace the grill. 

New Tacoma Headlights

Follow the steps you took in reverse order. When setting the grill in place, line it up with the headlights and everything should line up correctly so you can drop it into the mounts on either side of the grill opening. Once it is in place, you can install the two bolts and body clips. That’s it, your done!