This is a quick little how-to for replacing the headlight bulbs on a 2nd generation Saturn Vue. It’ll cover the model years from 2008 to 2010. (Fair warning, this should also cover the Chevrolet Captiva for 2011 to 2013, as they are essentially the same car, however, I’ve never actually worked on one of those so please double check if that’s what you have.) Typically bulb replacements are very easy and quickly taken care of as the majority of manufacturers provide access (although sometimes quite cramped) to the plugs from within the engine bay. Unfortunately, this is not the case with the 2nd generation Saturn Vue.
To start off, I absolutely love this small SUV. We purchased it new in 2008 and my wife has been driving it ever since. It has plenty of space for a small family, the interior is rather nice without pushing it into the luxury range, and if you opted for the 3.6 litre V6, it has decent punch. If you’re in the market for a used SUV you can do a lot worse than a Saturn Vue. Additionally, they’re relatively cheap as the demise of Saturn is baked into the pricing. However, unlike most discontinued brands, you don’t have to worry about not finding replacement parts as the Vue shares a significant portion of its architecture with the GMC Terrain, Cadillac SRX, Chevy Equinox and of course the Chevy Captiva. Fun fact, the Saturn Vue was originally released in Europe in 2007 under its original moniker, the Opel or Vauxhall Antara.
Parts for this DIY:
- New H11 Headlight Bulbs
Tools You’ll Need:
- A Screwdriver Set
- A Ratchet Set
Now, while the bulb replacement is not as clear cut as simply pulling out the old and installing the new, it’s really not that difficult either. The main issue is that the entire housing must be removed in order to access the light socket. The housing is held in place with three (3) separate bolts. (Even without the bolts it’s a snug fit by the way…) Two of the bolts are obviously located and easily accessed, as they are right above the housing. The third bolt however, is located in the lower portion of the housing behind the plastic “mesh” like panel of the grill. As such, in order to locate and remove the third bolt you’ll have to remove that section of the grill.
The section of the grill in question is held on with a number of plastic faux-screw clips. I call them this because the clips aren’t really screws in the typical sense. They are actually small plastic pins which slide inside of the main clip to lock it in place. Thus, if you try to unscrew them, typically nothing happens. It just spins in place. To remove them you’ll have to get a small pry tool (a small flat head screwdriver works fine) and create some pressure upward between the screw and main pin. With the other hand you can then unscrew the plastic pin. In actuality once the pin has come up a little it can be pried off completely. Regardless, the whole point of going through this exercise is so that you don’t damage or scratch the clips, that way they’ll look nice when you reinstall them.
Once you start removing clips you can test to see how much access you’ll need. I ended up removing three on either side. Not enough to remove the entire panel, but enough to push it out of the way so I could get to the third bolt. With a bit of access the third bolt comes out easily. Once the housing is loose you’ll have to gingerly, and I mean very, very gingerly; slide the housing out. For the life of me I wouldn’t be able to tell you what direction to turn it in, just know that you’ll have to slide and wiggle it back and forth a bit before it pops out. Don’t get frustrated and yank it, you’ll just end up needlessly breaking something. Just take your time and feel where there is less resistance.
After popping the housing out you’ll need to remove the rear cap to access the bulb. The cap is literally just that, a round plastic cap which protects the rear of the light bulb. It requires like a quarter or half turn to remove. With the cap out of the way you can remove the old light bulb by twisting it until it clears the tabs and pull it out. From here on out just reverse your steps so you can put everything back together.
A few words of advice. First, the cap can be a little tight to screw back it. It might require a little bit of pressure to seat properly. Secondly, the housing, just like when you were removing it, will be very finicky to reinstall. Take your time and try not to break or scratch anything. When I did mine I had to force it in just a teeny bit at the end, but nothing too bad. Everything else should be a walk in the park.
This should be easy and straight forward. Exponentially harder than your typical headlight replacement, probably; but still quite low in the DIY difficulty spectrum. Hopefully you love your Saturn Vue as much as my wife and I love ours. Outside of a few quirks (brake sensors and a faulty master cylinder lit up my brake and abs lights for a while) the little SUV has been rock solid and we hope to keep it in the family for years to come.
Potential Savings from Used Parts:
You shouldn’t really be purchasing used headlight bulbs, but if for some reason you need to replace the headlight assembly completely you can do so through eBay. As with most headlight assemblies and lenses in general please be wary of cheap imitation products. They tend to cut corners in items such as moldings and seals. This can lead to a substandard replacement. If you want to maintain your car’s original fit and finish try and pickup an OEM quality piece.
Useful Parts & Tools to Help you with this DIY Project: