Lights out, Apparently Toyota isn’t home. (Prius HID lights fault)

November 19th, 2008
by Christopher Kusek (PKGuild)


Hello there.  Are you one of the many thousands who have a Prius, or any Toyota vehicle with HID Lights which are supposed to last for 10x longer than standard bulbs, and had it last less than 1Yr’s time?

Then, you’ve come to the right place.

A few high level examples of information:

A typical Halogen headlamp has a service life of ~450-1000 Hrs.

A typical HID headlamp has a service life of ~2000 Hrs.


So, given that math.  I would have to drive my car every day for ~6hrs in order for my bulb to start to fail within a years time.  Sadly, I did not drive it that much.  However it still did enter to a point of failure.  Failure which was considerably unsafe resulting in both of my headlights turning off at a number of points while driving on dark roads, luckily no one was ever hurt.

Oh, did I mention this was my second set of HID bulbs to be replaced?  The first time, replaced “Under warranty” at no cost to me.  The second time, Toyota has advised they will replace “Parts+Tax” however, I will have to pickup the labor.   While that sure is nice of them.  I wish I weren’t the only of thousands experiencing this problem.  This problem blatantly ignored by Toyota who only responds on an AdHoc, Opt-In basis, requiring US the consumer to do something about it – To reach out and contact Toyota on it.

This is very clearly a safety issue.  An issue which forces the consumer to front money and services to pay for something which Toyota knows is wrong and is their mistake.   This safety issue should be addressed as a Parts Recall and replacement, not having us figure out to call Toyota (800) 331-4331 and open a case in order to “try” to get this resolved.   You most likely will be in contact with Heather, as a lot of us have.  

It should also be noted, that if you’re experiencing this issue – Even if you’ve gotten it resolved whether under warranty or out of warranty (As I’ve had it fixed in both cases) you should file a complaint with the Office of Defects, so this is on record and our voices heard.

Hopefully you will be able to get your problem fixed and resolved in a timely and safer fashion, without having to resort to the extortion of paying out of pocket $902.88 (or more) and wait 2-3 weeks for a reimbursement of Parts+Tax, having to shell out the $137.80 (more or less) for labor, while paying for these HID Bulbs which are being quoted at ~$350 a pop, even though you can get an equivalent replacement for $175 for a PAIR.  But I imagine my definition of extortion is completely off base.  It probably has less to do with being sold something with an expectation it will work and actually getting it to work and not get screwed around when it in fact does not work as advertised.

Good luck out there with all your 2006, 2007, 2008 and beyond Priuses and other Toyota vehicles with HID lights which also suffered from this bad apple.   Don’t wait to open a case, and don’t get screwed by your dealership either in or out of warranty about this.   Toyota knows about this, and it is up to you the educated consumer to act on your behalf because they certainly are doing everything in their power to make sure that you have to jump through as many hoops as possible.

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Posted in Baltimization, Christopher Kusek, General, Informational | Comments (15)

  • foo

    Same problem here, 2006 Prius, HID headlights dimming and going out, 42K miles. Walnut Creek Toyota said it was a common occurrence, it was the bulbs, and that Toyota would cover the bulbs, but I had to pay the labor. (SF Toyota disclaimed any knowledge.) I went with WC and we’ll see how it goes. On eBay you can get a replacement pair for $80 or so if you want to install them yourself (instructions on priuschat).

  • Val.

    Hey all,

    As I write this I am sitting in the wi-fi lounge at Big Two Toyota in Gilbert Arizona getting the bulbs replaced in my 2006 Prius AGAIN. This time the car is out of warranty (42 k miles) but less that 36 months of ownership. The dealership initially declined to repair it, but my “guy” said call a certain number (see above) and file a complaint. It took a few days, but after filing I was told they would do a courtesy warranty but I had to pay parts and labor and they would reimburse. I pitched a fit and they said that they would do it with no out of pocket. So, I sit here drinking free coffee and waiting. I hope to never have to do this again, but this is probably a dream……

  • Linda

    I own a 2008 Prius with 19k miles on it. I’ve just returned from having my left headlight replaced (three months ago my right headlight went out). I was told that this was under warranty and replaced at no charge.

    When I mentioned that I had been on the internet researching this issue and discovered TONS of email from folks having a similar problem, that there was a class-action lawsuit in progress, and that many were filing claims to force a recall from Toyota, I was told that my dealership RECENTLY received a ‘bulletin’ addressing this. When the mechanic checks out a Prius and if it fits the parameter of the ‘bulletin’ then both headlights would be replaced at no charge.

    I just picked up my car and see on the receipt that two (2) headlights were listed under parts, so I know that both headlights were replaced.

    With that, I’m not 100% sure that they were replaced because my Prius is 13 months old and/or under 20k miles OR if it would have been at no charge because of the bulletin. They weren’t very forthcoming with information. My dealership is in Everett, Washington by the way.

    Good luck to everyone with this…sign in on the class action suit. Send an email to your ‘Problem Solvers’ on your local news…get the word out. This is ridiculous and from what I’ve read it costs WAY too much to replace!

  • matt

    the problem i am having is its only the left bulb., and its very intermittent , extremely intermittent. i found that link for that gerald attorney guy?? so i left him a message. they want $130 for a diagnosis (which is free i guess if they find its a warranty item) or $200 to replace the bulb. the problem i am having is its mostly fine for weeks even a month or more, then all of a sudden after driving the car for 5 minutes – 30 minutes, the left light goes out, and i have to “reboot” the headlight, by turning it off and on again, then the car is magically fine for 24 hours plus. its not fair that you had to pay $895 extra for HID lights , which according to consumer reports are worse then the standard bulbs, and then 3 years later they just die on you. and then you have to pay more to replace them. i do have the platinum warranty but the last time i called toyota about it they
    didnt want to hear from me because the bulbs are not covered. and if i am going to pay for a bulb i want that bulb to 100 % dead

  • matt


    personally i think its the igniter / harness / computer. but the dealer i went to said its the bulb and i would have to pay $130 for a diagnosis, which is not going to be a proper diagnosis unless the dealer keeps the car for a month!

  • We own a Toyota repair shop and have a customer in here now that has had their 2006 Prius to the dealer numerous times (more than 5) for a headlight problem. Several times the headlights have gone out on them at night while driving. We looked at the vehicle (have not officially diagnosed it yet), but we believe that the headlight control computer (or ballast) needs to be replaced. The right side headlight is flickering, as if trying to turn on, when switching between low and high beams. Once we have determined whether this is the problem, we will return to let you know what happens.

  • OK. So we looked at the car. It is not the computer. We switched the headlight bulb from side to side and the problem followed the bulb. I do, however, have good news. We found a place on ebay that sells the EXACT bulb in a Phillips box for CHEAPER. Type this into ebay search: PHILIPS D4R XenEco HID Bulbs TOYOTA Prius Avalon Xenon. The seller is integra9006hid.

    Dan has a theory on why these are going out. He thinks that the headlight assembly design is causing the bulb to move/bounce around. So, don’t really know what the solution is other than to complain to Toyota and hopefully they will issue a recall. So far, we haven’t seen anything. Good Luck all and we will update if/when there is anything that needs to be updated!

  • Colleen

    I have a 2005 Prius and had both headlights replaced before the 36,000 warranty expired. Now at 76,000 miles, headlight was out again. Went to the dealership Sterling McCall in Houston. Was told that it was the HID, the bulb cost $500, plus hour worth of labor, shop supplies and tax. And the bulb was on back order. So I ended up taking the Prius to a local auto shop – they replaced a bulb in the headlight and it only cost $30 including labor! Plus they told me if it had been the HID the bulb would cost $125 not $500. So I guess there is two bulbs in the headlight???? Anyway the dealership service manager was not very receptive when I called him today to let him my story.

  • Eric

    I have a 2004 Prius with HID headlights. After my 100,000 extended warranty expired, both bulbs started the typical “turn off every few minutes” problem.

    I replaced them with bulbs off eBay and it was much easier then I was expecting. Here’s what I did., it took about 15 minutes per side.
    1. Loosen two screws in the wheel well, one at the bottom and one under the plastic splash guard at the seam of the bumper cover.
    2. Remove the quick-release fasteners and the hood bumpers from the top of the bumper cover.
    3. Pull the bumper cover forward and release it at the top seam under the front fender. This sounds much harder than it really is. This gives access to the lower headlight mounting screw and gives room to move the headlight around.
    4. Loosen the fender mounting screw just above and behind the headlight.
    5. Gently pull the fender up and back a bit while sliding the headlight forward a bit. It’s a bit tight, but the headlight will squeeze past the edge of the fender and slide forward, giving easy access to the back of the headlight unit.
    6. Remove the bulb access panel and electrical connector and you can see the bulb.
    7. Unclip the bulb and replace it without touching the glass.
    8. Put it all back together in reverse order.

    Good luck! You’ll be really happy at saving several hundred dollars.

  • Chazzman

    If you’re having odd problems . . .

    The change to high beam is a tiny reflector that points a single beam higher or lower. There is only one bulb, not two like other cars have.

    There is also a circuit that lowers and raises the beam according to the level of the entire car (perhaps the same reflector?). This is to prevent an empty fuel tank (which raises the rear of the car) from lowering the beam, or a full tank (or cargo load) from blinding oncoming drivers by lowering the rear of the car.

    Do not turn HID bulbs off and on needlessly; some believe that shortens their life. Flashing high-beams is OK, see first comment above. The story is that once on (and hot) it’s hard on them to start them up again. These are more like fluorescent starters (high voltage startup ballast, separate ‘run’ circuit, etc.) than ordinary bulbs.

    2004-05 Prius bulbs are different from 2006.

    If both bulbs fail then come back on again, it’s not likely to be a bulb or ballast problem. Control circuits affect both bulbs. I’d snap/tap and jiggle the switch stalk on the steering column to eliminate the obvious. Switches, plugs, grounds and connectors are always the first thing to check for any electrical failure.

    If you find other lamps have failed (park & tail lamps), mine seem to have poor contacts. Slap the area and they may pop back on. Not too hard or you’ll break or dent something. I’ve had these tiny lamps quit about 6 times, but never replaced one.

    Both of my license plate lamps burned out (huh?). Easy fix. Large inside plastic tailgate cover pops off & on (don’t pry on it slowly, snap the tabs off quickly). A Google search should turn up photos for you. Dealer wanted $90 for this 10 minute job. Check to make sure both bulbs work BEFORE you put the cover back on. (My bad. Second time only took me 5 minutes.) For the odd plastic snaps that don’t come out of the metal, bend a coat hanger wire all the way around them to get a good grip and pull them out, return them to the cover pop back on again. Don’t get caught up in the bulb number mismatch game; there are lots of numbers, they’re all nearly identical bulbs. LED replacements offered are absurdly expensive.

  • Scuccaro

    I just replaced my high beam lights after replacing the fuses. It is a Toyota Venza 2009 with 5,200 miles. Seems strange that the high beam lights would go out when I seldom drive at night, and really don’t drive that much in the day. Another auto problem where no one is responsible but the consumer. …..

  • Mark Barlow

    my wife has a 2007 toyota solara with HID head lights
    i had the same problem as everyone else with the lights going out about 20 seconds after they are turned on. toyota wanted $2000 dollars to replace the “computer” because i replaced one of the bulbs myself and they voided the warranty on my car. i thought this was absurd and went to higher levels to get it fixed.
    the funny thing was that each time i talked to a new person they agreed with the fact it was absurd and they would get back to me with an answer.
    each return phone call stated the same thing, my replacing one of the bulbs ruined the computer and therefore my warranty was void.
    keep in mind that there is no computer for the headlights. and that each head light has its own HID ballast so my installing one after market bulb might have caused one light to fail but what about the other side. sorry you voided the warranty no matter what>

    how do you fix this problem! i replaced the bulbs twice and still wound up with the same problem no head lights on a $32,000 car.
    so i got a little creative,
    you have to remove the entire front end off your car to get the headlights off, this sounds really hard but its not that hard to take apart. although its not for people that dont work on any cars either.
    i went to Auto zone and purchased new head light connectors for about $10 then i bought different bulbs and deleted the HID system on the car. note you do not have to remove the HID system so it can be put back in place at a later date ( assuming toyota figures out what the problem is) you can not get the HID out of the solara head light fixture anyway as the head light socket will not slip out of the enclosure.
    the total fix costs about $60 and it still works with no problems.
    its actually the best fix for the least amount of money but it does piss me off that i spent extra money to have HID headlights only to spend more money to remove them.
    i am sure you could go to the after market HID system and still have HIDs but i had given up on the HID by that time.
    by the way i was so mad at toyota that after owning several toyotas and swearing by them for years i am giving up on toyota and will be switching to some other brand with out HID headlights

  • Vic

    Could you explain your fix in a little more detail. I want to be ready to do mine and not worry about it.

  • Honestly, just follow the instructions I detailed…. in 2008 and you should be fine ;)

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