How to replace the headlights on a Citroen Xsara

Recently my left headlight broke. I thought I’d change it quickly, but after half an hour of fiddling I decided to ask my dealer to do it for me, while I was looking. That was not a bad idea. It turned out to be not so straightforward after all, and you actually need tools (which you don’t get when buying the car) to do this! This lead me to write a “small” article on how to replace the headlights of a Citroen Xsara. Enjoy.

My Citroen Xsara 1.4 Hdi The Car
This is my Citroen Xsara break 1.4 HDi. No, that’s not the picasso model, you’ve seen that right. I think car manufacturers need to stop naming a complete line of cars with just one name. Nobody knows what car you are driving, even if you tell them. Good examples are the Citroen Xsara and the Renault Megane. But that’s not what this article is about.

Recently my left headlight broke. I thought I’d change it quickly, but after half an hour of fiddling I decided to ask my dealer to do it for me, while I was looking. That was not a bad idea. It turned out to be not so straightforward after all, and you actually need tools to do this! You will need a 10mm wrench and a screwdriver. If you have thick fingers, I’d recommend a pair of pliers as well.

I wrote the whole procedure down here, for other Xsara owners to read. It can save you a costly trip to the garage, or a trip without headlights in a very dark area. The left headlight is the hardest to replace, the right headlight can be done without tools (although still a bit hard to reach).

(Click on the images to zoom in)

Headlight from the manual1. Check the manual
The first thing you need to do (if you care for a laugh) is check the manual on “changing lights”. You will find a nice picture of the back of the headlight unit, with arrows pointing to the different lights. Surely this is to motivate you to do it yourself, but they kindly “forgot” to include the 9 missing steps to even get to the rear of the headlight unit.

Left Engine Cover clips2. Remove left engine cover
Open up the hood (or stop reading here if you can’t ;-). You will see some plastic engine covers. Yes, those are the same covers you need to remove on the right side to fill up your windshield wiper fluid. The first sign the designer must have been a complete and utter idiot.

For the left headlight, remove the left engine cover (that’s the right one if you are facing the front bumper ;-). Turn the little knobs 90 degrees counter clockwise and carefully lift up the plastic. The knobs are very flimsy, be careful not to break them.

Aire Intake Tube3. Remove air intake tube
The air intake tube is connected to a plastic box behind the headlight, with a bajonet lock. Turn the top of the tube slightly towards you, and then pull it out of the plastic box.

air intake box nut4. Remove air intake box nut
Below where the air intake tube was, you will find a 10mm nut hodling the bottom of the air intake box. Use a 10mm wrench to undo it. Be careful not to drop it into the engine compartment.

Remove air intake box pegThe peg after removal5. Remove air intake box peg
The top of the air intake box is held by a plastic peg. To pull the center pin out, you’ll need to lift the pin with a screwdriver (look carefully at the picture). It should not take much force to take it out, please be carefull with this piece of plastic. I think Citroen will charge a pretty unfair amount of money to replace it should you’ve broken or lost it.

ABS plug cover6. Remove ABS plug cover
Allways wanted to know what that aluminum box is with those steel lines comming out the top? Well that’s your anti-blocking system unit, and you’re about to disconnect it. First, you need to remove the cover which protects the plug from moisture. You better change your headlights while it is not raining, because chances are that your ABS will stop working if you get the connector to corrode.

Unlock and remove ABS plug7. Unlock and remove ABS plug
Pull out the red handle. The ABS connector plug should almost immediately loosen, and removing the connector should take absolutely no force. If it sticks, you probably didn’t pull out the red handle enough. Carefully look at the picture.

headlight cover8. Remove rear headlight cover
The lamp cover is a simple plastic lid. Just pull it away from the headlight unit.




Unplug headlight9. Unplug headlight
Remove the grey and brown wired plug from the rear of the lamp.


How to remove the clip10. Remove lamp clip
With a flashlight, you can see that the lamp is held in place by a clip. This clip has two handles at the top of the lamp. Push them towards the headlight unit, and then outward. The lamp can now be taken out. Please take note on it’s orientation when taking it out, there is only one way of putting it back in without damaging your headlight unit or blinding oncomming traffic.

The H7 Lamp out of itโ€™s reflector11. Replace lamp
Replace the lamp with a H7 type lamp, again note the orientation of the lamp. Don’t touch the glass with your fingers. Touching the glass will leave grease on the glass. When the lamp heats up, it will become hotter than normal, shortening it’s lifetime. Even worse: the grease will vaporize and leave a non-removable milky deposit on your reflectors. Reflectors are very expensive to replace. The dealer will charge you for a complete headlight unit.

Reinstall Air Intake Box (arrows)12. Put it all back together
Connect the lamp and make sure it is working. After that, re-install all parts in revers order. Make sure that when you re-install the air intake box, the clips (pointed out by arrows 1 and 2 in the picture) are around the steel rimm. If the air intake box is not correctly placed, the plastic pin will not go through the misaligned holes, and the bottom slot will not align with the thread on which the 10mm nut goes.

I hope this will help other owners of Citroen Xsara’s in replacing their own headlights. If you do not feel confident of something when replacing your headlights, please contact your local dealer. Needless to say, messing aroung with your brake system should be done with care and professionalism.

Take care!


23 Responses to How to replace the headlights on a Citroen Xsara

  1. Rolfje says:

    Replacing headlights on a Toyota Prius is not much better from what I can see:

    What on earth are designers thinking these days.

  2. Lewy says:

    Quality mate. Nice one

  3. Ragnar says:

    Great manual.. the ABS plug had me stomped, until I found your blog. Nice one.

    One hint: If you put the ABS plug back, dont push it, but put it on and push the handle back in, it will slide back without force.

  4. Wim says:

    Found your site one day too late, my garage (nearby) changed the headlight. Next time I know how to remove the ABS plug and change the light myself. Thanks.

  5. Bruce Williamson says:

    Thank you for this. That ABS plug also got me stumped. I found that I didn’t have to remove the air intake tube or box. Mine is the 2.0l 110hp with intercooler so this could be the reason.
    Thanks again

  6. Vik says:

    Thanks for the detailed howto, it helped a lot. I tried to
    replace the bulb myself two days ago but I didn’t dare to force the
    ABS plug off – luckily. Btw, on a Xsara II. 1.6l 110bhp I only had
    to remove the ABS plug, no tools needed. Changing both headlights
    took 25 mins.

  7. Jeremy Carrington says:

    Thank you! Your explanation was really helpful. Like some other comments above, I didn’t need to worry about steps 3, 4 or 5. Your explanation turned what looks like a major operation (working blind, by feel) into an easy exercise for any handy person. Lewy said it best. “Quality mate! Nice one”, and I agree totally. Thanks again. Next time will be so simple!

  8. Alexandr Pon says:

    Thanks a lot! very useful!
    Russia, Zhukovskiy

  9. Gismo fly says:

    Many thanks. A real public service. You should be decorated by Citroen.

  10. David says:

    I was happy to find this article through google when my front left light went out, but I figured I didn’t need to take apart anything, just the rubber cover(and the plastic top). It was a bit difficult though as it’s difficult to look at what you’re doing and doing it at the same time ๐Ÿ™‚ but there is enough space to fit your hand and replace the light bulb.

    My Citroen Xsara is a 2.0 VTS 137HP from 2003/7 and as it turns out the construction is a bit different then the 1.4 HDI one.

  11. nicely explained bout changing headlamp bulb wonder if i cd e mail it to my daughter !

  12. kate says:

    Thanks, but I read your article because I wanted to know how to change a headlight. Despite your title heading you’ve only explained how to change a bulb!

  13. SIRY65 says:

    I just looked at your info and found it to be very usefull, all i wanted is to change the side lights and your heading did not put me off from having a look and only needed to cover a couple of your points to acheive it….
    Many thanks for your time to input all this information and well done on plain straight forward instructions.

  14. mike storey says:

    Most Misleading,You are NOT changeing Headlights,Just Replaceing the Bulbs,,,You Need to Remove the Bloody Bumper to Replace a Headlight unit

  15. Robert Parsons says:

    Thanks for info. Was nearly getting frustrated but thanks to this DONE IT.
    Rob from Scarborough

  16. john of newcastle says:

    wot a piss about but thanks to u it made it a lot easier thanks

  17. Ade says:

    I just want to say a big thank you. I used the guide and I am back to winning ways.

  18. Johnny Cahill says:

    Very useful…I changed a headlight bulb a few weeks ago using your instructions and was a lot easier than the previous time…now I’m changing a sidelight (when the rain stops)…using the same tips…many thanks…

  19. Johnny Lager says:

    Thanks for this, i managed to change my headlight using this guide. 2001 Xsara 1.2. I didn’t need to do steps 3,4,5 or 6 thankfully.
    Nice one ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Mike Carter (Wokingham) says:

    Its a pity about the churlish minority that complain of being misled by the title of the piece.
    After a little reading it’s quite clear that you are changing a bulb and not the whole headlamp unit.
    I have a 2002 1.4 Xsara hatchback, and have managed to change my left (UK passenger-side) dipped headlamp bulb without doing any of the dismantling you describe, but I did have to knock up a special tool and did get some grazing on the backs of my hands.
    And even then, the rubber cap is a pig to get back on, so your instructions regarding removal of the connector from the ABS unit came in most handy.
    Many thanks for taking the time and effort to post about your experiences.

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