Fix a Loose Headlight Reflector on a Volvo 850




About: Eric J. Wilhelm is the founder of Instructables. He has a Ph.D. from MIT in Mechanical Engineering. Eric believes in making technology accessible through understanding, and strives to inspire others to lear...

While driving at night, have you ever noticed other people's headlights that appear to be shaking and bouncing around? Isn't it annoying and distracting? Your brain is so good at noticing motion that it's hard to ignore those bouncing headlights, especially if they're in your rear view.

Embarrassingly, I found that I was one of those "other people, bad citizens" when I replaced a headlight bulb and noticed the reflector was loose.

Step 1: Open Hood and Check Reflector

Follow the instructions in the manual for replacing a headlight bulb. The bulb screws into the reflector, so you can feel if it's loose or not.

This is 1996 Volvo 850 GLT with cold weather package. I imagine the headlight assembly and surrounding components aren't that different for models around the same age.

Step 2: Tools

No special tools required: Vice grips, adjustable wrench, screw drivers.

Step 3: Remove Turn Signal Assembly

Looking down on the engine compartment, look for the handle on the end of the turn signal spring. Pull the handle, stretching the spring, and get the s-bend out of its mating fixture.

As an aside, I think this type of connection is pretty sweet: positive connection, easy for the user to access and remove, quick assembly. Good job Volvo!

Step 4: Remove the Headlight Wiper

Flip up the end cap on the wiper, unscrew the nut, and pull the wiper off of its shaft.

Step 5: Remove Plastic Assembly

The plastic assembly underneath the headlight is held on by a couple of barbed connectors. Minding the washer fluid hose, pull this plastic piece away from the headlight.

Step 6: Remove Headlight Glass

Pry off the metal clips around the edge of the headlight glass, and remove the it. Don't drop it! This sucker costs $100 to replace! (A falling icicle once busted mine). I think I counted seven clips altogether; whatever the total number, there's a few at the bottom of the glass you can't see. The glass is only held on by clips, so you'll know when you've found them all.

Step 7: Snap Reflector Back Into Place

The reflector snaps into place. Mess with it, pushing it towards the car until it snaps back in place. It's probably better not to have a bulb screwed in while you do this.

You'll know you have it right when the headlight level works again.

I'm not certain how it came loose in the first place. Maybe it was that minivan I ran into while rushing into work one day? New rule: while driving, focus only on driving; maintain calm, even if running late.

Step 8: Reassemble

Reverse the steps to reassemble. When you drop a clip further inside the car, have fun fishing it out!



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    8 Discussions


    4 years ago on Step 3

    I was replacing a broken turn signal lens unit. It was relatively easy (with a little straining) to get the unit out using the instructions here. But I found it almost impossible to get the spring back into position when I went to replace the unit. The area is so constrained by surrounding parts, that it seemed like only a gorilla with long, very strong fingers could pull the spring and hook it. I finally did it by using a long screwdriver. I inserted the screwdriver down from the top and into the loop at the end of the spring. I could then leverage the screwdriver with my right hand to pull the spring while with my left hand fingers I guided the s-bend into position over the v-notch where it needed to go. The instructions here were very useful in convincing my that a human could do the job, but the task was not trivial. It took me several hours of straining and puzzling over it to get it done.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    hey, nice instructable! nice 850! I just recently purchased a 1997 850 R. (240hp) :-)


    11 years ago on Introduction

    I've been looking for instructions on how to replace the headlight glass on my 1996 Volvo 960. I am going to try and take it off using your instructions. The headlights on your 850 look pretty similiar to those on the 960. Had an accident, my fault w/only liability ins. had to use used parts to fix. One headlight had to be replaced and it's not as clear as the one on it before. Let you know how it turns out. Thanks for posting your repair.

    1 reply

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    It's probably pretty close on the 960. One of my headlights was cracked by an icicle and it was really expensive to replace the glass!

    Von Klaus

    12 years ago on Step 1

    He calls that the ranch. All thoses horses in all that small space.


    12 years ago

    thanks for the instructions- i have the same car but a year newer and if my headlights start bouncing i'll use this


    12 years ago

    Nice car :P I'm actually looking for an S70 or V70 GLT :D