A blown sidelight is something that might escape notice, particularly if these lights are not very prominent to begin with. That is why I didn’t realise the offside sidelight was out on my Outback until I spotted it as my wife pulled into the driveway last week.
Having followed the saga of fellow Subaru owner, Lewis Kingston, changing the sidelights on his Forester last month, I was not looking forward to discovering what would be required to swap them on the Outback. Surprisingly, it took very little effort and all of ten minutes.
To access the offside sidelight, remove the air intake and the headlamp bulb cover. You can then reach the sidelight holder, which sits beside the headlamp. It is a bit tight, but with nimble fingers, you can twist it and pull it out and easily change the bulb.
The nearside sidelight is even easier. Push the washer fluid filler neck out of the way, twist off the headlamp cover, and it is right there in plain sight. I replaced the original bulbs with Philips WhiteVision bulbs so they would be a little brighter.
And just like that, full illumination was restored. For the sake of comparison, this photo was taken just fifteen minutes later than the first…
…and this, at about 16.30 (despite the poor quality of photos my phone takes in low light):
As you can see, even with the new bulbs, the Outback’s sidelights are not very prominent. For that reason, I considered going with LEDs, but decided it against it for three reasons. First, while there are a plethora of LEDs available for this fitting, and they are mostly inexpensive, they all come with very mixed reviews. There were just too many instances of people reporting flickering and short lifespans to justify the move to LEDs, when the Philips bulbs had nothing but positive comments about longevity. Second, and related, Martin Plewes helpfully pointed out Twitter that LEDs should really only be used in fittings designed for them, and even though I have one in the dome light fitting that has worked fine, it is more problematic if exterior lighting goes bad. Third, I never really drive with just the sidelights on, so I don’t need them to be particularly bright. That’s what headlamps are for.
So if you’re planning to change the sidelights on your Outback, banish the fear and put the tools away. All it takes is ten minutes and a bit of fiddling.