The Universal Guide on How to Change a Tail Light on Your Car

September 9, 2020Car Care and Revamp
Blake Shaw

Bostonian and residential moving and packing expert. Blake Shaw enjoys bar-hopping, music, and writing insightful content.

Having bad, broken, fogged, or cracked taillights will not only earn you a ticket but lead you into a potentially dangerous situation. That’s why learning how to change a tail light is exceptionally important for every driver, veteran or newbie. Mastering this skill will save you the trouble of visiting the mechanic too often, and it will keep you safe on the road.

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Before you get down to repairs, you should go over the different types of lights and their importance for your four-wheeler. To help you navigate this relatively simple DIY project, we made this universal guide that will answer the questions like What kind of tools do you need to repair your taillight? and What are the reasons tail lights fail?

Get to Know All Types of Lights on The Car Before You Get to Fixing One

When you’re driving, you are bound to get familiar with your car, its gadgets, and the vital parts. This is especially important if you have a knack for fixing things on your own. If you want to be your own mechanic, you have to know precisely how things function inside your vehicle.

Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration identifies several types of lights:

  • Headlights come in two types – low and high beam. They allow the driver to navigate through the dark while signaling other vehicles that their machine is present.
  • Taillights (TL) produce only red light, and they are located at the rear end of the auto. They are wired in such a way that they work when the headlights are on. They help drivers behind locate you and know your distance.
  • Daytime running lamps are created to make your machine more visible to others, and that’s why they are on both sides of your auto.
  • Driving laps are inside of your car, and they brighten it for passengers.

When you know what type you need to replace, it will be easier to locate the right bulb. Before you replace the broken part, make sure you bought the one from the same category, with the exact nominal power and cap base.

light bulb glow
Knowing what kind of TL replacement to get is an essential part of fixing your car.

Learning How to Change a Tail Light Should Be Your DIY Project

Are you hyped about learning a new skill? Knowing your way around the car can come in handy when minor malfunctions happen, and that’s why learning how to replace a tail light bulb should be your next DIY project.

When it comes to car maintenance, this is a pretty easy thing to master, even though it is not on the top of priority lists for repairs. However, when you get to do it, be careful, because you can damage the vehicle and hurt yourself in the process if you are hasty.

Obtain All the Tools Needed to Replace Tail Light Assembly

Before you get to fix your car, there is one crucial thing you need to do – obtain all the right tools. Depending on the type of vehicle you have, the tools you need may vary, but in general, you cannot start anything before getting:

  • Safety goggles and gloves
  • Screwdrivers
  • Wrenches, sockets of appropriate size, and ratchets

There Are Many Reasons for Taillights Malfunctions

TL is a critical feature on every vehicle; they are especially necessary if you are on the road at night, twilight hours, or bad weather. Since they are essential for your safety, they should always work. However, like everything, they can break down. So what are the most common reasons TL doesn’t work?

  • Bad fuse – if TL doesn’t work, the first thing you should check are electrical components, especially the fuse. This small part is designed to break when the current going through it becomes too high, efficiently protecting other electrical system elements.
  • Bad bulbs – the fastest way to check if they are a problem is to remove them from the socket and inspect them. If the filament wire inside the bulb is broken, it means that you should replace it.
  • Socket failure – problems with the socket can happen due to the corrosion and poor connection of wires.
  • Worn out electrics – check the wires because they have an expiration date.
  • Control switch malfunction – the red dot on your dash can be broken as well. If other parts of the circuit are working fine, the switch is probably broken.
  • Dirty sensors – are you driving a top-rated SUV or some similar modern vehicle? If so, your car can have an ambient sensor that allows the automatic switch of TL depending on how dark it is. If the sensors get dirty, they cannot distinguish the weather outside, and they will not turn on the TL.
miami night
Fixing the TL is a fast and straightforward task and then you can enjoy the ride

When You Start the Repairs, Unscrew the Taillight Housing and Pull It Out

You learned all about why TL brakes and how important it is to your safety and auto functionality; now it is time for you to get to work. Pull out all the necessary tools, put the safety on, and begin by unscrewing the TL housing.

This is where all red, yellow, and white bubbles are stored, and many trucks and cars have one lens assembly for all of these. Get a screwdriver and loosen screws that keep it together. Try to keep the screws in one place like a cup or a bowl because you don’t want to lose them while working.

When nothing holds the assembly, you can pull it out of its hole. Keep in mind that it is attached to the car with the wiring. That’s why you shouldn’t pull on it too hard. When you have the assembly in your hands, the first part of the repairs is done.

Remove Old and Put the New Bulb In

When you have the assembly out of the car, you can see that the bulbs are fixed to one place with a plug screw into it. When you know which part you have to replace, follow the wires to it, pull it out, or unscrew it (this will depend on the model of your auto).

When you see a dead bulb, you can either pull it out or unscrew it and then remove it. When the broken part is out of the socket, put the new one in. All that’s left is retracing the steps until you put back everything the way it was in the beginning. Turn on the TL to check if it’s working. Now you can enjoy a legal and safe ride.

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Learn How to Change Trunk Light Bulb Before It Stops Working

Dark trunks sound creepy, so you should not hesitate to replace bulbs on your own. The procedure is pretty straight forward, and it will be done in a few minutes. Start by disconnecting the battery with a socket wrench. Then open the trunk, and use the flathead screwdriver to push the bulb housing out. Wear the rubber gloves and move the screwdriver slowly. When the housing is out, you can replace the bulb and reverse engineer the whole process. When you finish reconnecting the battery, check to see if everything is working.

Pay Attention to Clear Signs of Failing Trunk Bulbs

Are you wondering how to replace tail light bulbs before it is too late? If you want to prevent being without a light in your car’s trunk, pay attention to the signs indicating it is time for new bulbs:

  • Brightness is dimmer, and it is pretty evident that it’s not as shiny as it was before
  • When the glow is too bright, it can indicate that the flow of electricity is volatile.
  • Flickering without any reason means that bulbs are burning out.
Car on a snowy road
Fixing up the trunk bulbs will prevent you from sitting in the dark while driving.

Use Lens Repair Kit to Fix Your Car

Replacing taillight doesn’t necessarily have to mean changing the bulb. Sometimes, while you are driving, a small rock can hit your car and crack the lenses. Don’t panic when this happens because it is totally fixable; all you need is a lens repair kit. Depending on the damage, you can use two types of repairing techniques:

  • Repairing cracks with lens repair tape – this method is only a temporary fix, but it will keep your car functional until you reach the mechanic. When you notice a crack, clean the area with rubbing alcohol and let it dry, and then you can apply the tape. Don’t use glass cleaners because they have ammonia that will cause the tape to call off.
  • Repairing holes and broken spots – if there are holes in your taillights, you can fix the problem with plastic resin. Start by covering the outside of the taillight with plastic tape, then mix the resin with a catalyst, just how it is instructed in the kit. Don’t forget to put on gloves before you pour the resin in the syringe. Fill the hole with the mixture and let it dry for at least two hours, and then you are ready to go.

If you are frequently on the road, having a lens repair kit can save you from frequent trips to the mechanic. Keep in mind that these kits can be applied on many models from Toyota, Honda, and Ford to Plymouth, Dodge, and Chrysler.

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Hire Mechanic to Repair Your Car If Necessary

Tackling repairs on your own will cost you anywhere between $30 and $250 of each TL assembly. Additionally, if you have a fancy car, the overall costs can be higher. However, if, for some reason, you can’t repair your TL on your own, the next best thing is calling a professional mechanic to do it for you.

Depending on the model and your four-wheeler’s make, you will be expected to pay anywhere between $200 and $500. Remember, the repairs will cost you more if you have a luxury or performance vehicle. You can also take advantage of the fact that your car is in the mechanic shop and schedule a routine check-up to make sure everything is in the best order.

Mechanic fixing the car.
If you don't want to or can't repair your auto at home, it would be best to call the mechanic.

Get a New Car and Always Be Ready to Fix It on Your Own

Some people like working on their vehicles, fixing them up, step by step, and making them run smoothly. If you are one of them, buying a used car to be your DIY fixing project is a way to go. Use those fixer-uppers to sharpen your tire-changing skills and freshen up your knowledge on replacing thermostats and U-joints.

No matter if you get your vehicle online or go through a dealer, you will need an auto transport company to bring it to you. The reputable car shipping company you hire should offer you open trailers or enclosed auto transport, and you can choose the one that suits your needs better. Also, take advantage of door to door auto transport and terminal to terminal car shipping options, and your machine will be delivered to you without any stress and complications.

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