How to Replace a Tail Light Bulb

white car with tail and brake light illuminated
  • 1 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 5-20
What You'll Need
Tail light bulb
Philips head screwdriver or socket wrench set
Clean rags
Wire brush
LED flashlight
What You'll Need
Tail light bulb
Philips head screwdriver or socket wrench set
Clean rags
Wire brush
LED flashlight

When a tail light fails to work it can cost a lot of money to have a mechanic fix it. Having a tail light repaired is both a safety and legal concern, and also an appearance issue. If a police officer noticed a broken tail light it can cost you money in the form of fines, as well as possible points against your insurance. Replacing a burnt out tail light is not hard to do, with some time on your hands and simple tools.

Step 1 - Access the Tail Light

This represents the most difficult part of repairing tail light. There are only two ways you can access the bulb of the tail light: internally or externally. In order to access the tail light from the interior it may require you to crawl inside the trunk. For the exterior method you will have to remove the plastic cover of the tail light. Look closely at the tail light. With any luck you will be able to access the tail light from the outside of the vehicle. Inspect the tail light cover for screws or bolts. If there neither present then the access point is inside the trunk of the car. Remove the plastic tail light cover by turning the screws or bolts to the left. If the turn signal bulb is accessed from inside the trunk or under the hood you will encounter a plastic cover. Twist the tab or knob on the cover and then remove the cover.

Step 2 - Remove the Tail Light Bulb

cover off exposing a tail light bulb

After gaining access to the tail light bulb you simply have to twist it to remove it. Grip the tail light bulb gently and press in while turning it to the left. Use a rag or towel to grip the bulb, as it could break as you press it in. The bulb is a quick release, which means you press in the bulb and twist to the left, then pull straight out to remove the bulb.

Step 3 - Clean

Take a good look at the socket and look for signs of corrosion, dirt, or general imperfections. Use a wire brush and scrub the socket. This will create a better contact surface so the new tail light will work properly.

Step 4 - Replace the Tail Light

Take the old light to the local auto parts store and allow them to match the right tail light bulb for your vehicle. Push the new light into the socket while turning it to the right to tighten it. Before replacing the tail light cover you should first test the bulb. Turn the car on and test the signal by pressing the brake pedal. Turn on the hazard lights, as well as the correct turn signal. If it works you can replace the plastic cover. Tighten all of the screws or bolts that you had removed previously.