How to Replace Bulbs in Motorcycle Tail Lights

a red Motorcycle
  • 1-2 hours
  • Beginner
  • 25-50
What You'll Need
Wire strippers
Wire crimpers
Phillips head screwdriver
12 volt test light
Butt connectors
LED bulb conversion kit
Masking tape

When you need to replace the bulbs in your motorcycle tail lights, it can be a good idea to use LED bulbs instead of standard units. These increase the brightness of the light by about 20 percent, making you far more visible and therefore safer. The installation is quick and you’ll be back on the road in 30 minutes or less. You will only need tools that you already have in the house.

Step 1 - Accessing the Wires

Start by using your Phillips head screwdriver to remove the motorcycle tail light lens from the fender. Set it aside carefully with the screws. You will now have access to the old bulb and the bulb housing.

Without removing the bulb from the housing, pull the bulb housing out of the fender so the bulb hangs free and the wires are exposed. Keeping the bulb in place will allow you to test the wires.

Step 2 - Testing the Wires

Next, you need to test the wires in order to know which of the wires goes to the brakes, the running lights and the turning signals. This will enable you to wire the LED bulb correctly. To do this, with the engine running, you will need to probe each wire with the 12 volt test light. Start by pulling on the brakes to see which wire causes the test light to glow. Run through until you’ve established which wire is responsible for each individual function. You should make a note or mark each wire with tape to avoid any confusion.

Step 3 - Wiring

Before you go further, check to be sure that your new LED housing will accept butt connectors with no problem. In most cases there should be no problem with this. Now, with the wires tested, you can cut back each of the wires behind the bulb housing and strip the end of each one for short distance; you probably won’t have too much wire to play with so don't be too liberal with your cutting. With the wire crimper, crimp the end of each wire to a butt connector. From there, you can use the butt connectors to connect the wires to the LED housing. Finally you should check again to be certain that you have the wires connected correctly; checking now can save you having to disassemble everything later.

Step 4 - Mounting

With the housing correctly wired, you are now ready to mount it back onto the fender. It should mount exactly the same way as a regular motorcycle tail light. Screw the motorcycle tail light lens back in place and test the lights to be certain they work properly.

Testing before you hit the road is vital. You don’t want to be driving only to realize that your motorcycle tail lights aren’t working.