How to Change a Tail Light on Your Car

Toyota Auris Brake Light Bulb Replacement

You may be the sort of practical person who regularly checks their lights before setting off on a journey. If you don't spend so much time checking your car, you may wonder why people are flashing their lights at you everywhere you travel. It might be that your daring driving style has upset them, but, occasionally, they will be flashing to let you know your lights are not working.

Changing a tail light bulb is a simple, if slightly confusing, task. Even for the non-mechanically minded, it is quite straightforward to do. Your first job is to switch your lights on and check around the car to see if any are not working. In this case, it is the tail light.


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.

The Tail Light Puzzle

It is really difficult to see anything without climbing into the boot. In addition, it is dark inside the hatch. And finally—even when you can see—nothing is obvious. Which bit goes where? What do you unscrew? Use a torch to have a look and familiarise yourself with the position of wires and retainers.

Tail light assembly with cover removed

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Pull Out the Light Housing

Tail lamp assembly coming out. photo by Matt Wright, 2008

Once you have removed the screws and placed them someplace where you won't lose them, you can pull the entire bulb assembly, or housing, out of its hole. You won't be able to pull it out too far because of all the wiring holding it in, but you don't need much space. Just make sure you don't pull too hard on the wiring. Most assemblies will pull out as a whole, but some have a removable outer cover. These are even easier to work with, so if you have one consider yourself lucky.

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.

Pull Out the Old Bulb

Remove the old bulb and replace. photo by Matt Wright, 2008

Finally! You can see the light (or lack thereof) at the end of the tunnel—a dead bulb. Your bulb either pulls straight out (as most bulbs these days do) or requires a quarter turn like the bulb holder. Remove the bad bulb and put the new one in. Retrace your steps to put everything back in place and scratch this particular maintenance item off your list until next time. Now you're legal and safe.


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