How to Replace Tail Lights

As you drive on the roads and highways, your primary goal should be to reach your destination safely and without any incidents. Obeying traffic laws and driving wisely aren’t the only ways to do this. It’s important to keep your vehicle in good shape and make sure it is operating correctly. This is true for something as simple as a tail light. When night falls or bad weather strikes, it won’t be easy for other drivers to see your car if one or both of these lights are out. Replacing tail light bulbs is critical, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.

Don’t Put It Off

Responsibly owning and driving a vehicle requires maintenance and attention to detail. It is easy to forget about issues or put them off until a later date. You shouldn’t drive around too long without a tail light. Not only does this pose a danger for others on the road, but it’s also illegal. You could get cited for this infraction, even on a first instance. Other drivers may rear-end you if they can’t see your car’s tail lights. They may lose control trying to avoid your car once they notice you’re there. Take care of this issue as soon as you can.

The Issues

As you look around, you’ll notice that this isn’t an uncommon problem. Taillights fail frequently for many reasons. The bulb itself may have burned out, as these don’t last forever. There could faulty wiring or a disconnected wire somewhere. Accidents could cause the light to crack or break as well. You may have to replace the light and the light cover in some cases.

Why Do It Yourself?

Even if you are not the handiest person in the world, this is a task you should be able to handle. You don’t have to be a mechanic or even have experience replacing vehicle bulbs. This is an ideal project for a first-timer. It’ll take you more time to finish this than it would for a professional or someone with more experience. However, you’ll be able to save and learn an important skill.

Be Prepared

It’s important to know what to expect with any car maintenance or repair job. Fortunately, tail light bulb replacement isn’t difficult and shouldn’t take you more than 45 minutes to an hour to complete. Be aware that newer models may be a little more complicated than older ones, as there will be more wires to disconnect. Make sure you grab a screwdriver, socket wrench and a pair of gloves before starting the replacement process.

How to Change Tail Light Bulbs

1. Safety First

Safety is critical anytime you are working with bulbs and wires. Start by disconnecting the car battery. This will reduce the risk of shock or electrocution. Once you have done this, you’ll need to access the tail lights through the trunk or rear hatch. It will be helpful to do this in a well-lit place, or you can grab a flashlight. There could be extra carpet or padding in the way of the access point. Move these away until you can easily see the back of the taillights. Some cars have a panel you’ll have to remove, so have your screwdriver handy.

2. Remove the Bulb Holders

Once you can see and touch the taillights, remove the bulb holders from the rear side of the lamp. You can do this by moving them clockwise. Remove the broken or burned-out bulbs; be careful to not cut yourself if the bulbs are broken. Put on a pair of gloves and replace the bulbs with the new ones. The gloves will help keep the bulbs clean, thus preserving their life and effectiveness.

3. Remove the Assembly

Your job isn’t quite done yet. Next, you need to remove the tail light assembly. Once you find and take out the nuts, this shouldn’t be a problem. It may require you to use some grease or oil to help free the nuts. The assembly should easily slide out at this point.

4. Final Processes

When you’re ready to put the assembly back in the housing, first hand-tighten the bolts before using a ratchet. It’s important to not tighten these too much, as they have a tendency to crack or break the housing. Replace the bulb holders. These should look different than the turn signal lights and brake lights. Finish up by replacing the carpet and any panels in the trunk. Don’t forget to reconnect the car battery.

Test Them Out

You may feel good about learning how to change tail light bulb, but your job isn’t quite done yet. Before you put all your tools away and drive off, make sure you did everything correctly. Turn on the lights and see if the taillights are working properly. This is also a good time to check the turn signal lights and brake lights. If they are not, you may have skipped a step. Retrace your steps and try again.

Choosing the Right Bulbs

The most effective way to get your hands on the correct tail light bulbs is to head to AutoZone and shop online. The website has just what you’re looking for to complete this job. You can schedule an in-store pickup, or you can have AutoZone ship them to your place. This site also has taillights assemblies, lenses and covers, so stop by today to check out the selection.

Though your car will run just fine without tail lights, this will create an unsafe environment for you and for cars on the road around you. These lights are priced within anyone’s budget and are simple to install. Following these guidelines, and you should be able to put in your new lights correctly and quickly.

Advice, how-to guides, and car care information featured on and AutoZone Advice & How-To’s are presented as helpful resources for general maintenance and automotive repairs from a general perspective only and should be used at your own risk. Information is accurate and true to the best of AutoZone’s knowledge, however, there may be omissions, errors or mistakes.

Be sure to consult your owner’s manual, a repair guide, an AutoZoner at a store near you, or a licensed, professional mechanic for vehicle-specific repair information. Refer to the service manual for specific diagnostic, repair and tool information for your particular vehicle. Always chock your wheels prior to lifting a vehicle. Always disconnect the negative battery cable before servicing an electrical application on the vehicle to protect its electrical circuits in the event that a wire is accidentally pierced or grounded. Use caution when working with automotive batteries. Sulfuric acid is caustic and can burn clothing and skin or cause blindness. Always wear gloves and safety glasses and other personal protection equipment, and work in a well-ventilated area. Should electrolyte get on your body or clothing, neutralize it immediately with a solution of baking soda and water. Do not wear ties or loose clothing when working on your vehicle.

FREE Loan-A-Tool® program requires returnable deposit. Please note that the tool that you receive after placing an online order may be in a used but operable condition due to the nature of the Loan-A-Tool® program.

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