How to Install or Replace a Tail Light

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How to Properly Install or Replace a Tail Light

Driving with a broken tail light is not only a traffic violation; it is also unsafe. Tail lights alert other drivers to the presence of a car on a dark road and prevent rear-end collisions. They also warn for braking, slowing, and turning. Replacing the tail lights on a vehicle is one of the easiest and least expensive repairs. When a tail light is malfunctioning, there are two potential repairs. One is to replace an individual bulb. The second is to replace the entire tail light assembly.


How to Replace a Tail Light Bulb

A tail light has several functions: as a brake light, a turn signal, and for night-time illumination. Some vehicles have tail lights that perform all three functions with a single bulb, while others have separate bulbs for each purpose, located within the same housing.
To determine which bulb is burned out on a vehicle with multiple bulbs, enlist the help of a friend. Make sure the parking brake is set. Perform each of the car’s tail light functions in turn: depress the brake pedal, activate both turn signals, and turn on the headlights (which should trigger the rear night time illumination lights as well). Have the friend stand behind the car and watch the tail lights to determine which function is broken.
To remove the faulty bulb, first determine how to access the tail light assembly. Some are accessible from the outside, and some from inside the boot. Some have removable covers, which are the easiest to access, while others require removing the entire assembly from the car. Both are secured with screws. If removing the entire assembly, do not pull too far, as it is connected by short wires to the electrical system. Locate the bulb socket and remove it from the assembly. Remove the old bulb from the socket. Place the new bulb in the bulb socket, put the socket into the tail light assembly, and replace the tail light covers or return the assembly to the car.


Choosing a Replacement Bulb

Most old bulbs have a model number printed on them to aid in finding a replacement. If unsure, consult the owner’s manual for a part number. When shopping for tail light bulbs, weigh cost against the features of different kinds of bulb technology.





Conventional, incandescent light bulb
Most common and least expensive

LED (light emitting diode)

Illuminates in a few billionths of a second, which is helpful for reaction time
Lasts longer than conventional bulbs


Brighter than standard bulbs
Use less energy than standard bulbs


Always use bulbs appropriate to the make and model of the vehicle. Always abide by traffic regulations when choosing a new bulb. Nonstandard bulb colours, tinted bulbs, and flashing bulbs are outlawed in some areas.


How to Replace an Entire Tail Light Assembly

If replacing a single bulb does not solve the problem, it means the entire tail light assembly is faulty and must be replaced. It is also necessary to replace the entire assembly if the lens cover or housing is broken or cracked.
First, remove the assembly by unscrewing the screws or nuts securing the assembly to the vehicle. Put all of the fasteners into a paper cup to avoid losing them. Remove the tail light assembly from the vehicle, but do not pull too hard, to avoid putting strain on the electrical wires. Locate the wiring harness on the back of the assembly and disconnect it. Attach the harness into the new assembly. Replace the new tail light assembly into the vehicle body, and tighten all fasteners. Before driving, make sure the new tail light assembly is working by depressing the brake pedal and turn signals while a friend stands behind the vehicle to watch the lights.


How to Buy a Tail Light Replacement on eBay

When a tail light goes out, search eBay for a replacement. Using the search bar on any eBay page, look for specific components such as ‘turn signal bulb’. If an old bulb is imprinted with a code, search the code number, such as ‘1157 bulb’. These bulb codes are standardised across all brands. To purchase an entire tail light assembly, search for the make of any vehicle using terms such as ‘Mazda tail light assembly’. Sellers on eBay offer a variety of car and truck parts for all automotive repair needs.



Replacing a tail light may be as simple as changing a bulb or slightly more complicated requiring replacement of the whole tail light assembly. Either way, eBay offers an easy and convenient way to find the parts needed to make this repair without having to pay a professional.

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