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How to Properly Install or Replace a Tail Light

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How to Properly Install or Replace a Tail Light

Tail lights, also called tail lamps, are the pair of lights that are on both rear corners of a vehicle. They have multiple functions that all contribute in keeping the driver safer. Their main purpose is to increase visibility and a let other people on the road know what the driver is doing. For example, at night, the tail lights are illuminated so that it is easier to see the vehicle. The lights also get brighter when the driver is braking to indicate that anyone driving behind needs to slow down as well. In addition, turn signals and reverse lights are sometimes integrated into the tail lights. They blink to show which directing the vehicle is going to turn, and the reverse lights alert everyone that the vehicle is going to back up.

Driving without a functioning tail light is not only unsafe, but it is also a traffic violation. Luckily, owners can fix their tail lights on their own by following some simple instructions.

Shopping for a Replacement Tail Light

Before the installation process can begin, owners must first shop for the replacement bulbs and tail light covers if necessary. There are many options to consider because stock replacement parts are not the only thing available. Custom lighting not only gives the vehicle a new look, but they may also be brighter or cheaper than the stock parts.

Types of Tail Lights

As technology progresses, so do the kinds of bulbs that are available for tail lights. For example, some last much longer and are more visible in the dark.

LED Tail Lights

LED lights are capable of tripling a driver's range of vision. Though this is less of a consideration for tail lights than headlights, because of the different technology used to build them, they also last far longer than traditional bulbs do and they are much more durable. This is because they do not have a filament in them that can get damaged by the weather or burn out. In addition to this, they require less battery power to operate which is easier on the vehicle and more energy efficient. They do cost more that the majority of the other options, but since they last longer, they are usually worth the extra investment.

Halogen Tail Lights

Halogen lights are also brighter and have a longer lifespan than the standard incandescent lights. Although they aren't as energy efficient as LEDs, they still use less power to run than incandescents. However, since they have a filament in them, they are susceptible to damage if they are not properly shielded from the weather. Make sure that the cover is sealed tightly and replace the gasket if needed.

HID Tail Lights

High intensity discharge (HID) bulbs get their light from superheated xenon gas. They are often used for flood lights and offroad lights because they are so bright. However, they do have a higher price tag to consider. Usually these are only put on high performance cars.

CCFL Tail Lights

Cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFL) tail lights give vehicles a unique look because of their halo shaped light pattern. The concentrated light beam penetrates further down the road than standard lights do so they are ideal for those who often drive on the highway at fast speeds.

Tail Light Cover Styles

Tail lights for every kind of vehicle come in three different styles: OE, euro, and altezza. Depending on what people shop for, the style may consist of just a new cover, just the bulbs, or replacements for both.

OE Style Tail Lights

Original equipment (OE) tail lights are the most affordable because they are basically the same as the stock parts. However they are made by other companies so their quality varies. The convenient thing about OE products is that they are guaranteed to fit and install with ease.

Euro Style Tail Lights

The Euro style tail lights are becoming more popular around the world. They have the similar exotic appearance of the LED bulbs but at a lower cost. The covers come in different colours, but all of them are transparent, making the bulbs behind them more visible.

Altezza Style Tail Lights

The altezza style tail lights originated from the first Lexus IS. It consists of a clear cover and a cluster of round, red lights beneath. The look is very futuristic and unique so it often appeals to the younger generation drivers.

How to Install Replacement Tail Lights

Installing new tail lights is a very simple process, but keep in mind that the steps may vary slightly depending on the make and model of the vehicle. For this reason, it is important to look through the owner's manual before beginning the project.

Step 1: Gather Everything Needed

Start out by gathering all of the supplies needed for the work. No exotic tools should be needed for this project unless specified by the owner's manual.

Things to Have for the Project



Protects the hands from wires and sharp objects

Owner's Manual

Needed for vehicle specific instructions since all automobiles are different

Replacement Bulb

Must be compatible with the vehicle make and model

Replacement Cover

May not be needed of the old cover is not cracked, but a new cover style can give the vehicle a fresh, clean look

Screwdriver or Socket Wrench

Needed to remove and install screws and bolts

Small Container

This keeps all of the removed screws in one place during the project so that they do not get lost

Keep in mind that once a person starts this project, it is best to continue on until it is finished. Leaving and coming back later can cause confusion about where they left off and it could be unsafe if there are open wires exposed.

Step 2: Remove the Tail Light Cover

Unscrew the tail light cover from the vehicle. Then place all of the screws into a container so that they do not get lost. If there are multiple kinds of screws, label them with tape.

Step 3: Remove the Bulb

Unscrew the bulb from the socket. Some bulbs have to be pushed in slightly before they will unscrew. Those who have not yet bought a replacement bulb can then take the old bulb to a local shop to find a new one that matches.

Step 4: Clean the Light Casing and Install New Bulb

Before putting in the new bulb, clean off the socket so that there is a good connection. The bulb may have to be pushed in slightly before it will screw into place.

Step 5: Replace the Tail Light Cover

Use the screws in the container to replace the tail light cover.

How to Shop for Replacement Tail Lights on eBay

Rather than going around town looking for new tail light parts, consider shopping online where you have a larger selection to pick from. Simply go to the eBay homepage and enter "tail lights" into the search bar. Once the list of products appears, you can begin sorting through them. If you want something in particular, be more specific in your search. For example, you can try looking for "LED tail lights" or "Euro tail lights".

To make things easier, you can specify the make and model of your car so that only the lights compatible with your vehicle will be displayed. After you have made a few selections, compare the prices, postage costs, and the seller's reviews to find the best deal.


Keeping the external lights on a vehicle in working condition is mandatory. Without them, other drivers would have a more difficult time seeing the vehicle and would not know when it is about to turn, stop, or backup. Unfortunately, taking a vehicle to a mechanic is frustrating because they usually take a while to complete the repairs and they charge a lot. Rather than dealing with a mechanic, owners have the option of doing the repairs themselves. In most cases it is a simple project to replace and install tail lights that can be completed quickly. All people have to do is choose the type of bulbs they want as well as the style. Then they can replace the tail lights by following some simple instructions and checking their work with the owner's manual.

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