Replace Car Tail Light Bulbs

Every bulb on the outside of your car serves as a safety function. This may seem obvious, but think about how often you see somebody driving around with a tail light out, or with only one brake light. Many people don't replace them until they get pulled over and have to try to avoid the fine from the police officer. Start at step one for an easy way to replace car tail bulbs!


  1. Find the burned out bulb. Do this by having someone stand behind the car, and you or the other person apply light pressure to the brake pedal. Whichever light doesn't come on is the one out. Also, check the turn signals.
  2. Check your owner's manual. This will have what type of bulbs you'll need to purchase from your auto store. You can also look online or ask someone at the store.
  3. Purchase the bulbs at your local auto store.
  4. Open the trunk or hatch. Look to the burnt out tail light.
  5. Access the light.
    • For a car twist off the black nuts. They are small plastic that you will have to twist off so you can pull back the gray/black insulator panel auto makers put in cars. You will then find extra twist nuts holding your rear light housing.
    • For a van, you will find plastic push pin locks. You will have to use an interior pry bar or a screw driver to release the push pin. When you start doing this, you want to be careful to not break them. The plastic push pins are known for breaking when releasing them, so do not rush through it.
    • For a truck, you will want to put the bed door down and locate the two or three holes on the bed corner. The holes will lead you to the screws that are holding the light housing in place. You will need a long style screw driver to remove the screws.
#Hold the light housing out to disconnect the wire harness or remove the wire harness before pulling the light housing away. There will be one to two wires for your wire harness. They could be a push release or have a latch that has to be moved to release the wire from the rear light housing. This example is from a car.
#Locate the burnt out light bulbs in the rear light housing. Find the bulb on the back side of the rear light housing. 
  1. Twist bulb to the left. It will release after a quarter to half turn. Then, pull the bad bulb out.
  2. Install the new bulb in the receptacle. Twisting it to the right. Making sure it is completely locked in the rear light housing.
  3. Put the rear light housing as close as you need to your vehicle to reconnect your wire harness to the rear light housing or put the light housing flush the vehicle and connect the wire harness.
  4. Move the rear light housing back to the original place on your vehicle. But make sure while you are doing this, that you don't pinch your wire harness between your vehicle and the rear light housing.
  5. Replace the housing.
    • With a car, you want to place the extra plastic twist nuts that was the last ones you took off on first. Then move the gray/black insulator panel back to its place. Place the first plastic twist nuts back on.
    • With a van, you will have to hold the light housing and want to place the push pins in their correct place and push them into the panel to lock in the rear light harness.
    • With a truck, this will be difficult, but you will need to hold the light housing and use the screw driver to screw the screws back in the bracket and light housing.
  6. Test the new light bulbs.