How to Fix the Tail Lights in a Car


Learning how to fix the tail lights in a car doesn’t require too much skill and it is most often a task that you can do yourself. Just like all bulbs the tail lights in a car burn out over time and will need to be replaced.

A few other things could cause the tail lights to fail that I want to talk about first. Learning how to fix the tail lights in a car is the easy part. Discovering the cause of the problem can save you money down the road.

Grab your car’s owner manual and check the index at the back of the book to see which page shows the fuse box. The picture in the book will have each fuse listed along with a number and small description of what the fuse powers. Find the fuse that powers the tail lights.

Locate the tail light fuse in the fuse cluster beneath the dash board. The fuse box may have a black cover over it that just pops right off. If you don’t see the fuse box, look on the top, left side of the dashboard. You should see a plastic cover that you can pop out of place as well.

Find the tail light fuse in the cluster and pull it out. Don’t turn or twist the tail light fuse. Hold the fuse up to the light to see if it’s blown. Just like a light bulb, the tail light fuse has a piece of metal within it that connects to each side of the contacts.

If the metal inside the tail light fuse has a line/break in it or it looks like it’s burned away, the fuse is bad.

Don’t put in a new tail light fuse just yet, let’s check a couple of other things out. Fuses also blow over time but often fail because of some kind of electrical problem. Walk to the rear of the car and inspect the tail light assembly.

Check for any holes or cracks in the lens. Pop the trunk and check the rubber seal around it for cracks or breaks. If you notice, damage to either you should fix the problem. A water leak will only get worse if it’s not fixed.

Trailer Kit – Even if you had your kit installed professionally, check the wires that lead to the tail lights. Some of the wires may have come loose and could be the reason why the tail light bulbs don’t work.

These wires obviously get power to them and a bare wire bouncing around, making contact with other metal will definitely cause the fuse to blow.

If the tail lights still don’t work after checking the tail light fuse, tail light assembly and trailer kit wiring, check the tail light bulbs. Most cars have access panels within the trunk, against the left and right side of the license plate wall.

The tail bulb’s socket can be removed by twisting it a quarter turn to the left. You should feel it unlock from its position. Carefully pull the socket away from the tail light assembly. Check the bulb as you would with any home light bulb.

Just like the fuse the filament (metal) within the bulb should not be broken.

If the bulb is blown, pull it out, replace it, and then install a new tail light fuse. If the tail light bulb is not blown you should consider taking the car in to have its electrical system tested. Definitely shop around for the best price if you choose to take the car in for repair.

Tips: Many auto shops send coupons in the junk mail that can reduce the cost of the check up. If neither of your tail lights work, you should not be driving at night.