Troubleshooting And Repairing Issues With Your Taillights

If you're sitting at a stop light and someone pulls up next to you and shouts "Hey, you've got a taillight out!" it's likely a simple problem. Once you get home, with a couple of household tools and maybe a trip to the auto parts store, you'll have the problem fixed before you get pulled over and get a ticket. Here is what you'll do to fix that taillight problem.

One or Both Lights?

Working on the taillights is easier if you have a friend to help. Have them get in the car and turn on the lights while you stand behind the car. Notice which light is not working. Troubleshooting the problem is easy:

  • If only one light is not working, it's a burned out bulb that needs to be replaced.
  • If both lights are out, it's likely a fuse. It's highly unlikely that both bulbs are burned out at the same time so you can assume it's a fuse problem for now.

Changing a Burned-Out Bulb

What you'll need to do this project:

  • Phillips screwdriver
  • a couple of rags
  • replacement bulb

The auto parts store will have a chart to help you pick out the right bulb for your car. Or ask one of the clerks and they'll find it for you.

Once you have the replacement bulb:

  1. You'll get to the bulb in one of two ways. Look at the plastic lens covering the taillight and if there are screws holding it in place, remove the screws and pry off the lens to expose the bulb.
  2. If there are no screws, you'll access the bulb from inside the trunk. Open the trunk and look at the back of the taillight assembly. Find the socket holding the bulb which is screwed into the panel. Turn the socket counterclockwise and pull the socket out of the panel.
  3. With the bulb exposed now, remove it from the socket. If the bulb has a round base, push the bulb into the socket gently while turning counterclockwise, then pull the bulb out.
  4. If the bulb has a flat base, pull the bulb straight out of the socket.
  5. Line up the new bulb in the base and push it in if the bulb has a flat base, or push and turn clockwise if it has a round base.
  6. If you accessed the bulb from inside of the trunk, push the socket back into the panel and turn clockwise until you feel it snap into place. If you accessed the bulb from under the lens, wipe any dirt and grease off of the rubber seal around the lens, place it back onto the car, and insert the screws to secure it.

Changing a Fuse

You shouldn't need any supplies for this project.

  1. Find the owner's manual for the car.
  2. Look up the section on the fuse panel. It will have a diagram showing which fuses work with the different parts of the car.
  3. Find the fuse associated with the taillights.
  4. Find the fuse panel which is usually located on the driver side of the dashboard or in the glove compartment.
  5. Open the panel and look for the taillights fuse.
  6. Pull the fuse straight out of the panel.
  7. Match the fuse with the spares located in the panel or on the cover.
  8. Push the new fuse into the panel in the socket for the taillights.
  9. Replace the fuse panel cover.

Problems You May Encounter

If you have any of these problems, you need to take the car to an car repair shop to have them fix it:

  • Replacing the fuse doesn't fix the taillights. You may have a wiring problem.
  • The base of the bulb is corroded and you can't get it out of the socket.

To get professional help, contact an auto repair shop such as Southside Auto Repair