Fixing a broken brake light can be done at home without the need to spend money on a mechanic. Brake lights are said to be failing when they are dimmer than usual or do not respond to the brake pedal at all. If this is the case you need to replace a failing brake light.
Every Car has a brake light whose primary function is to warm others behind you of your intention to stop or that you are in the process of slowing down. It is not uncommon to see people driving with broken tail lights because as long as the vehicle’s other components are functioning properly, we intend to ignore this “small light” located at the back of our car or in some cases on the spoiler or the top most part of the rear window.
Your car has three tail lights in one compartment, the reverse light which I would refer to as the clear light, the amber or yellow light, also known as the signal light, and the red light commonly referred to as the brake light. The brake light has two functions, one is to alert tailing traffic that you are in front of them especially at night and the other function is to alert others that you have pressed on the brake pedal.
The reason why you need to know how to change a brake light is to avoid causing accidents or getting a ticket from law enforcers.
What You Will Need
These are the potential tools and replacements that are needed:
- Toolkit with slotted and Philips head screw drivers
- Wiring diagram of the tail lights
- Pigtail light socket
- Bulb for replacing the old one
- Fuse in case the installed one is faulty
What to Do
#1: Removing the Bulb
To access the rear light compartment, you can either access the brake light through inside of the vehicle through the trunk or by removing the brake light lens.
a) Through the Trunk
Open the trunk and pull the carpet on the section that covers the rear light area. Look out for clips or lock mechanism that may be holding the carpet in place. Once you are able to see the wiring that leads to the tail lights, identify which one connects to the brake light.
b) Through the Lens
Unscrew the tail light housing by using the Philips-head screwdriver. Pull out the light housing but be careful not to stretch too far because some wires may still be attached to it. You will see the bulb you are looking for and get ready for the next step.
#2: Pull Out the Brake Light Socket
Before you access the bulb you need to tug the bulb socket in an anti-clockwise direction to remove it from the lens. You may need to use pliers if the light socket seems to be stuck inside. Removing this socket exposes the brake light bulb. Look out for any sign of burnt filament or some sort of blue discoloration which is a clear indicator of a faulty bulb.
#3: Unscrew the Bulb Holder
This is done by a quarter turn to get it out of position. The Bulb holder is a plug that holds the bulb in place and connects it to the light assembly to complete the circuit.
#4: Pull out the Old Bulb
If it does not come out by pulling it off, try the quarter turn trick and see if you are able to get it off. Before pulling it off, make sure that you had previously turned the lights off and that the bulb is not too hot to touch.
#5: Install the New Bulb
Take the new bulb and place it in the brake light socket by half turning it in a clockwise direction. You have to make sure it has the same ratings as the bulb you are replacing and the connectors are similar.
#6: Re-mount the Brake Light Socket
Make sure that it fits well and cannot move easily. To lock it in turn it in a clockwise direction.
#7: Test the Brake Light
You can either get another person to help you test if your new installation by pushing on the brake pedal and see if it works. If you cannot find a person, you can place a brick or something heavy enough to put pressure on the pedal and walk back and see the results of your test. Please note that any flicker on the bulb means that the bulb is loosely connected. If you managed to get a full light, congratulations you know how to change a brake light.
#8: Remount the Tail Light Housing
You have to do everything in reverse order making sure that you align the housing into position and tighten the mounting bolts.
Now, what happens if everything was done correctly but the brake light does not work?
Here is a video that will guide you on how to change a brake light
What to Do if Brake Light Not Working After Bulb Replacement
If you reach this stage assuming that the bulb if fine, it could mean that your vehicle could be having an electrical problem which may need the attention of a qualified mechanic. Here are the basic things that you can do before you go to an auto mechanic shop.
1. Check the Fuse
Many cars nowadays have their tail lamp fuse placed separately. Look for the fuse placement as shown in your car manual which will give you a detailed view of the fuse you are looking for. Turn off the ignition before opening the fuse cover, locate the brake light fuse and change it. If the fuse is broken (the thin wire inside it is not complete) then you need to replace your fuse.
2. Inspect the Tail Lamp Wiring
These wires are found under the trunk, if you can access the wires directly by lifting the carpet, then check if wires have loose connections between them.
3. Check for Broken Tail Light Lens
A Bulb may fail to light up because it is exposed to water vapour or rain that may enter the tail light housing via a crack. Though this is not usually the case, it is not a bad idea to have them fixed.
Brake lights may fail without warning, replacing brake light bulb does not require any technical knowledge about your car. As indicated in this article, the process is straightforward if you have the right tools for the job. Why do you need to spend money taking your car to a mechanic to do something you can at your own pace and time? If you are not able to replace the bulb successfully you should not fumble over things that may end up causing more damage to your car. My advice is simple, take your car to a qualified mechanic if the steps highlighted in this article cannot help you on how to change a brake light.
The procedures I have indicated above may not apply to all vehicles. Let us know of any steps that you may have tried for your specific kind of car, feel free to add on the very vital points that may have been left out here. Help us see the light by sharing your views and comments on this article.