Cost To Fix a Tail Light

Cost To Fix A Tail Light

Last Updated on December 27, 2023
Written by CPA Alec Pow | Content Reviewed by Certified CFA CFA Alexander Popinker

You are driving down a dark deserted highway during the night. A vehicle passes you and blinks its lights, then another vehicle does the exact same thing. You hear the noise of sirens and you pull over. The police officer informs you that one of your tail lights is out. As he gives you a ticket, you start to ask yourself just how much all of this is going to cost you. Much of it will have to depend on what type of vehicle you have. The number of lights you will have to change is also pretty important.

Tail Light Replacement Price

If a bulb will stop working on your tail light, it will cost around $20 to have it changed. If the assembly will have to be changed expenses will vary considerably. If you go to a car dealership or automobile parts shop to get a brand-new tail light assembly, you will pay anywhere between $200 to $2000 for each assembly. If you have a high-end vehicle, you will pay much more than that. If you do it yourself, you can get the expense to a rate somewhere between $30 and $250 per assembly.

Typical Tail Light Issues

There is a wire inside the bulb that produces light that is called the filament. One way to determine a bad bulb is to take it out of the socket in which it is found and take a look at the filament. If the filament is broken you will need to change the bulb.

If you replace the bulb and it does not work, there might be one of a few other things bad with the assembly.

A Bad Fuse

The circuit box is the first thing you should look for when any electrical element is not working. A fuse is a piece of metal inside a plastic housing. When the current going through it is too strong, it will break. It can really be a good thing when it breaks since it will protect the other parts of the electrical system from damage. There are a number of different locations where a circuit box may be situated.

You might also like our articles about the cost of fog light installation, car headliner repair, and laser fog light.

You will first off need to look in the main fuse box that you will be able to find under the hood. You will see a black box that has plenty of wires connected to it. Just remove the cover to access the fuses within.

The 2nd location you must look at is inside the cabin of the car. It tends to be on the front passengers’ side. You must look behind a plastic panel that you will notice below the dash. In some cars, you will need to open the passenger door all the way to see it.

Bad tail light fuse

Each fuse is connected to an electrical part. You will notice where each fuse goes and what it does when you take out the covering to get to the fuse. You can also find this info in your owner’s handbook. You can also lookup a year, make, design, or a particular diagram online.

When you find the fuse that runs the automobile’s tail lights, you can check it with an automobile circuit tester. The tester will illuminate if the fuse is working. If it does not illuminate, the fuse must be changed with a similar one because it has to have the exact same amperage. There are some fuses where you can see a break in the metal wire when the fuse isn’t working.

Faulty Tail Light Bulbs

If the fuses are functional, you will wish to take a look at the tail light bulbs themselves. You are most likely to have to remove the tail light cover. Nevertheless, some cars have a way to access the panel. If this will be the case, just twist the bulb out of its lens.

Socket Failure

Sometimes your car’s sockets might stop working. If a bulb is plucked into a damaged socket it will not work. Wetness getting in the socket can make a socket fail. A socket might also stop working if it is wired incorrectly.

If the bulb and fuse both look all right, you will need to take the bulb out and analyze the socket. If the socket is stained or if the pins are broken or bent, the socket is most likely bad.

You can also inspect the electrical current at the socket with a multimeter. If there is not any electrical energy reaching the pins, your vehicle might have a significant electrical issue.

Worn out Electrical wiring

If electrical energy is not being sent to the socket, and fuses are all in working condition, there might be a bad or broken wire anywhere along the line. This is the point where things can get rather complicated and you might have to take your vehicle into a shop.

If you choose to continue checking the vehicle yourself, you will have to get an electrical wiring diagram. You will need to ensure the wires do not have any split or broken cases.

You will need to take a look at the ground strap too. The ground strap is the thick black wire that connects to the battery’s negative terminal to the chassis of the car. A broken ground strap will not be able to provide electrical energy to the sockets effectively.

Control Switch Failure

Taillights may also stop working due to the fact that the switch on the dash that runs them is defective. If the wires look undamaged, you will need to take a look at the control switch.

The very same switch typically switches on headlights, parking lights, and tail lights. You will have to pull the switch out from the dash and check it with a multimeter to find out if it is working.

A Damaged Ambient Light Sensor

Red Brake lightNewer cars have an ambient light sensor that can be seen on the dash. This lets the vehicle’s computer system change the luminosity of the headlights and tail lights based upon how light or dark it is while traveling.

Some ambient light sensors also turn off daytime running lights. If your brake lights switch on but your parking lights and headlights do not, there might be something very wrong with the ambient light sensor.

When this sensing unit is damaged or dirty, it won’t sense if it is light or dark outside, so it will not switch on the lights at all. If the headlights work when you turn them on by hand, you are practically sure to have an issue with the ambient sensor.

Searching for the reason for electrical failure can be quite difficult. Nevertheless, tail light bulbs generally have their own circuit, so the issue can be determined very fast.

Bear in mind that brake lights and tail lights tend to be connected to different circuits.

When tail lights are not working, you must have them repaired immediately, because they are an important part of your vehicle’s safety gear.

If you wish to change the tail lights yourself, you will require specific tools and some time.

Tools Required to Change a Tail Light Assembly

The tools you will require for tail light replacement will depend upon your vehicle. You will have to consult your owner’s manual or Google your vehicle and “tail light assembly replacement” for information. Nevertheless, you will probably require screwdrivers, cogs, and shatterproof glass.

Should You Get the job done Yourself?

Taillight replacement takes a while, however, it is one of the much easier types of car repair work you can do yourself. If you were to make a mistake it should be much easier to repair than if you tried to repair your brakes yourself. Nevertheless, if you do it improperly it can damage your car. Safety measures are essential since you can injure yourself as you are dealing with electrical wiring.

Actions Required for Changing a Tail Light

Before you start, consult your owner’s handbook. You might have to eliminate the rear bumper to reach the tail light.

A conventional tail light assembly will utilize small bulbs. You must keep in mind that each car has its own system. It is necessary to examine the specifications of your car and know that this is simply a general guide.

How to Remove a Tail Light Assembly

  • Don the shatterproof glass prior to you do anything.
  • Detach the negative battery cable.
  • If you have to remove the rear bumper, do it. You might have to use both types of screwdrivers for this. When you get the bumper off you should be able to get a clear way to the tail light assembly.
  • Separate the bolts and screws that are securing the assembly in place.
  • Pull the assembly out of the vehicle. If there are retainer clips securing the assembly in place, move around with severe care as you separate the assembly from the clips.
  • Remove the electrical accessories from the back of the assembly.
  • If your replacement tail light assembly does not include brand-new bulbs, you will have to get the old bulbs and sockets and set them aside so you can reuse them. In a lot of vehicles, you will need to turn the bulb socket counterclockwise to separate it from the tail light assembly.

How to Set Up The New Tail Light Assembly

  1. Ensure the brand-new tail light assembly corresponds to the old one.
  2. Put the bulbs and sockets back in if needed.
  3. Reconnect the electrical accessories.
  4. Mount the tail light assembly. It must go into the retainer clips that are connected to the back of the automobile.
  5. Reattach the tail light assembly bolts or nuts. Tighten them till they are safe, but make sure not to overtighten them. The factory repair work info must provide specs on how tight they must be. It is recommended to utilize a torque wrench.
  6. Reattach the rear bumper or interior trim panel if it is needed.
  7. Reconnect the negative battery cable.
  8. Taillights are made of plastic which is not that durable. Take enough time and care when changing these parts.

If all this seems like too much work for you, bear in mind that you can always take your vehicle to a mechanic for this job. If you choose to do this, you will have a number of alternatives for where to go for the repair work.

Taking Your Automobile to a Car Body Shop

The majority of people think that auto body shops are the very best alternative for repair work. They cost less than mechanics at a car dealership and you can talk to them straight.

You need to ask if they are licensed in your model of car and get a written price quote from them. Check them out on the Bbb site and ensure they do not have any problems or negative reviews.

Taking Your Vehicle to the Car dealership

You can also take your car to the dealership for repair work. They might be more pricey than other mechanics, however, they will be well trained in the make and design of your vehicle. Once again, tail light assemblies differ from car to car, and they are fragile, so it might be beneficial to go to a car dealership in this case. They will also have all the required parts on hand which can mean less waiting time for you.

Alec Pow
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