How to Replace a Brake Light Bulb

How to Replace a Brake Light Bulb? 7 Easy Steps

Brake lights are an essential component in every car as they warn other drivers that you are slowing down or coming to a stop. A faulty brake light can cause issues on the road and, therefore, needs to be replaced as soon as possible. 

So, how do you replace a brake light bulb? Your car manual will specify the bulb and tools you need for the task. Replacing a brake light entails removing the old bulb and replacing it with a new one, then replacing the bulb housing.

Changing your brake light is a simple task that you can complete faster than going to the mechanic. Join us as we outline the steps you should follow when replacing your car’s brake light.

How to Replace a Brake Light Bulb? Step-By-Step Process

Here are the steps you can follow when changing your brake light at home:

How to Replace a Brake Light Bulb

1. Identify the broken brake light

Each tail light usually has a couple of bulbs. Therefore, you have to confirm that the brake light is the issue before replacing it. You also have to determine which brake light is damaged so you can change it.

Ask somebody to sit in the driver’s seat and press the brake pedal a few times. You should be at the back of the vehicle monitoring the brake light activity. 

Identifying the faulty brake light may also help you when searching for the correct substitution bulb.

Identify the broken brake light

2. Buy the right bulbs

Before changing your brake light, check your car’s manual for any specifications on what bulb you should get. Different cars require varying brake light wattage for the bulb. 

A higher-wattage bulb may be tempting because it is brighter than one with a lower wattage. However, using a bulb with a higher wattage can cause it to overheat, which can eventually cause the socket to melt. 

Check the light hours rating before you buy the bulbs. This metric describes the bulb’s lifespan, which ranges between 250 and 650 hours for the average brake light. 

3. Remove the tail light cover

If the brake light bulb is accessible from the outside, you might need to remove a cover or access panel. This task may involve removing screws or clips that you should store safely. You can use a screwdriver.

For most cars, the tail light section is accessible from inside the trunk. Therefore, you have to open the trunk and check behind the damaged bulb. There, you will find wires and a plastic base where the brake light is located.

Remove the tail light cover

4. Take out the old bulb

You can start by removing the brake light socket. Twist and pull on the socket to pop it out. 

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Once the brake light bulb is exposed, you can remove it from the tail light assembly. For some cars, the bulb can just be pulled out, while in others, you have to twist and then pull.

Confirm that the replacement bulb you want to use matches the older one you just took out.

5. Replace the brake light bulb

Ensure you have gloves on when handling the new bulb to protect it from damage. The oil and salts on your skin can reduce the effectiveness of the process. They can concentrate the heat in the bulb, increasing the chances of it burning out sooner than expected.

You can apply dielectric grease at the end of the bulb to reduce corrosion, thus protecting your brake light components. 

Slowly direct the bulb’s end toward the socket and insert it into the same socket that had the old bulb. Turn the bulb counter-clockwise and check to see whether it is firmly attached to the socket.

Replace the brake light bulb

6. Test the new brake light bulb

You can ask someone to help you make sure the new brake light is working. 

They can turn on the car’s electrical system and press the brake pedal a few times. Ensure that during this process, the emergency brake is engaged or the transmission system is in the park.

Meanwhile, you should be at the back of the car checking to ensure that the brake light turns on. 

7. Replace the tail light housing

After you have confirmed that the brake light works properly, you can reinstall all the parts you took out. Gently fit the housing back in its initial position and use the screws or clips you removed earlier to reattach it.

If your old bulb breaks, ensure you wrap it in plastic or paper before throwing it in the trash.

Why you should replace broken brake lights

Brake lights are an important communication tool in cars. They alert drivers behind you when your car is slowing down or coming to a stop. This signal reduces the risk of collision, thus improving road safety.

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Broken brake lights interfere with these essential functions. Therefore, they increase your chances of getting into an accident whenever you have to slow down or stop driving. 

Brake lights are also connected to other important systems in your car. For instance, your car’s shift lock override may turn on when one or more of your brake lights are damaged. 

The shift lock should prevent your car from shifting from the park when nobody is in the driver’s seat to reduce the chances of collision. Activating the shift lock override allows your car to shift into gear, which increases the likelihood of an accident.

Why you should replace broken brake lights

The proper operation of brake lights is especially important when driving in harsh weather. The bad weather significantly reduces road visibility, making it harder for drivers to judge distance and speed. 

A broken brake light in such weather significantly increases the chances of collision when you press the brake pedal.  


The following are some common queries people ask about replacing brake lights:

Q: How often do I need to replace my brake lights?

You should replace your brake lights whenever they show signs of damage. Most brake light bulbs have a lifespan of about three years.

Q: What happens if you drive with a broken brake light?

If a police officer spots you, they may give you a verbal warning and instruct you to fix the issue as soon as possible. You could even get fined for the offense since driving with a broken brake light is a road safety hazard.


Understanding how to replace a brake light bulb is an important skill to have as a car owner. The process takes a short time and is cheaper than visiting an auto shop to fix the issue. You can do it at home using a few tools and a guide.

It mostly entails choosing the right bulb, removing the old bulb, and replacing it with a new one. You should also test the bulb afterward to ensure that it works properly. It is important to replace a broken brake light as soon as you can. They are used for communication among drivers to prevent accidents.

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