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How to Replace a Car Trunk Light Bulb

open car trunk

This step-by-step guide will outline how to change the light bulb (or bulbs) in your vehicle’s trunk or cargo area when your current bulb has failed. This may seem like a small or trivial system of your vehicle, but having an operational light in your trunk may become a very big deal if, for instance, you get a flat tire on a dark road. You will need to access the spare, a jack, and a tire iron in a tire change scenario, and all of these things are almost always located in the trunk or cargo area of your car.

Part 1 of 2: Removing the old trunk light bulb

Materials Needed

  • Appropriate replacement light bulb
  • Box end or socket wrench (whichever is applicable for disconnecting your battery terminals)
  • Flashlight
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Gloves

Step 1: Disconnect the battery. Use a box end or socket wrench to disconnect the clamp holding the negative battery cable to the negative terminal on the car battery.

This will prevent you from blowing a fuse, but it is also a good habit to develop as a first step to any service or repair involving an electrical part on your vehicle.

Step 2: Locate the trunk light bulb. Pop the trunk open with your key or the handle on the driver’s side floorboard to access the trunk or cargo area of your vehicle.

The light bulb may be mounted on the underside of the trunk door itself, or it may be located on the roof of the inside of the vehicle’s cargo area. Use a flashlight if necessary to find the light bulb.

Step 3: Remove the trunk light bulb housing. Use a flathead screwdriver, or your fingernail if you can, gently get under the lip of the housing along each side. Be gentle and patient, and the side that wants to come out first will start to come loose.

  • Warning: You do not want to break the plastic tabs on the housing, as they are fairly expensive to replace since they are uncommonly serviced parts. If you break one, you will likely have to buy a replacement from a dealership.

  • Note: You will not normally need to remove the housing entirely. There are going to be wires running to the housing, and these will not allow you to remove it completely without first removing the electrical connector. In most cases, for this particular repair you only need to pull out the housing enough to access the bulb.

Step 4: Remove the old light bulb. Use latex or rubber coated gloves to gently pull the light bulb out of the socket. If you try to do this with bare fingers, the oil in your hand may make it slip, and in the off-chance that you squeeze the bulb too hard and break it, you are less likely to cut yourself while wearing gloves.

  • Warning: Be very careful not to break this bulb. This advice is not only for your safety, but just as importantly, if the base of the broken light bulb gets stuck in the socket, you will have quite a tricky situation on your hands. Avoid these issues by using caution when removing the old light bulb.

Part 2 of 2: Installing the new trunk light bulb

Step 1: Reinstall the light bulb and housing. Using gloves, insert the base of the light bulb into the socket of the light bulb housing. There are two basic types of light bulbs used in this application, but both are designed to be installed in either direction.

Type 1 is similar to a household light bulb. These install with either a simple push or with a “push in and twist” motion.

Type 2 has a cylinder shape and is connected by two clips or spring-loaded tabs.

Once you have inserted the new bulb, replace the housing into the vehicle by gently guiding and pressing it back into place.

Step 2: Reconnect the battery and test the new bulb. Slide the negative battery terminal over the negative post of the battery and, using the box end or socket wrench, tighten the terminal cable.

At this point, the job is complete, you just need to test the new bulb. Even without the keys in the vehicle’s ignition, you should have an operational trunk battery. Walk around the vehicle and verify that the light has illuminated.

Then close the trunk, clean up the tools, and you are finished.

After reading through these steps, if you are still uncomfortable tackling this job yourself, or if you’d simply rather have a professional perform the repair, one of the experienced technicians at YourMechanic can come to your home or office at your convenience and replace your trunk light bulb for you.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
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