How to Replace a License Plate Bulb

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The license plate lamps are designed to illuminate the plate and registration tags on your vehicle and make it easily visible to law enforcement. In many states, a burnt out license plate bulb can get you a ticket. It is essential that you replace a burnt out license plate bulb as soon as possible in order to avoid getting a ticket.

A license plate light utilizes a filament housed inside an inert-gas filled glass bulb. When electricity is applied to the filament, it gets very hot and produces visible light.

Bulbs don’t last forever and can fail for a number of reasons, the most common being filament failure from normal use. Other reasons for failure include sealing failure,when the bulbs atmospheric seals is broken and oxygen enters the bulb and breakage of the glass bulb.

If you find yourself in need a new license plate bulb, use the following steps to learn how to replace it.

Part 1 of 2: Remove the bulb

Materials Needed

Step 1: Locate the license plate light. The license plate light is located right above the plate.

Step 2: Determine which bulb has failed. Park your vehicle and set the emergency brake. Turn the ignition to the Accessory position and turn on the driving lights. Walk around the vehicle to determine which license plate bulb has failed.

removing license plate light cover screws

Step 3: Remove the license plate light cover. Remove the license plate light cover retaining screws using a screwdriver.

removing the license plate light lense

Remove the license plate light cover.

  • Note: You may need to use a small screwdriver to pry the cover off.

removing the bulb from its container

Step 4: Remove the bulb. Remove the bulb from its retainer.

Part 2 of 2: Install the bulb

Materials Needed

  • Protective gloves
  • Replacement license plate light bulb
  • Safety glasses
  • Screwdriver

person installing the bulb

Step 1: Install the new bulb. Install the new bulb in its retainer and ensure it is in place.

  • Tip: Refer to your car’s user manual to determine the correct type of light bulb to get for your specific vehicle.

installing license plate cover

Step 2: Complete the installation. Put back the license plate light cover and hold it in place.

installing license plate light lense screws

Install the license plate light cover retaining screws and tighten them using a screwdriver.

Step 3: Check the lights. Turn on your car to check if your license plate lights are fully functional.

Replacing your license plate bulb only requires a little time and know how. However, if you prefer to leave this task to a professional and not get your hands dirty, get a certified mechanic, such as one from YourMechanic, to replace the license plate bulb.


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These are the light bulbs that illuminate your car’s front and rear license plates. Some cars have one per plate; others have two. Traditionally, they have been incandescent; i.e., lit by heating the filament. These bulbs are inexpensive and provide good clean light. However, they die quickly an... LEARN MORE

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