Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Tail Lamp Bulb

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One of the most annoying situations is being pulled over by a police officer due to a burnt out tail light. However, even more frustrating is calling the insurance company after you've been rear-ended by another motorist because they didn't see brakes lights due to a burnt out $2.00 part. The tail lamp bulbs are arguably the most important yet least expensive parts on any car, truck, or SUV that can have a huge impact on our daily lives. It is for this reason among others, that being able to identify a problem with your tail light bulb and repair it as soon as possible is more important than you might have previously assumed.

The tail light bulb on most of today's modern cars, trucks, and SUVs operates the tail light and brake light. On many vehicles, these two independent lights are triggered by different light bulbs, but it's becoming more common that both applications are illuminated by one, multi-filtered bulb. They are activated when the headlights switch is engaged, in either the parking or headlight mode. Due to the frequent use, light bulbs do have a lifespan which means they need to be replaced occasionally. Most ASE certified mechanics subscribe to the philosophy of replacing all tail lamp bulbs at the same time.

Noted below are a few of the symptoms of a bad or failing lamp bulb. If you notice any of these, make sure to replace your tail lamp bulbs as soon as possible.

Tail lights do not work when the headlight switch is activated

As noted above, different automotive manufacturers have different tail lamp bulb configurations. In many cases when the lights don't work when the headlight is turned on, it is caused by a burnt out or short circuited tail lamp bulb. Unfortunately, this is often not discovered until a police officer or somebody else informs you of this problem. A good rule of thumb is to check this once per week. Simple turn on your headlights, walk to the rear of your vehicle and ensure that both lights are active and illuminating. If you notice that one or both are burnt out, replace them with the recommended lamp bulb or have an ASE certified mechanic complete this work for you.

Brake light doesn't work when brakes are applied

The tail lamp bulb can also trigger the rear brake lights as well. This item is very difficult for the individual to inspect, but it is always a good idea to have somebody help you complete this important safety inspection. As noted above, once per week, take a few minutes during your day or evening to check if all brake lights are working. If the parking lights work (meaning the rear lights that turn on when the headlights are active), but when pressing the brake light the light does not work, have the tail lamp bulb replaced.

A common issue people have is when the parking lights work, but when the brakes are pressed, the tail lamp bulb turns off completely. This is sometimes caused by a short in the tail light system or a fuse. Either way, if you notice this problem, have an ASE certified mechanic inspect and replace it as soon as possible to avoid any safety or legal issues with the police.

Set up routine service for lamp bulb replacement

Since it's nearly impossible to diagnose a lamp bulb before it has burnt out, a good safety rule is to set up an annual or bi-annual period to replace them. Many people have the tail lamp bulbs replaced every other oil change, during tire replacement or when they have their air conditioning serviced. A crack in the tail lamp lens might also cause the rear lights to malfunction. Any of these maintenance check-ups are great times to be proactive about replacing the tail lamp lens or bulbs – even if they are not due for replacement.

Tail lamp bulbs are vital to the safe operation of your vehicle. Taking time and investing $10.00 once per year to ensure your tail lights don't fail you not only can protect you and others riding in your car, truck, or SUV, but can also reduce the potential of being pulled over and cited by law enforcement.


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Arturo

25 years of experience
42 reviews
Arturo
25 years of experience
Volkswagen Tiguan - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - La Jolla, California
Arturo was efficient and extremely professional. I'll refer him to friends and family and call him for any issues related to my car. I am very happy with the service!
Kia Forte - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - San Diego, California
ARTURO is great! very professional , fast, replaced my front brake pads and oil an filter change. everything now works and works well. Brakes have much improved stopping power and engine is smooth and quiet.Arturo is also kind and thoughtful. "Your mechanic" is very fortunate to have Arturo Lopez represent your company. I enthusiastically recommend him and "Your mechanic> as a fine operation Best regards to the Team Peter Marto

Travis

11 years of experience
312 reviews
Travis
11 years of experience
Ford Explorer Sport Trac - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Minneapolis, Minnesota
Travis is great! This is the second time he has come and serviced our truck. I recommend Travis for any service ned you may have!
Subaru Forester - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Rosemount, Minnesota
Thank you Travis for your fast, easy, honest work on my vehicle today!! The first thing you did upon arrival to my home was find me a discount coupon for $50 off my service estimate. You did only what needed to be done in record time. You not only saved me lots of money, but did things in a profession manner. I've been looking for an honest auto mechanic for my whole life and would love for you to be it!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!! You're the best!!!

Scott

32 years of experience
346 reviews
Scott
32 years of experience
Hyundai Sonata - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Denver, Colorado
Arrived on time and worked quickly. Gave me detailed information on his completed work and the details of my car. Answered all of my questions thoroughly.
Lexus IS250 - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Denver, Colorado
Always on time, speedy, professional, and pleasant to interact with. The work is always consistent and we'll done. I can't reccomend Scott highly enough!

Nicholas

9 years of experience
251 reviews
Nicholas
9 years of experience
Lexus GX470 - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Clayton, North Carolina
Nicholas texted me 30 minutes prior to arrival. Showed up on time as scheduled. He confirmed the work that I requested be performed. He completed the work, performed the road tested, and delivered my keys along with recommendations of other work that might be in my best interest. Was very pleasant, professional, and cleaned up after he was done. I was so impressed with the service he performed and the speed at which the services were completed. I have already scheduled a future service with Nicholas and will schedule any and all future repairs with him if he is available.

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