How to Change a Brake Light in 5 Easy Steps

How to Change a Brake Light in 5 Easy Steps


Changing a brake light is a straightforward DIY task that can save you both time and money.

Not only is it a critical safety feature of your vehicle, but learning how to replace a brake light bulb yourself can also prevent a trip to the mechanic.

This guide will walk you through the process step-by-step, ensuring that your vehicle remains safe and roadworthy.

How to change a brake light?

Main Content

Step 1: Gather Your Tools and Materials

  • Replacement Bulb: Check your vehicle’s manual for the correct bulb size and type.
  • Screwdriver or Wrench: Needed to remove the brake light cover or assembly.
  • Gloves: To keep your hands clean and protect the bulb from oils on your skin.
  • Cloth: To clean the brake light assembly before installation.

Step 2: Access the Brake Light Assembly

  • Locate the Brake Light: Look at the rear of your vehicle. Brake lights are usually mounted in the tailgate or on the corners of the rear.
  • Remove the Cover: Use a screwdriver or wrench to remove any screws or bolts holding the brake light cover in place.
  • Take Off the Assembly: Carefully remove the assembly to expose the bulb.

Step 3: Remove the Old Bulb

  • Identify the Bulb Socket: Locate the back of the brake light assembly where the bulb is fitted.
  • Twist and Pull: Grasp the bulb socket and turn it counterclockwise to unlock it. Pull it out gently.
  • Remove the Bulb: Pull the old bulb out of the socket. It may also require a slight twist.

Step 4: Install the New Bulb

  • Prepare the New Bulb: Open the package of your new bulb. Handle it with a cloth or gloves to avoid getting skin oils on it.
  • Insert the Bulb into Socket: Align the new bulb with the socket and insert it gently. If necessary, twist to secure.
  • Test the Bulb: Before reassembling, turn on your vehicle’s power and test the new bulb by pressing the brake pedal.

Step 5: Reassemble the Brake Light

  • Reinsert the Socket: Once the bulb is tested and working, reinsert the socket back into the brake light assembly and twist it clockwise to lock.
  • Attach the Assembly: Place the brake light assembly back and secure it with the screws or bolts.
  • Final Testing: Conduct a final test to ensure everything is working properly.


By following these five simple steps, you can successfully change a brake light on your own, ensuring your vehicle’s safety features remain in top condition.

Not only does this DIY project save you a visit to the mechanic, but it also empowers you with more knowledge about your vehicle’s maintenance.

Step 1: Identify the Faulty Brake Light


Before you can replace a brake light bulb, it’s important to accurately identify which one is faulty. This step ensures that you’re fixing the correct light and addresses any safety issues related to non-functional brake lights.

How to Identify the Faulty Brake Light

  • Check Dashboard Indicators: Start by looking at your vehicle’s dashboard for any warning lights related to the brake lights.
  • Visual Inspection: Have someone press the brake pedal while you observe the lights from the rear of the vehicle. Look for lights that are dimmer or not illuminating at all.
  • Single Light Failure: If only one brake light is out, it’s typically a burnt-out bulb.
  • Tail Light vs. Brake Light: Ensure you are checking the brake light, not the tail light. Tail lights are on with headlights; brake lights illuminate only when the brake pedal is pressed.
  • Light Function Test: To differentiate, turn on your vehicle’s headlights to check the tail lights and press the brake pedal to test the brake lights.
  • Dashboard Warning: If there’s a specific brake light indicator illuminated on your dashboard, this can direct you to the problem.

Tips for Effective Checking

  • Safety First: Perform these checks in a safe location where the vehicle is stationary and on a level surface.
  • Use Helpers: Enlisting someone to assist by operating the brake pedal can make it easier to identify issues.
  • Daytime Checking: Conduct these tests during daylight to ensure visibility is optimal for identifying dimness or non-functioning bulbs.

This initial step is crucial as it guides the rest of the replacement process, ensuring that you address the correct issue and maintain your vehicle’s safety integrity.

Step 2: Remove the Old Brake Light Bulb


Removing the old brake light bulb is a critical step in the replacement process. This involves carefully handling the bulb and its socket to avoid damage to the electrical components.

Detailed Steps to Remove the Old Bulb

  • Access the Plastic Base: Start by locating the plastic base or housing that holds the brake light bulb. This is usually accessible from the trunk or the rear of the vehicle.
  • Follow Manufacturer’s Instructions: Each vehicle has specific instructions for accessing and removing the brake light bulb. Refer to your vehicle’s owner’s manual for detailed steps.
  • Twist to Unlock: Carefully twist the plastic base counterclockwise to unlock it from the socket. Some models may require a slight pull or push to release the clip that holds the base in place.
  • Remove the Bulb: Once the base is unlocked, gently pull the old brake light bulb straight out from the socket. Be careful not to apply excessive force, which could break the bulb or damage the socket.
  • Dispose of the Old Bulb Properly: Handle the old bulb with care and dispose of it properly to avoid any environmental hazards or personal injury.

Additional Tips

  • Use Gloves: To prevent oil from your skin from touching the new bulb (which can shorten its lifespan), it’s a good idea to wear gloves when handling bulbs.
  • Refer to Tutorials: If you’re unsure about any step, automotive bulb replacement tutorials are available online that provide visual aids and can be very helpful.
  • Check Bulb Type: Before removing the old bulb, ensure you have the correct replacement type and size ready. Incorrect bulbs may not fit or function properly.

This step is essential not only for the functionality of your brake lights but also for maintaining the overall safety of your vehicle. Proceed with caution and ensure all actions are performed securely.

Step 3: Install the New Brake Light Bulb


Installing a new brake light bulb is a precise process that ensures your vehicle’s brake lights function correctly and reliably. Proper installation is crucial for safety and performance.

How to Install the New Bulb

  • Prepare the New Bulb: Before you begin, confirm that the replacement bulb matches the specifications for your vehicle. This includes the size, type, and wattage.
  • Insert the Bulb into the Socket: Carefully align the new bulb with the socket. Make sure the pins or connectors on the bulb match the socket’s configuration. Gently push the bulb into the socket without forcing it.
  • Secure the Bulb: Once the bulb is properly seated, rotate it clockwise until it locks into place. You should feel a slight resistance followed by a click indicating the bulb is securely installed.

Tips for Successful Installation

  • Avoid Touching the Bulb: Use gloves or a clean cloth to handle the new bulb. Oils from your skin can shorten the lifespan of the bulb.
  • Check Alignment: Make sure the bulb is not tilted or improperly seated as this can affect the light’s function.
  • Test Before Reassembling: Before putting everything back together, test the bulb by turning on your vehicle’s power and pressing the brake pedal. Check from the rear of the vehicle to ensure the light illuminates properly.

Final Checks and Confirmations

Before you put everything back together, there are two crucial steps you need to take:

  • Confirm Bulb Security: Make sure to reaffirm the bulb’s stability within its socket. A bulb that isn’t secured properly can lead to inconsistent lighting function or even damage the bulb or the socket. A quick physical check to ensure the bulb is firmly in place can save future hassles.
  • Reassembly Readiness: Before moving ahead with reassembling the brake light housing and cover, make sure that the new bulb is functioning correctly. This step is just as vital as installing a new bulb because ignoring it may lead to re-doing all the steps if something goes wrong.

By diligently following these steps, you’re not only ensuring the correct installation of your new brake light bulb but also maintaining the safety standards of your vehicle.

Remember, each component, including a small brake light bulb, plays a significant role in ensuring your vehicle’s safety and smooth operation.

Approaching this task with care and precision not only helps you avoid a trip to the auto mechanic but also offers a chance for you to understand your vehicle better.

There’s a certain level of satisfaction derived from being able to maintain and repair your own vehicle.

It does not just save money; it also helps you become more self-reliant and knowledgeable about your vehicle’s workings.

Step 4: Test the Functionality of the New Bulb


Testing the new brake light bulb is a crucial step to ensure it operates correctly after installation. This not only confirms the functionality of the bulb but also verifies the safety of your vehicle.

Testing Procedures

  • Initial Test: With the vehicle in a stationary position, turn on the ignition. Activate the vehicle’s headlights to ensure all lights, including the brake lights, can be assessed in their functional state.
  • Brake Pedal Test: Press the brake pedal while someone observes the brake lights from the rear of the vehicle. This is to ensure that the new bulb illuminates promptly and brightly.
  • Confirm Uniformity: Check that the light output from the new bulb matches that of the other brake lights. This includes brightness and color, ensuring a consistent and functional display.


  • Check for Non-Illumination: If the new bulb does not light up, revisit the installation steps. Ensure the bulb is correctly seated in the socket and that it has been twisted securely into place.
  • Connection Issues: If the bulb still does not work, double-check the connections for any signs of damage or misalignment. Also, inspect the bulb itself for any defects.
  • Repeat Tests: Once adjustments are made, repeat the functionality test to confirm the bulb now works as expected.

Final Verification

  • Road Test: If possible, conduct a road test in safe conditions to observe the brake light operation during actual driving scenarios.
  • Longevity Check: Monitor the brake light over the next few days to ensure it continues to operate without issues.

By following these testing steps, you can confidently ensure that your new brake light bulb is functional, secure, and compliant with road safety standards. This preventative measure contributes significantly to your vehicle’s operational safety and efficiency.


Embracing DIY Brake Light Replacement

Replacing your brake light by yourself is not only a practical skill but also an empowering approach to vehicle maintenance. This simple DIY task can yield significant benefits in both time and cost savings.

Benefits of DIY Brake Light Replacement

  • Cost-Effective: One of the main advantages of replacing your brake light on your own is the substantial saving on labor costs. Mechanics and auto shops can be expensive, and learning to handle such tasks yourself can free up budget for other essential maintenance.
  • Time-Saving: DIY brake light replacement eliminates the need to schedule appointments and wait at repair shops. You can perform the replacement at your convenience, making it an ideal solution for busy individuals.
  • Simplicity and Accessibility: With basic tools and our step-by-step guide, changing a brake light is an achievable task for most car owners, regardless of their mechanical expertise.

Encouragement for First-Timers

If you’ve never attempted to replace a brake light before, this might seem daunting at first. However, as you’ve seen through the steps outlined above, the process is straightforward and requires minimal tools.

By taking control of this aspect of your car’s maintenance, you not only learn more about how your vehicle works but also gain a sense of accomplishment.

Final Thoughts

DIY projects like brake light replacement not only enhance your understanding of your vehicle but also contribute to your confidence as a car owner.

They demonstrate that with the right guidance, anyone can handle common car repairs.

We encourage you to embrace these small repairs as opportunities to ensure your vehicle is safe, functional, and well-maintained, all while enjoying the savings and satisfaction that come with doing it yourself.

By adopting this DIY approach, you ensure that your vehicle remains in optimal condition without the added expense or time commitment of professional services. Try it out the next time your brake light needs replacing, and experience these benefits firsthand!