How to Guides

Tail Light Bulb

Zaki Moulvi posted this on Jun 16, 2014

While it is important to have proper lighting in the front of your vehicle to increase road visibility, the tail light is equally important to ensure that oncoming traffic is aware of your presence.

What is the Tail Light?

Tail lights are located on the rear end of a vehicle and are usually used in conjunction with the brake lights.  These are wired with the cars headlights so that when it is dark enough that the headlight needs to be engaged, the tail light will automatically illuminate.  This allows for cars behind you to see your vehicle in the dark.  

International automotive regulations stipulate that the tail lights should always produce a red light.  If combined with the brake light, the lamp will be brighter when the brake system is engaged, and dimmer during normal driving circumstances.  This can be accomplished either with two separate bulbs or by one dual intensity tail light bulb.

Tail Light Bulb

Light bulbs used for the exterior lighting on automobiles needs to be extremely durable to withstand heavy vibrations, changes in temperature and possible exposure to rainwater.  It is extremely important that you always maintain functioning tail light bulbs to ensure your safety, especially during night-time driving.

When originally added to cars, tail light bulbs were incandescent and prone to breakage.  This type of sensitive lighting device could not withstand the heavy use required by automobiles.  Frequent bulb changes were the norm until Cadillac developed a better lighting option for cars that was able to withstand the harsh conditions they were being subjected to.

Today, a car owner has a choice in the type of tail light bulb he installs in his car:

  • Halogen light bulbs were introduced in 1962 and employ a metal sheet at the back of an incandescent bulb to help direct the beam of light in a specific direction.  You will find this bulb being used today in many automobiles.
  • Xenon or HID light bulbs are brighter and last longer than your typical incandescent or even halogen light bulb.  BMW began using this type of tail light bulb in their 1991 line of cars.
  • Light emitting diodes or LED has become a very popular choice today, especially in the luxury car class.  These are energy efficient light bulbs that are extremely bright and long lasting.

Which Type of Bulb is Right for Your Tail Light?

When it comes time to change your tail light bulb, you should always consult with your owner’s manual first.  Tail light bulbs come in an array of voltages and sizes and you will need to know exactly the right kind for your car.  If still unsure, you could always take the existing one out and bring it to an auto parts store to use as a reference.

Be careful if you decide to upgrade your tail light bulb to a xenon or LED light.  If your vehicles tail light works in conjunction with the brake light, then there are certain lighting difference regulations that must be met.  If you are able to upgrade to a brighter light, make sure you do it on both sides to avoid any confusion to the drivers behind you.

Changing Your Tail Light Bulb

Most vehicles will allow you to access the rear light assembly from the trunk of your car, but in some cases you may have to go from the front and remove the lens cover.  Check with your owner’s manual for the specifics in your car.  Changing the bulb is easy once you have access to it, but while you are there you should also examine the wiring closely for any damage.  Many times the bulb itself is not the problem, instead there is a short in the system.

Also important to note is the condition of the lens cover.  If it is loose or cracked you should have it repaired or replaced as soon as possible.  This will help prevent water from entering the assembly and damaging the electrical components.

Of all the exterior lights on your vehicle, the tail light is one of the most important for safety.  As a responsible car owner you should always check that the tail light bulb is working properly to avoid any collision when out driving.

Categories: Autowiki Car Systems