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How to Replace Brake Light Bulbs

Brake Light Bulbs

You use your brake lights every time you drive your car. If you own your car for several years, chances are you’ll eventually need to replace them. There are a few basics to keep in mind when figuring out how to replace brake light bulbs, including the tools you need, the difficulty of the repair and what to do if your brake-light assembly is difficult to remove.

1. Find replacement bulbs

First, identify the correct bulbs for your vehicle, as improper replacement can result in major electrical problems. Your owner’s manual will have a list with the proper bulb sizes and voltages for the various lights throughout your vehicle.

2. Apply grease

Before you install the new bulb, apply a small amount of bulb di-electric grease to the end. This prevents rust or corrosion, and makes it easier to remove your bulb the next time you need to replace it.

How to Replace Brake Light Bulbs3. Disconnect electricity

Because you’re working on the electrical system of your car, you need to disconnect the positive lead from the battery.

4. Lens type

Determine what type of lens assembly you have. The two most common are stationary lens assemblies and removable lens assemblies. Most vehicles have instructions on how to access these in the owner’s manual. Inspect your vehicle to see what tools, if any, are needed to remove your brake assembly.

With a stationary lens assembly, the individual bulbs and wiring are self-contained and mounted into the assembly, which is fixed to the vehicle. After removing the lens cover, you typically must disengage a locking mechanism to remove the bulb from the lens. Once this is done, you will be able to replace the faulty bulb, and reinstall the lens cover.

For removable lens assemblies, you have to detach the entire light fixture. As you pull out the assembly, look for a wiring harness, which usually attaches to the brake light bulb, back up bulb and any other bulbs mounted in the fixture. It’s important not to damage these wires as you remove the assembly. In most cases, you need to locate a locking mechanism to release the wiring harness. Once the assembly is disconnected, you can replace the bad bulb and reinstall the fixture.

5. Take care

When you are replacing the bulb, be extra cautious if the glass portion has separated from the metal housing on the bottom. Because this metal is sharp, it’s best not to try to remove it by hand. With a pair of needle-nose pliers, gently grab the edge of the metal part of the bulb to remove it.

As car design evolves, exterior lighting has become more complex. Many newer vehicles have bulbs and lighting assemblies that are difficult to remove. If your assembly is inaccessible or complicated, take your vehicle to your local NAPA AutoCare to replace the brake light.

Check out all the lighting parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how to replace brake light bulbs, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Sarah Shelton View All

As a freelance automotive writer, I create articles, how-to guides, web content and white papers for online magazine site and automotive companies. I passionately believe that cars and motorcycles should be appreciated for the works of art they are, and fantasize about owning a white Ducati 899 Panigale to display in my living room. I am currently the Corvette expert at, cover alternatively-fueled vehicles and technology at, and hold the imaginary title of Formula One test driver on the back roads surrounding my Oregon home.

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