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Tail Lights

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What are tail lights and where are they located?

Tail lights are also known as taillights, tail lamps, taillamps, brake lights, brake lamps, rear lights, or rear lamps. The funny thing about them is that not all tail lights are considered brake lights, but all brake lights are considered tail lights. Confused? The automotive world is a plethora of confusion, especially when it comes to naming the parts.  Luckily, we’re here to make sense of it all for you.

Let’s go back to basics for a moment: On the back of any car, you’ll find some lights with red lenses. Those lights are most commonly called “tail lights,” because that’s exactly what they are: lights on the tail end of the vehicle.  Makes sense, right?  Now, if somebody were to hop inside that vehicle and tap the brake pedal, some of those red colored lights on the back of the vehicle will illuminate. The lights that illuminate can be called “brake lights” or “tail lights,” because they light up when the brake pedal is pressed. However, the vehicle may also have other lights on the rear of the vehicle that turn on with the headlights, but do not light up with the brakes. Those would only be called tail lights, because the brake pedal has no connection to them whatsoever.

So why do we even have these things stuck to the back of our cars and trucks? Well, if the vehicle behind you can see you and understand your intentions, then everybody on the road is safer because of it. Having rear lights on a car, truck, or SUV flat out prevents car accidents. Because the color red draws your eye’s attention, all vehicles must use red lights for brake lights. And that’s why state inspectors are so strict about them working properly. 

What’s a third brake light?

The third brake light is a great addition to the automotive world. They make driving safer for all vehicles. Imagine for a moment that you are in traffic, driving a large 4-wheel drive truck, and the car in front of you is a tiny two-door hatchback. In a traffic situation, it’ll be hard to see the hatchback’s brake lights since the nose of your truck is higher than its tail lights. This can be a scary scenario for everybody involved. The third brake light solves this problem by positioning itself in the center rear of the vehicle. By the mid -1980s, the center mounted (third) brake light became a requirement on all vehicles in the United States.

When to replace tail lights

You should replace tail lights after signs of physical damage, yellowing or faded tail lenses, moisture build up, worn out looks, or burnt out internal circuit boards. It’s a good idea to replace tail lights immediately, as it’s a serious safety concern for you and the drivers around you. Let’s review the variety of reasons:

  • Yellowing or faded lenses - Over time, plastic lenses tend to glaze over and lose their clarity. This significantly cuts down on the amount of light that shines through them. You don't realize just how much light is missing until the new set of tail lights is in place.
  • Moisture- Sometimes old tail lights will allow water inside, and this moisture is extremely difficult to get rid of. Moisture can shorten the life span of bulbs dramatically. Our brand new aftermarket replacement lights are the highest quality and won't allow water inside.
  • Worn out looks- Cracked or punctured tail lights can make your car an eye sore, as can old lights. New tail lights can remove an old and worn out look, especially if you want your car to look its best and have the highest resale value. Clean rear lights always help.
  • Internal circuit boards- Some vehicles have circuit boards built into the tail lights. These circuits burn out over time, and often can't be replaced by themselves. This means that the entire tail light assembly needs to be replaced even if the lens itself is perfect.

How long do tail lights last?

The tail light housing will usually last the life of the vehicle, but external factors can affect this. Tail light bulbs also have a chance of lasting the life of the vehicle. Many manufacturers claim LED bulbs can last up to 25,000-50,000 hours, but that’s not always a given. Incandescent can last from 750-1,000 hours.

How do I replace a tail light or tail light assembly?

Replacing your tail light assembly can be very easy. Most vehicles have tail lights that can be replaced by a do-it-yourselfer with basic hand tools.  It usually requires a ratchet set and possibly a Phillips or flat head screwdriver. Sometimes the bolts can be hidden, so a repair manual or online instruction can be extremely helpful.

  • Open the trunk
  • Remove any interior padding that might be covering the tail light bolts
  • Remove the bolts or screws from the tail light housing
  • Disconnect the wiring harness from the bulb socket
  • Turn the bulb socket counterclockwise
  • Pull the bulb off of the socket
  • Press the new bulb on to the socket
  • Turn the socket clockwise
  • Connect the wiring harness to the bulb socket
  • Replace the bolts or screws to the tail light housing
  • Replace any interior padding you might have removed

How much do tail lights usually cost?

A single tail light can cost $80-$100, and an assembly can cost $160-$180. Include an hour of labor at $100, and a tail light replacement cost can be $180-$300. If you buy an aftermarket part and fix it yourself, the cost can range from $40-$90 for a single tail light and $80-$180 for a tail light assembly.

Need new tail lights?

You have come to the right place for your replacement tail lights. At 1A Auto we make shopping for (and understanding) car parts easy. All of our tail lights are DOT (U.S. Dept. of Transportation) and SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) approved. They are among the highest quality replacements available. Call our customer service toll free at 888-844-3393 if you have any questions about our products, warranty, compatibility, or to make a purchase.


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