How to Replace a Pickup Truck Tail or Brake Light Bulb

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This Isn't Like Your Accord

Pickup truck tail or brake light bulb replacement.
Replacing a truck bulb is more complex than a passenger car. photo by Matt Wright, 2009

You may have changed headlight bulbs or tail light bulbs in the family car, but if you've never had the chance to replace a tail light or brake light bulb in your pickup you may be surprised. Unlike the convenient access door your Taurus may have, the truck's tail light and brake light bulb is protected, sealed, and a pain in the neck to replace, at least compared to the car's bulb. This informative how-to will help you out, it's really not that tough.

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Unbolt the Tail Light Lens Assembly

Unbolt the tail light lens to get to the replace the brake light or tail light bulb stage.
The first step is to unbolt the tail light lens. photo by Matt Wright, 2009

Sometimes the bolts that hold your tail light lens in place on a pickup truck can get pretty cruddy from exposure, so if you have any lead time, spray them with a little penetrant (like Liquid Wrench or PB Blaster) to make sure they're nice and loose.

The first step is to locate and remove the bolts that are attaching the lens. They will be easy to access once you poke your head around to find them. And you can't replace your bulbs with the lens on!

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Remove the Tail Light Lens

Pull truck's tail light lens assembly away from the body.
Carefully pull the lens away to expose the bulbs. photo by Matt Wright, 2009

With the bolt or bolts removed, you can carefully pull the tail light lens away from the truck body. It will probably still be held in place by some clips or rubber sockets -- carefully pull these out so the only thing holding the lens in place are the wires.

If you'd like to unplug all of the bulbs' wiring, you can, but you don't usually have to. The lens is so light it can usually hand there by the other wires while you change the offending bulb.

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Replace the Bulb

Install the new bulb in your truck's lens.
Carefully install the new bulb. photo by Matt Wright, 2009

With the lens out you now have access to the bad bulb. This is the easy part. Pull the bulb and replace it with a new one. Be sure to align all of the little notches and grooves so that the bulb will slide in easily. If you're having to force it in, you probably don't have it right!

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Test the New Bulb!

Testing the replaced light bulb.
I like to test the bulb before I put the whole thing back together, trust me on this one. photo by Matt Wright, 2009

This may sound silly, but it's always a good idea to test the new bulb you just put in. Believe me, once you've gone to the trouble of reassembling an entire truck tail light only to discover that you bought a bum bulb you'll see that the extra 30 seconds to test it are well worth it!

Testing Tip: If you're reading this on the couch you may have wondered how you're supposed to push the brake pedal and check the bulb at the same time. Here's how!

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Reinstall the Lens

Reinstalling the tail light lens with a nice new bulb.
Carefully reinstall the lens. photo by Matt Wright, 2009

Now that you know you have a good bulb in place, you can reassemble everything. First put the lens back in place, pressing the rubber clips or what have you back in carefully. Then reinstall the bolts.