Fixing Your Own Auto Lighting Problems

One of your turn signals or both of your taillights are out just as you're getting ready to head out to do errands. Many car lighting problems can be easily fixed. Before you look for local car repair centers to do the job, here are the steps to do the work yourself and get you safely back on the road.

Fuses and Bulbs

The majority of lighting problems in your car are due to a bad fuse or a burned-out bulb. You can quickly assess the problem with these two simple rules:

  • If both lights in a pair of lights (e.g., headlights, taillights) are not working, the problem is most likely a bad fuse.
  • If one light in a pair of lights is not working, it is most likely burned-out bulb.

In areas of the car where there is only one light bulb (e.g. dome light, trunk light), if the light isn't working, try replacing the fuse first. This is quick and simple to do. If that doesn't fix the problem, you can then change the bulb.

Changing a Bad Fuse

You'll need to locate the owner's manual for the car to change a fuse.

  1. Turn to the section in the owner's manual that lists the fuses and to which lights they correspond.
  2. Find the number of the fuse that controls the light that isn't working.
  3. Locate the fuse panel in the car. It may be in the glove compartment or on the side of the dash nearest the driver's side.
  4. Remove the cover over the fuse panel and locate the spare fuses. They may be in the cover or in a separate section of the fuse panel. If the spare fuse you need isn't there, you'll need to make a trip to an auto parts store to get a fuse before you proceed.
  5. Once you have a spare fuse, locate the fuse in the panel that connects with the light that isn't working.
  6. Pull the old fuse straight out of the panel and push the new fuse into place.
  7. Replace the cover on the panel.
  8. If you used the last spare fuse of that type, head to the auto parts store and replace it as soon as possible so you'll have the spare for future use.

Changing a Bad Bulb

You won't find spare bulbs in your car, so you'll need to go to an auto parts shop and get the bulb first. Have a clerk find the right bulb for you because they will have many styles and sizes available. If you're comfortable changing the bulb, you can even replace it in the parking lot of the parts store so you're driving safely again.

  1. Locate the lighting assembly containing the bad bulb.
  2. Access the back of the bulb and its connector from within the front of the engine compartment (for lights in the front) or the rear of the trunk (for lights in the rear).
  3. Remove the connector and bulb from the light assembly by pushing it in slightly and turning it counterclockwise.
  4. Remove the bulb from the connector as follows:
    • If the base of the bulb is round, push it in slightly and turn it counterclockwise to remove.
    • If the base of the bulb is flat, pull the bulb straight out of the connector.
  5. To insert the new bulb:
    • If the bulb has a round base, push it into the connector while turning the bulb clockwise until it clicks into place.
    • If the bulb has a flat base, push the bulb into the connector until it clicks into place.
  6. Insert the connector and bulb into the light assembly.
  7. Push the connector in slightly while turning it clockwise until it clicks into place.

Potential Problems

While the majority of lighting problems may be resolved by replacing a fuse or bulb, if you experience any of the following issues, take your car to an auto repair shop to troubleshoot and fix the problem.

  • The bulb or connector won't come out because of corrosion.
  • The wires on the back of the connector are loose, frayed or broken.
  • You've replaced the fuse and the bulb but it still doesn't work. There could be a problem with the general wiring in the car and a mechanic will need to track down the issue.