Causes of A Broken Tail Light and How to Fix It

Tail lights are essential car safety features that alert you when other drivers are nearby at night. This helps to reduce car collisions at night. If you have a broken tail light, it’ll impair your visibility at night, increasing the risk of road accidents.

Fortunately, tail lights do not break often. Or at least, you can prevent them from breaking by taking preventive measures. The replacement procedure is so simple that even a DIY and amateur mechanic can handle it.

This article will explain how to fix a broken tail light, its causes, and why you should fix it. We’ll also discuss broken tail light costs. But first, let’s see the common causes of broken tail lights.

broken tail light repair

What causes a broken tail light?

Like other mechanical and electrical car system components, a few factors can cause a broken tail light. Let’s see the common and most prevalent reasons a tail light will stop working.

Blown fuse

Most electrical and electronic system components have fuses that control them. These fuses prevent the electrical or electronic components they’re guarding from blowing up when there is a power surge.

These fuses have a simple design of two terminals and a tiny metal strip across the terminals. One terminal receives electric flow from the electrical system and transmits it to the other terminal through the metal strip across them. The second terminal directs the electric current to the component they are guarding.

If there’s a power surge in the system, the tiny metal strip across the two terminals will cut, preventing voltage from transferring to the principal component they are guarding. This will prevent the critical component from damaging and also prevent it from working.

Typically, this can be the reason your tail light stops working. We published a well-detailed article that explains what a blown 30-amp fuse looks like. Check it out to know what any blown fuse looks like.

Dead bulb

The light bulbs in your car will eventually die under regular use. They do not last the lifespan of the vehicle. And tail light bulbs are no exception. If you suspect a dead bulb is why the tail light stopped working, remove the broken tail light cover and inspect the bulb inside.

Inspect the bulb by looking at it. If it has loose wires, or it is black and scorched or has a broken filament, the bulb is dead and needs replacement.

Faulty tail light socket

The tail light bulb socket can malfunction due to rust or debris. It can also deteriorate or stop working due to a short or open electrical harness.

Read Also: What Causes Turn Signal Blinking Fast?

How do you fix a broken tail light?

Since several issues can cause tail lights to stop working, there are several ways of rectifying the problem. We’ll look at these methods and see how to fix broken tail light plastic covers and the light.

Inspect and replace the damaged fuse.

As explained above, the bulb will stop working if the tail light fuse blows. If this is the leading cause, replacing the light bulb will not rectify the issue until you track and replace the blown tail light fuse.

Firstly, you have to find the fuse, locate the blown fuse and replace it. The fuse box is usually located under the steering wheel and in the engine compartment, close to the battery. It is a black rectangle box with a ‘relay & fuse’ inscribed on it.

The fuse box cover has a diagram that indicates what each fuse controls. Locate the one controlling the tail light and replace it. This is all you need to repair a broken tail light if it is the root cause.

Inspect the tail lamp wiring harness.

The tail light fuse connects to the light bulb through the socket wiring harness. Inspect these wires through the lid on the trunk to see if they are loose, frayed, burnt, or damaged. If the wires are loose, reattach them. If they are frayed, burnt, or damaged, replace the wires.

Inspect the taillight bulbs.

If diagnoses prove the fuses and the wiring harness are in good working condition, the light is likely the root cause. Remove the plastic light cover with a screwdriver to examine the taillight bulbs. If the cover does not have screws, see if it has clips or if you can asset the light bulbs from the trunk.

Unscrew the bulb from the socket and inspect it. Look at the filament inside the bulb and see if they are intact. If you’re unsure if the bulb is still in good condition, slightly tap the light bulb on your hand and see if any particles are vibrating or moving inside the bulb.

Replace the bulb once the inspection confirms you have a blown bulb. You can get the replacement online or from nearby local auto spare part shops.

Examine the taillight plastic cover.

After checking and rectifying issues with the fuses, wiring harnesses, and light bulbs, examine the taillight plastic cover and ensure they are in good condition. If the taillight cover is cracked or broken, it’ll allow water passage into the bulb housing, causing the bulbs to burn out prematurely.

Since leaving a cracked or broken taillight will cause premature bulb burnout, we’ll explain a temporary fix for a broken tail light cover to prevent water from entering the housing.

However, you can replace the tail lamp or search for “broken tail light repair near me” to help experts fix the broken lamp.

Fix the cracked or broken tail lamp.

Get a lens repair kit. Firstly, remove the cracked tail lamp using a screwdriver. After that, clean and dry the cracked surface with a clean cloth. Then, re-clean the surface with a lint-free towel wet with alcohol and allow it to dry.

Now, cut a lens repair tape slightly bigger than the cracked surface. Place the lens repair tape on the cracked or broken surface. Take off the lens backing plate and let it smooth out the air bubbles. Kindly note that this is a temporary fix, as I explained earlier. So, you’ll have to replace the tail lamp when you have the money.

Fix broken or gouged surfaces with lens repair resins

If there’s a hole or gouged surfaces on the tail lamp, get a lens repair kit that has resins for filling gouged or broken areas. You can get lens repair resins at an online or nearby local auto store.

To fix the gouged spots,

  • Grab a lens repair tape that comes with the repair kit and tape the outside of the lamp to hold and prevent the resin from leaking when you apply it.
  • Put on protective gloves and mix the resins with a coloring agent and a catalyst. Read and follow the instructions on the repair kit.
  • After mixing the resin, grab the syringe and pour it into it.
  • Spray the resin into the gouged spot and let it sit for two hours.
  • Take off the tape on the other side and sandpaper the surface.

broken tail light law

Is it illegal to drive with a broken tail light?

A broken tail light will not affect your vehicle’s drivability or stop you from driving. However, it is illegal to drive with a broken tail light. For this reason, fixing a broken tail light is crucial to avoid going against your local laws. The cops can pull you over and issue you a broken tail light ticket for driving with burnout taillights.

Besides, it also increases the risk of road accidents. Similarly, if you were asking, is it illegal to drive with a broken tail light cover? The simple answer is yes nonetheless; if you have a broken tail lamp and don’t have extra cash to buy a new one, follow the above guides on how to temporarily fix a broken taillight cover.


Can you drive with a broken tail light?

Yes, you can drive with a broken tail light. However, that doesn’t mean you should because it is against the law. A broken tail light law, or the section of the law that talks about broken tail lights, states that every vehicle is required to have two working tail lights in good condition. Plus, the lamps and lenses have to be clear and in good condition.

How much does it cost to fix a broken tail light?

It is difficult to say the exact broken tail light cover cost because several factors, like your car make and model, region, and the mechanic fixing it, determine the repair cost. Meanwhile, if you have burnout tail light bulbs and or fuse, you’ll only spend between $10 and $50.

But if the root cause is damaged wiring, cracked or broken tail light assembly, the cost of fixing it will range from $75 to $1,500. Kindly note that this is an estimated range, meaning you can spend less or more than the above price depending on your vehicle’s make and model.

What do I do if my tail light cover is broken?

If you have a small crack on your tail light cover, some craft glue may be all you need to fix it. But if the light is broken or has a hole, you’ll need to get a lens repair tape or a lens repair kit with resin to fix it.

Scroll up and check the guide above on how to use lens repair tape and lens repair resin. Follow the instructions religiously for an effective result.

Can you get a broken tail light fixed?

You can fix a broken tail light with the above instructions without professional assistance. Whether the tail light is not coming on or the cover is broken, you can fix it yourself. Scroll up and follow the above directives if you want effective results.

However, if you do not understand the underhood working principle, have an experienced mechanic track and rectify the leading cause of the problem.

Does AutoZone fix broken tail lights?

Autozone understands that tail light replacement is a simple DIY fix you don’t need to take to a mechanic. A tail light bulb replacement is an affordable fix that will cost you $6 to $20 if you want to fix it yourself.

Autozone, however, does not offer tail light or brake light replacement services. Instead, their service technicians can guide you on the process and procedures of fixing a broken tail or brake lights. They can even give you a hand if you visit any of their service outlets.

What happens if you drive without a tail light?

We explained earlier that driving with a broken tail light is illegal. So, police can pull you over and issue you a ticket if you drive without tail lights. This is because the broken tail light CVC 24252 says all tail lights shall be in good working order.

In any case, if only one tail light is out, a reasonable officer will pull you over and warn you to fix it as soon as possible without issuing you a ticket. So, if you were asking, can you get pulled over for a broken tail light, or can you get a ticket for a broken tail light? You now know the answer.

Can you put red tape over a broken tail light?

You can cover a broken tail light cover with red tape. However, there’s a safety issue you have to consider before using red tape on a broken tail light cover. Using red tape will impair the light bulb visibility, making it challenging for oncoming drivers from behind to see your car. Though, it may be the only temporary option in an emergency case.

How long does it take a mechanic to fix a tail light?

Fixing a tail light is one of the simplest tasks for mechanics. Replacing a dead tail light bulb will take mechanics 30 minutes to 1 hour. The mechanic may spend 1 hour 30 minutes, or more if a frayed or damaged electric harness is the root cause.

Can you just replace the cover of a tail light?

Of course. If your tail lamp comes with a cover and the main housing, you can replace only the cover. However, getting such cover in auto spare part shops may be difficult. But you can replace it if you get it anywhere, either in a mechanic shop or in a junkyard.

Final Words

In summary, a broken tail light won’t repair or replace itself. And the longer you ignore it, the more it increases the risk of getting into a road accident. Plus, the officers may pull you over and issue you a ticket for driving without tail lights. These explain why you should track and fix the leading cause of a broken tail light.

This article has also pointed out how to diagnose and rectify the problem. All you need is to follow the guide above and resolve the underlying issue.

Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a certified mechanic with over a decade of experience in the mechanic garage, and he has over five years of experience in the writing industry. He started writing automotive articles to share his garage experience with car enthusiasts and armature mechanics. If he is not in the garage fixing challenging mechanical problems, he is writing automotive repair guides, buyer’s guides, and car and tools comparisons.

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