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Your Tail lights (rear lights) worn out? » Read more about common malfunctions • Repair • Replacement manual
Vehicle-specific signalling: rear lights
The rear lights (tail lights) are made up by the lighting combination on the rear of a car and always installed as a pair. Nowadays, three brake lights are compulsory. Although rear lights are model-specific, their price is generally moderate. The rear light modules are very popular means of individual design. The accessory trade offers special rear lights to give your car a sporty and more individual appearance.
Construction of a rear light
A rear light module consists of a housing and a printed circuit board. Most manufacturers provide a circuit board which can be completely separated from the housing, making inspection and replacement of the bulbs considerably easier. The housing has an internal part and an external transparent part. The transparent part is made of coloured plastic. A cone-shaped structure enables an optimal light dispersion. The following lights are integrated in rear lighting:
- reversing lamp (or back-up lamp, white on one or both sides)
- brake lights (red on both sides plus a separate light in the rear centre)
- turn signal (or blinker, yellow or white. When white, a yellow lamp is compulsory)
- rear position lamps (red on both sides)
- rear fog lamp (often on one side)
Rear lights have a signalling function and unlike the headlights are not intended for reversing.
Rear light wear
The lamps are the most important wear components of the rear lighting. Light bulbs, which are still widely used, burn up after a certain amount of time. We therefore advise replacing the lamps with LED lighting, which is considerably more durable. Furthermore LED has a better response time and uses less power. Rear lights often get damaged by a rear-end collision. It takes just a minor bump on the wrong spot to put the entire light up for replacement. Rear lights can age as well. The cover gradually becomes dull and brittle. When cracks occur, water can penetrate, causing lamps to fail and the circuit board to rust, causing grounding faults. Ultimately a dull and scratched rear light is a safety risk as it no longer has its full signalisation power.
Replacement of rear lights
Fortunately, replacement of the rear light is in most cases very simple. They are fixed to the bodywork with several screws. All you need is a Phillips screwdriver. After loosening 3 – 5 screws the rear light can be removed. Rear lights are always supplied as a complete set with circuit board. Therefore it must always be completely replaced. The rear light's connecting plug with the car electronic system must be pulled out as well. It is recommended to check the plug for rust damage. Rust is generally visible as a green or white residue, depending on the material of the plug contacts. They can be scraped clean with the screwdriver, making the lighting fully operational again.
Rear lights as accessories for individual design
When installing accessory rear lights it is important to check if they are EU-approved. The free online trade also offers accessory lighting which is not permitted. A car driving with non-approved lighting runs the risk of a substantial fine. In case of an accident the driver is at least partly liable.
Quality and price for rear lights
The price of a rear light as a spare part varies considerably depending on car model. Nevertheless only original spare parts should be used. They offer the right fit and quality for long-term use. Provided no accident damages the rear light, it often lasts years.