Blog Car Care Advice How to Replace a License Plate Light? (Two Simple Methods)
Car Care Advice

How to Replace a License Plate Light? (Two Simple Methods)

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Got pulled over for a damaged license plate light?
You’re not alone — many people forget about the maintenance of this tiny but essential safety feature.

A license plate light is a small bulb at the back of your car that illuminates your license plate, making it visible to law enforcement officials and other drivers at night.

But if this light stops working and isn’t replaced ASAP, brace yourself for a hefty fine. 

Read on to explore the license plate light replacement process from inside and outside the vehicle. We’ll also highlight the tell-tale signs of tag light failure to help you spot them before it’s too late.

This Article Contains:

Method 1: Replace License Plate Light from Outside 

Depending on your car’s make and model, you can replace license plate lights (or tag lights) in two ways: from outside the vehicle or inside the trunk
But if you’re unsure which method to use, always consult a mechanic for help. 

Here’s how a mechanic will replace your license plate light if it’s accessible from the outside:

Note: The mechanic will park your car in a dry, well-lit area and turn off the engine. They might also disconnect your car’s battery for safety, but this isn’t always necessary. 

Step 1: Locate the License Plate Light and Remove the Covers 

The mechanic will locate lights above your license plate near the opening latch of the trunk lid.

They’ll use a screwdriver to loosen the screws holding the light cover in place. They’ll turn them counterclockwise (left side). These covers may also have rubber seals attached to them, so the mechanic will ensure they stay intact.

Note: If the light housing isn’t detachable and is mounted near the rear bumper, they’ll go underneath the bumper to locate the light’s wiring harness. They’ll then turn the base of the wire to the left side to reach the bulb.

Step 2: Remove the Old Bulb 

Next, they’ll carefully hold the light bulb and remove it from its housing. If the light bulb is stuck, they’ll check the bulb housing for plastic or metal clips, use pliers to press them down and remove the light bulb.

Step 3: Install the New Bulb

The mechanic will wear protective gloves before installing the new bulb (preferably LEDs) to prevent the lens from getting dirty. During installation, they’ll ensure the bottom prongs align with the holes in the bulb socket and push them down into each socket until they click into place. 

If the mechanic replaced the bulb from underneath the bumper, they’ll twist the bulb base clockwise (right side) to ensure it’s securely fastened back into position.

Step 4: Test the New Lights 

Before reattaching the light cover and bases, the mechanic will start your vehicle and turn on the lights to ensure the replacement bulb works properly. If it doesn’t, they’ll inspect the vehicle’s wiring and fuse for any problems.

Step 5: Reattach the Covers 

Finally, they’ll turn off the vehicle and screw the light cover back in place. 

Now, let’s explore how a license plate light bulb is replaced from the inside. 

Method 2: Replace the License Plate Light from Inside the Trunk

Here’s how a mechanic will access and replace your tag lights from inside the trunk: 

Step 1: Pop the Trunk and Remove the Fasteners 

The trunk liner in your vehicle is secured with plastic fasteners that resemble screws or bolts. 

The mechanic will open the trunk lid and use a screwdriver to remove the fasteners attached to the trunk liner (or trim piece) to access the bulb. While doing this, the mechanic will store the removed screws in a box to prevent them from getting misplaced.

Step 2: Unscrew the Bulb Bases

They’ll locate the bases of your tag lights (white or tan colored) attached to thick black wire behind your vehicle. The mechanic will grip the base or use pliers to turn them counterclockwise and loosen them. Next, they’ll pull the base from the vehicle’s ports to access the light bulb. 

Step 3: Remove the Old Bulb 

They’ll remove the old bulbs by pulling them out from their bases. If the bulbs are secured with plastic or metal tabs, they’ll press these tabs down to release them from the bulb housing. 

Step 4: Install the New Bulb

The mechanic will wear protective gloves to install the new light bulb and align the prongs with the socket holes to ensure the new bulb fits securely.

Step 5: Test the New Lights

Before reattaching the bases, the mechanic will start your car and turn on the lights to check if the new bulb lights up. If it doesn’t, they’ll check the wiring harness and fuse. 

Step 6: Reattach the Bases and Fasteners 

Finally, they’ll screw the bases clockwise (to the right side) to secure them, align the trunk liner with the vehicle’s body and reattach the trim piece with fasteners. 

Curious about the cost of this repair?
Let’s find out.

How Much Does License Plate Light Replacement Cost?

On average, replacing a license plate light bulb costs about $50, which includes $5 for the parts and $45 for labor. A mechanic typically takes about 20-25 minutes to finish the job. However, the cost can vary based on your car’s model and the replacement bulb type. For example, if you get an OEM bulb (original equipment manufacturer) or an aftermarket LED bulb.

Tip: Instead of a halogen bulb, use an LED license plate light. Installing LEDs that emit white light ensures your license plate is well-lit and doesn’t distract other drivers.

Now that we’ve covered the steps for replacing license plate lights and their cost, let’s answer a few questions you may have about these lights.

3 FAQs on License Plate Lights 

Check out the answers to some commonly asked questions about license plate lights. 

1. What Are the Symptoms of a Failing License Plate Light?

If your tag lights start to fail, you may notice the following signs: 

2. What Causes the License Plate Light to Fail?

A license plate bulb can fail due to many reasons, such as:

3. Can You Drive with a Burned Out License Plate Light?

No, driving with a burned-out license plate bulb isn’t recommended because you can get pulled over and fined by law enforcement officials. 

States like Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, etc., require drivers to have a well-functioning rear license plate bulb that emits white light. 

Shine Bright on the Road with AutoNation Mobile Service

A license plate light is legally required for vehicle identification and helps prevent nighttime accidents. If your light bulb has lost its brightness, have a mechanic replace it ASAP with an LED bulb. 

And if you have no time to visit a repair shop, don’t worry — that’s what AutoNation Mobile Service is here for. 

We’re a mobile auto repair and maintenance solution offering upfront pricing and a 12-month| 12,000-mile warranty on all repairs, regardless of whether you drive a Honda Motor Company, Toyota Motor Corporation, or Chevrolet vehicle. 

Contact us and our expert mechanics will install a new LED license plate light or replace your halogen bulb with LED lights in your driveway.