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Broken Tail Light Repair Options and Costs
Updated: September 05, 2022
Broken tail light.
It's unfortunate, but happens quite often when you find that someone backed into your tail light in the parking lot. What are the repair options if your insurance doesn't cover a broken tail light?
The first step is to assess the damage. What parts are required? If the tail light consists of only one part (assembly) like in this photo, and no other parts are damaged, it's a fairly simple repair.
If you have basic mechanical skills and tools, you can probably even change it yourself.
Can you repair a broken tail light temporarily?
Yes. Exterior lights are safety devices and are essential for safe driving. You can get a warning or ticket if one of the lights is not working.
If you want to repair the light temporarily until you get the part, many auto parts stores sell a lens repair tape. It's like a scotch tape and it comes in red and amber colors. Cover the damaged area with the tape and make sure it's waterproof and the light is still working.
If you happen to have all broken pieces of your tail light or another tail light that you can use as a material, there are several YouTube videos
on how to repair a broken tail light lens.
How much does it cost to replace a tail light assembly?
There are several repair options. The quickest option is to get the repairs done at your local dealership. A dealer might not have the part in stock, but they can usually order it to be delivered for the next day.
The common practice is to call or visit the dealership parts department, pre-order the part and set up the appointment for the replacement. A dealer or a repair shop may charge 0.5-1.0 hour of labor to replace one tail light assembly plus the cost of part. OEM parts are expensive, ranging from $120 to $800.
Using an aftermarket part
Many auto parts stores sell cheaper aftermarket tail light assemblies, although the quality might not be on par with the OEM (original) part.
An aftermarket tail light assembly is typically 20-40 percent cheaper than the OEM part from a dealership. If you get the repair done at a local independent repair shop, you will save another 10-30 percent on labor costs.
Replacing a tail light with a used part
Used tail light assembly.
Another option is buying a used part. Check with your local auto recycling facilities (auto wreckers) or look on eBay. if you are buying a used part, make sure it fits, because often different model years have slightly different tail light designs.
To find out the price difference, we checked prices for the tail light assembly for the Toyota Matrix in the top photo. An OEM part from Toyota (it's called Rear Combination Lamp) costs $178. We found a few used parts on eBay for $40-60. A new aftermarket part is listed for $57-$85 on Amazon. All prices don't include delivery.
For most cars, a new tail light assembly comes without the bulbs; they will have to be transferred from the old part.
Is it difficult to replace a tail light assembly DIY?
In most cars, it's fairly straightforward. in others some additional parts may need to be removed first. Check the service manual or search YouTube for tail light replacement instructions.
For example, in this Honda Accord, a tail light assembly is held by 4 nuts and one screw. However, the side of the bumper also needs to be detached from the rear fender in order to get to the screw that holds the bottom portion.
Whenever the tail light assembly is replaced, it's important to make sure the seal is not damaged; a bad seal may cause water to leak into the tail light. If the paint is damaged
near the tail light, it's a good idea to touch it up, to prevent the metal from rusting. You can buy a touch-up pen from the dealer for $9-$22.
Replacing a tail light assembly due to failed LED
Bad LEDs in the brake light.
The tail light assembly also needs to be replaced if the LED unit inside has failed and cannot be replaced separately. In this case, it's a good idea to check for recalls, because several manufacturers issued recalls related to tail light assembly.
There is also a chance that some manufacturers may cover a failed LED tail light assembly even if the warranty has recently expired, as it is a safety item. You can check this with your dealer.
If an LED light assembly is not working at all it makes sense to have it diagnosed first, to make sure that it's not a problem with wiring or the connector. We have seen many cases where one of the lights stops working because of the corrosion in the connector or other issue. This problem is more common for the centre (high-mount) brake light.
Of course, if some LEDs remain dark, while others work, like in the photo above, we know that the light assembly receives the electric power and the problem is with the assembly itself.
If the LEDs cannot be replaced separately, the whole assembly must be replaced.