The Car Light Bulb Resource Page

Riding around with a car light bulb out gives a police officer the perfect reason to pull you over. For most of us, we would like to avoid this type of situation. Unfortunately, a lot of the horrible stories you hear in the news started with a driver that didn’t keep up with their automotive lighting maintenance.

Motor vehicle code requires all exterior lamps to operate properly at all times. Whether or not you get a ticket remains at the police officer’s discretion. In other words, they can let you off with a warning or they can write you a violation. Here in this article, we’ll talk about how to perform a proper light inspection on your automobile. Many professional drivers call this a pre-trip inspection.

We’ll show you how to complete this inspection procedure, even if you’re all by yourself. In addition, we’ll have tips and tricks to help you replace a car light bulb. These include checking for damaged sockets, wiring issues and applying dielectric grease to maximize the life of the replacement car light bulb.

Periodic Automotive Lighting Inspection

Long Life Car Light Bulbs
Long Life Car Light Bulbs

As I mentioned, professional drivers perform an exterior lamp inspection before every departure. It’s important for drivers that earn a living behind the wheel to keep their driving record clean. There’s no easier way to attract the attention of a patrol officer than riding around with a bulb out.

Fortunately, for regular automotive consumers a daily pre-trip inspection is overkill. However, once a week or twice a month becomes a great routine to get into. The only exception to this rule is the latest automobiles that utilize an LED lighting system. These low power, high intensity car light bulbs can last as long as the automobile.

With that said, most of us are still driving around in 10 year old automobiles that use conventional car light bulbs. These old-style bulbs become notoriously unreliable with the age. Now that we have an understanding of how often and why we need to check the car light bulb on a regular basis let’s talk about a few tricks for the inspection procedure.

Three Tips for Speeding up a Lamp Inspection

car light bulb
car light bulb

For the record, I’m a former passenger bus driver and carry a commercial driver’s license with a passenger endorsement. Before my bus rolled out of the yard, I completed a detailed pre-trip inspection. The easiest part of this procedure includes checking the operation of all exterior lights.

Since my shift started at 5 AM, verifying light operation took place in the dark. All I had to do was operate each lamp and use my mirrors to verify proper operation. Therefore, my first tip includes performing your car light bulb inspection in the absence of light. If this inspection occurs during daylight hours find a shady spot or one near a wall that the light will reflect off of. My second tip is to get into a regular routine by starting at the same place on the vehicle.

After several automotive lighting inspections in the same exact order your brain turns it into a muscle memory. Another important thing to mention, these automotive lamps draw a lot of electrical power. Therefore, we need to have the engine running with the parking brake set. Going back to the inspection on the passenger buses, we also engaged wheel chocks under the tire.

The Car Light Bulb Inspection Procedure

Automotive combination lamp
Automotive combination lamp

I prefer to start my walk around inspection with the headlights. It’s nice to have an assistant operate these lamps on the low beam and high beam settings. If you’re performing this operation alone, you’ll have to walk back around and engage the high beams. With the headlights on, you also inspect the parking lamps and marker lights as you proceed around the vehicle.

I always walk in the same direction. Whether that’s clockwise or counterclockwise remains unimportant. As you continue to walk around the automobile you move onto the taillights and the rear running or marker lamps. Here’s another important tip. A lot of people fail to remember to check the license plate light. If you are driving at night and a police officer sees your tag light out, they can’t run a check on the license plate.

After talking with several police officers about this, they consider it a security risk to them and other drivers. Therefore, you’ll almost always get pulled over if your license plate lamp is out. Make sure to check this often missed car light bulb. Finally it’s time to check the turn signals on both the rear and front. Note that on many models the marker lights on the front and rear corners of the fenders also flash in an alternate pattern with the main turn signal lamps. This detail grabs the attention of other vehicles so they know your intended direction of travel.

What to do with a Blown Car Light Bulb

In many cases, when you find a blown light bulb on the automobile there’s a reason behind its malfunction. One of the leading causes of premature bulb failure remains water intrusion into the lamp area. In some isolated cases you can re-seal the housing using an automotive silicone product. However, a more reliable choice remains to replace the housing that protects the bulb.

Problems with the socket or the wiring also become a distinct possibility. In many cases, certain models suffer from inherent problems. The Ford Crown Victoria sedan has a tendency to blow the third brake light bulb. As another example, the Chevrolet truck daytime running lights often need the socket replaced. Distorted or melted sockets and or wiring require correction before bulb replacement. Failure to do so causes premature failure of the replacement bulb.

In addition, always use the same exact part number when replacing the lamp. Although other bulbs fit into the socket they can have different internal resistance and illumination intensities. Car makers imprint the part number on the base of the bulb. In isolated circumstances when this becomes unreadable, you can consult your professional auto repair manual for the correct replacement. In almost all situations you’ll be able to find new parts at your local auto parts store. However, some newer models might require a visit to a dealership level parts department.