When Your Jeep Tail Light Breaks

Tail lights will crack on any vehicle in a rear end impact, but if you take your Wrangler off-roading, there are plenty of obstacles you'll encounter that can bust open your rear lights, not to mention the extra wear and tear on your Jeep's bulbs. Here's what you need to know about fixing your Jeep's tail lights and protecting them from further damage.

What Happens When One of My Tail Lights is Broken?

Sure, a broken tail lamp looks bad, but there's a lot more at stake: Your light bulbs aren't going to last long. They're designed to be shielded from the elements, which means exposure will shorten their life considerably. Rain is particularly bad, since a cold drop of water can shatter the hot surface of the bulb's glass. You're damaging your Jeep's electrical system. Winter salt and snow is bad enough on your Jeep's body parts, but without the protection of the lens and housing, the wires and connectors leading to the bulbs are exposed, and even a little corrosion can keep them from working. Fortunately, Jeep designed the wires as a two piece system with a short length of wire and a connector between the bulb socket and the rest of the wiring harness. If the contacts are damaged, the whole wire set is easy to replace. You're violating the law. Why is it illegal to drive with a broken light? The bulbs inside the light are white, while the lens only allows red light to leave the vehicle. If the lens is broken, you'll have white light coming out of the rear of your vehicle, which can easily be confused for a headlight at night. You probably can't license it. Like many states, New York requires a vehicle inspection that includes the tail lights. If they're broken, your SUV won't pass.

How Do I Replace the Lenses and Tail Lamp Assemblies on My Jeep?

The tail light is designed in two sections: an outer lens and an inner reflector box. Both sections are held down by a series of cross head screws on the outside of the lens. If you have an older Wrangler, once the screws have been removed, the lens will separate from the reflector box, but the box will still be attached to the SUV by the tail light wiring. On newer models, the lens and box are glued together to keep moisture out, so they'll come off as one piece. Gently lower the box onto the bumper. If you're just replacing a lens, it can be fitted over the box and the assembly can be screwed back onto the vehicle. If you need to replace the entire tail lamp assembly, remove the two bulb sockets attached to the housing by twisting them one quarter turn counter-clockwise. To install the new housing, simply follow the instructions in reverse. Keep in mind that the reverse and turn signal/brake light bulbs are the same size, so they're easy to mix up. The brake bulb socket should be easy to identify since it's on a longer set of wires than the reverse bulb, but it's still a good idea to check the lights once the installation is complete.

How Do I Replace the Tail Light Bulbs?

Simply follow the instructions above for removing the assembly, replacing the bulb once you have access to it. Your Wrangler uses flat side connectors, so the bulb can be pulled straight out of the socket without twisting. Avoid touching the new bulb directly with your hand: your skin will leave behind oils that create a hot spot on the glass surface, which will shorten the bulb's life.

Why Aren't My Tail Lights Working?

If you've ruled out burnt bulbs, check the fuses. Before working on the electrical system, disconnect the battery to prevent shorts and electric shocks. There are two fuse boxes in your Wrangler. The main fuse box is located in a large black plastic box under the hood. This includes the main fuse for the lighting system. The second fuse box is either under the dash on the driver's side, or if you have a 2007 or later model, behind the glove box. To lower the glove box out of the way, open it, remove the contents, and squeeze the tabs at the back. The box should hinge down, giving you access to the fuses. If the metal wire inside the fuse is broken or the outer plastic has melted, the fuse should be replaced. Always use a fuse with the same amperage rating. If the fuse isn't seated properly, it should be pushed into the connection slot. Dirt can also make its way into the fuse box, which will prevent the fuse from making good contact with the wiring. Remove the fuse and spray the connection slot with an electrical contact cleaner, then reinsert the fuse.

Is There Any Way to Keep from Breaking My Tail Lights on the Trail?

While your lights are generally well out of danger when driving on roads, the tail lights extend out far enough that they're pretty easy to hit with rocks and branches when you're tackling off-road trails. Mopar knows this is a common problem, which is why they make guard kits that fit over the lights. While it's still possible for something to get between the metal bars on these guards, your rear lights will be protected from most impacts, saving you from frequently replacing the lenses. Installation is simple: just remove the screws that are in the tail light, fit the spacers and guards over them, and reinstall using the long screws included in the kit. When removing the tail light to replace a bulb, take care to collect the spacers when you remove the screws. While the spacers fit into the indents in the lenses, it doesn't take much to bump them out of these holes.

Where Can I Get Parts to Repair and Protect My Wrangler's Tail Lights?

JeepsAreUs.com carries nothing but genuine Mopar parts and accessories for Jeeps. These are built by Jeep using the same engineering used to build your vehicle, so they provide the same quality and performance. Our site lets you search for parts using part numbers and keywords like “bulb,” and you can also limit search results or browse compatible parts by selecting your model and trim or typing in your VIN. That means you can be sure the part you're looking at will fit your Wrangler. If you don't see what you want, email us or give us a call. We have a staff of factory-trained parts people who can help you.