You don’t have to be a car guru to complete a license plate bulb replacement. All you need are a few simple tools, a few minutes, and a few dollars for a replacement bulb.
In most states, drivers are required to keep their license plate and registration tags well-lit to make them easily visible. Unfortunately, even long-lasting LED bulbs don’t last forever, so you’ll likely find yourself replacing a license plate bulb at some point in your car-ownership journey.
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How to change a license plate light
License plate lamps keep your tags and registration easily visible for law enforcement and other drivers on the road. That’s why it’s important to replace a burned out bulb or bulbs as soon as possible to ensure you’re in compliance with the law, and to avoid tickets or fines.
Here are some easy steps to follow to get your license plate lights changed quickly and easily.
First, you’ll need to gather a few essential tools:
Replacement license plate bulb
Locate the license plate light
The license plate light is located directly above your license plate. Many cars have two bulbs, each under its own plastic cover, although some will have a single bulb. If your car has two bulbs, it’s a good idea to change your tag lights in pairs, but it’s not a requirement.
Remove the cover
The license plate light cover is a plastic cap that covers the tag light bulbs. It’s usually held on by two Phillips head screws. Once you remove these screws, you may need to use a flathead screwdriver or other flat, stiff instrument to pry the cover off.
Locate and remove the old bulb
Put on your protective gloves, then remove the burned out light bulb by pulling it straight out from the bulb socket. Do not use pliers to remove the burned out bulb, as this will most likely shatter the glass.
Install the new bulb
Install the new light bulb by sliding it firmly into the bulb socket.
Pro Tip If you’re unsure what type of bulb you’ll need, you can refer to your car owner’s manual, or check in Chilton repair manuals or free Autozone repair manuals for reference.
Check that your lights are functional
To save yourself some work, it’s a good idea to check that your new lights are functional before you reattach the license plate light cover. To do this, turn your car’s ignition switch to Accessory, then walk back to ensure the tag light bulb is illuminated.
Re-attach the license plate light cover
Once you’re certain your tag lights are fully functional, use the original screws to reattach the license plate cover.
Pro Tip Recheck your lights after reattaching the license plate light cover to ensure you haven’t shaken any connections loose.
How much does it cost to change a license plate bulb?
In general, changing a license plate light bulb is pretty cheap, but the total cost for each person will depend on both the tools you have available and the type of bulb you need for your replacement.
LED bulbs are the most common type of replacement light you’ll find, but some older or classic cars may require
incandescent bulb replacements. You should be able to find whatever type of bulb you need at your auto parts store, on Amazon, or even on eBay, and even the fanciest of LED license plate lights usually costs less than $10 a pair.
If you don’t have the necessary screwdrivers, gloves, or safety glasses, add another $20 to $25 to your total repair costs for a final cost around $35 to $40 max. This may sound a touch pricey, but consider that you’ll likely spend at least $60 just in labor to have your license plate light replaced by a repair technician.
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