Why it’s Important to Check your Tail Lights

The term “taillights” refers to the twin lamp clusters at the rear of a road-going vehicle, which are designed to make road use safer for everyone. They can literally be life-savers, so checking their correct operation is a very important part of vehicle maintenance.


Brake lights are there to warn other drivers that you’re slowing down. If they fail, following vehicles can charge up to your rear bumper, scaring everyone in both cars or, worse, actually rear-end you. Turn signals warn other drivers that you’re about to execute a maneuver that could be potentially hazardous, so they can allow you room or pay extra attention. Sidelights, self-evidently, mark the extremities of your vehicle, and increase their visibility at night, again reducing the risk of collisions.

Each individual function would make it imperative that the array be checked regularly and frequently. As a collective unit, your taillights are one of the most vital safety assemblies on your vehicle.

False Economy

Law enforcement officers have the option to stop you and issue a traffic citation for malfunctioning taillights. There’ll be a fine, a court-related surcharge, perhaps late fees, maybe even a mandated traffic safety course and penalty points on your license. In the State of Florida, at time of writing, moving violations beginning with Florida Statute 316, 320 or 322 starts at $153.00, while moving violations not beginning with those statute numbers start at $127.50.

A bulb, conversely, will probably cost you less than a couple of dollars.

Checking Your Tail Lights Alone

Checking your sidelights and indicator lamps (blinkers) is easy, even without assistance. For all tests, turn your ignition key to the “Run” position, with the engine switched off. Turn your lights on, then walk to the rear of the vehicle, and check that both lamp clusters are showing illuminated bulbs. Note that in some vehicles – many Lincoln Town Cars, for instance – there are twin sidelight/brake bulbs on each side, so be sure to check that all four are working.

Turn signal indicators are equally easy to check unassisted. Flick the indicator lever upward, then walk to the rear of the vehicle and ensure the right-hand blinker is, indeed, blinking. Next, flick the lever downward from its central position, and check that the left-hand turn is flashing.

Brake lights are a little more challenging. You can:

  • Take a broomstick or mop handle, press one end to the brake pedal and prop the other against the driver’s seat cushion, then walk to the rear of the vehicle and check the brake lights have illuminated
  • Carefully reverse your car or truck toward a large glass pane, such as a storefront window, then use the reflection to check brake light function (there’s no need to get dangerously close; you will be able to see the tail lights from many yards away)

Professional Advice

When a bulb fails, it’s easy to change (and many auto parts stores will carry out small services like this free of charge, to encourage repeat business).

Professional assistance is required if:

  • A series of bulbs fails in quick succession
  • Both turn signals on one side (front and rear) fail at the same time
  • Both side lights or both brake lights fail at the same time

For drivers in Charlotte County, that advice can be sought at Norm Reeves Volkswagen Superstore Port Charlotte, 1252 Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte, FL 33953. Our service technicians are qualified to check any make of vehicle, and while you wait you’ll have the chance to check out the new 2019 Volkswagens, including the Passat four-door sedan and the Tiguan SEL. We look forward to your business!

Schedule Service