How to Repair a License Plate Light That Won't Come On

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Having a license plate light out can lead to a fine and possible court date, so it is best to repair that light as soon as possible. There are several causes for the light being out--a blown bulb, faulty wiring or a bad socket. You will learn how to repair each one of these possible causes to your light problem.

Things You'll Need

  • Screw driver
  • Voltmeter
  • Basic hand tool set
  • Repair manual (Haynes or Chilton's)
  • Soldering iron
  • Solder
  • Electrical tape
  • Electrical wire
  • Wire cutters
  • Wire stripping tool

Replacing a Blown Bulb

  • Remove the cover over the license plate bulb. Every car differs, but most have a tab that you push in, and it slides right out.

  • Remove the bulb from the socket. Sometimes it is a tight fit so you may need to use a screwdriver to pry the bulb loose.

  • Compare the stamping on the metal part of the old bulb to the new bulb to make certain the new bulb is the correct size and wattage for your vehicle.

  • Place the new bulb in the socket by simply pressing it until it is securely fastened in the socket.

  • Place the cover back over the bulb by simply pressing it into place until it clicks.

  • Turn your vehicles lights on and check for proper operation.

Replacing Faulty Wiring

  • Locate the shorted wire by tracing it through the wiring schematic located in your repair manual.

  • Cut out the faulty section of wiring.

  • Cut a section of replacement wire the same length as the section removed from your vehicle.

  • Strip off about 1/4" from the end of each wire and twist the ends together. Use a good layer of solder to hold the connection and wrap them in electrical tape.

  • Retest the power coming through the wire at the socket end to make certain there is the proper voltage. If the voltage is correct, replace any items you removed to access the wire and check the lights for proper operation.

Replacing a Faulty Socket

  • Remove the bulb cover. This process varies from vehicle to vehicle, but most are removed by simply pressing the locking tab on the side and pulling the lens out.

  • Remove the bulb from the socket by pulling it by hand or lightly prying with a screwdriver.

  • Remove the socket from your vehicle. This process can vary from vehicle to vehicle, but most vehicles have one or two screws holding the socket in place.

  • Disconnect the old socket from the wiring by pulling the connectors apart. Some vehicles are hardwired and will require you to cut the socket from your vehicle.

  • Plug the new socket into the existing wires on your vehicle. This will require splicing and soldering on vehicles where the socket is hardwired.

  • Place a bulb in the socket and check for proper operation before reinstalling, if possible.

  • Put the new socket into it's place and secure it with the screws that held the old socket in place.

  • Place the lens back over the bulb by simply pressing it until it snaps into place.

  • Verify proper operation once everything is installed.

Tips & Warnings

  • Replace the bulb any time you handle it.
  • Use a cloth or tissue when handling new bulbs to prevent oils from getting on it.
  • Always disconnect the negative terminal of your cars battery when working on electronics.

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  • Photo Credit license plates image by timur1970 from Fotolia.com
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