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How to Replace the Bulb in a Third Brake Light

by Thomas West

The third brake light, sometimes called the center-mounted or high-mounted brake light, became standard on all automobiles sold in North America in 1986, although it was invented over a decade before. Government studies indicated that vehicles that did not have a center brake light had a higher possibility of being involved in a rear-end collision. For this reason it is important to replace the bulb in the high-mounted brake light when it burns out.

1

Locate your car’s third brake light housing, which may be accessed from the rear package shelf below the rear window or from the upper-rear lining near the top of the rear window.

2

Remove the holding screws from the brake-light housing with a Philips screwdriver in a counterclockwise direction, if equipped. Use a flat-blade screwdriver to pry the housing up to release the holding clips if there are no visible screws on your housing.

3

Pull the third brake-light housing slightly away from its mounting surface. Rotate the light bulb socket in a counterclockwise direction and pull it straight from the housing. Pull the bulb from the socket and discard it.

4

Push a new bulb into the socket until it is fully seated. Push the light bulb socket back into the housing and rotate it in a clockwise direction to lock it into place.

5

Line up the tabs on the housing to the slots in the mounting surface. Push the housing into place until the clips snap into place. Run the holding screws back in and tighten with a Philips screwdriver in a clockwise direction, if your housing is so equipped.

Tips

  • If you are changing the bulb in your pickup truck’s third brake light, it may have to be done from outside the cab, depending on your truck's make and model. Climb into the cargo bed to remove the lamp housing at the rear of the cab at the top. Do so by turning out the holding screws in a counterclockwise direction with a Philips screwdriver. Place the screws aside. Pull the lamp housing straight out from the rear of the cab. Twist the bulb socket at the rear of the housing in a counterclockwise direction and pull it straight out of the housing. Pull the bulb from the socket and insert a new bulb. Replace the lamp housing in the reverse order. Check your owner's guide for specific directions regarding your pickup's third brake light.
  • To find out what the correct replacement light bulb is for your third brake light, check the owner’s manual of your vehicle.

Items you will need

About the Author

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