How to Repair Broken LED Tail Lights

February 16, 2012

LED tail lights have a high failure rate. Fortunately, they're easy to repair or replace as a do-it-yourself job.

Broken LED Tail Light

Although LED tail lights are designed to last, moisture may enter worn housings and could corrode circuit boards, causing the resistors to fail. This will lead to LED burn out or dimming of the bulb. In the event of a dimmed or LED burn out in your tail light, take your car to the dealer to have it inspected and replaced if necessary. Brand new cars come with a warranty that should cover such parts for breakage or early deterioration. LED tail light assemblies are composed of complicated circuit boards that power the LEDs and some models are even designed not to be repaired and come in sealed-type units. This is advisable, especially if your car is new. As purchasing a new pair of LED tail lights is an added expense on your part.

But on older model cars or aftermarket units, the decision to either repair or replace is dictated by cost. A new pair may cost $100 or more, depending on make and model. A repair job might cost less, but necessitates labor and technical expertise in the field of electronics. Most repair jobs would necessitate replacing the entire LED strip. This kind of repair job is easier than fixing the strip itself.

Prepare the Area
Open the trunk and carefully remove the sidings to expose the screws/nuts that hold the tail light in place. Loosen the screws/nuts and set aside.

Remove the Tail Light
Carefully pull the tail light towards the rear to loosen the assembly. Remove all related electrical sockets prior to complete removal. Inspect the housing for accumulated moisture that might have caused the LEDs to fail. Clean the tail light assembly with a soft rag.

Open the Casing
This process involves a set of precise, steady hands and a keen eye for detail. Depending on the type of assembly, the casing will either have to be cut or pried open to access the LED strip. New models are usually made of plastic and have to be meticulously pried open using a sharp screwdriver. Use a hot hair dryer to heat the existing sealant on the casing for easier removal. Concentrate heating on a particular area while using a screwdriver to detach the lens from the casing.

Replace the LED Strip
After removing the lens from the casing, the LED strip is now exposed. Remove the old strip and insert the new one. Check and recheck any electrical connections involved in this procedure. Be careful in handling the reflector, as oil left by fingerprints will be marked indefinitely and may cause an ugly reflection. Wipe the surrounding parts before installation.

Test the Lights
Insert the lens in the casing and connect the sockets to test the lights. Turn on the parking lights and step on the brake pedal to test for road worthiness.

Seal the Casing
Remove all electrical connections, including the lens from the casing. Apply an even, consistent amount of silicone sealant around the casing before putting the lens back in place. Let dry for 30 minutes before re-installing the tail light assembly to the car body.

Most replacement LED strips can be purchased online and are relatively inexpensive compared to buying new LED tail light assemblies. Tail light repair requires patience and a certain amount of skill to properly undertake.

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