Safety features on any car are just as important as the engine. Brakes get the vehicle to a safe stop and lights illuminate the way ahead. They work together with a multitude of related systems that ensure both passenger and pedestrian safety. One component often left out of the whole equation is the tail lights. Being at the back of the car means they’re often overlooked and there will be times when you’re not even aware that they’re not working. That is until you cop a fine.
The Role of Tail Lights
Car tail lights are in the exact location as they say, at the rear of the vehicle, and have a few important functions. They inform traffic and pedestrians behind that you’re there, so are a basic safety feature in bad weather and low visibility. The lights come on automictically together with the headlights, and to distinguish them from the brake lights with which they can share the same housing, shine a paler hue of red. The difference in colour intensity tells other traffic participants whether you’re continuing on your journey or coming to a stop.
Lenses in the automobile rear tail light can additionally be fitted with reflective markings for better visibility. In adverse conditions, these may be the only markings that inform that there is a vehicle in front, and the position, type, and size of lights further tell other drivers what kind of vehicle this is.
There are clear regulations around the use of tail lights. Drive with faulty or non-operational lights, or cracked or faded lenses and housings and you will get fined or face demerit points. And when lights aren’t working, you also risk being involved in a rear-end collision.
How They Work
Tail lights are connected to the same wiring as that which operates the front headlights. So when these are turned on, the rear lights come on too. If they’re operational, you won’t have to fret about anything else, like with the brake lights. When they do go faulty, there’ll be a warning in the dash.
Signs of Faults and Troubleshooting Common Issues
Most of us expect all vehicle lights to work as they should. But this is not always the case. There are several factors that can diminish the performance of any rear tail light. High temperatures and direct sunlight can negatively affect outer housings, and any cracks can lead to water and moisture buildup that can wreak havoc with the connections and wiring. This is easy to spot, with pins being discoloured or having visible signs of wear such as rust. Fraying in wiring and damage to the insulation are other common problems. And, if you’ve been involved in an accident, housings, and lenses aren’t all that durable, particularly in high-speed impact.
Some issues may be down to blown fuses in the fuse box and no damage to the lights or bulbs whatsoever. This is a quick and easy fix, with fuses costing a couple of dollars. Bulbs are a bit dearer, but here too you have multiple options, especially for older cars relying on halogens.
The first thing to look for is getting lights that are compatible with your car. With slight design variations in cars of different production years, have in mind that even lights that are advertised for the same model may be different and not fit. Moreover, consider trim levels, badges and series, as most car models differ here too.
Housings and assemblies for most cars will also include brake lights, integrated indicators, and white reversing lights. You can buy separate left or right lights, but if both are cracked, worn or past repair, a good idea is to get matching pairs. This not only looks better but also warrants that both come on and stay on at the same. In bad driving conditions, they’ll also warn of the size of the vehicle in front of you so you can make the needed adjustments.
Buyers can go the OEM route and get auto tail lights directly from manufacturers or dealerships. These will be of the same quality and you won’t have any fitment issues. Just remember the higher cost. More options and lower prices are found in the aftermarket, with packages including housings, matching bulbs, and wiring coming in as much cheaper. And this is the route to go if you drive an older car and have a hard time sourcing OEM parts that are no longer made. When buying aftermarket tail lights, ensure that they are ADR approved. Non-approved lights can void your insurance in the case of an accident, and you will get dozens of questions from the police.
Going With Upgrades
Older cars use halogens as the main light source. While effective, there are better options. LEDS can be fitted to old and new housings, work better in typical hot Aussie weather, and aren’t affected as much by moisture. They’ll have fewer problems in the long run, and more consistent light. And they use less power if you’re worried about draining batteries. When getting upgraded bulbs to go with the new lights, ensure they work with the car’s electrics, and that there are no error signs on the dash.