How To Replace The Tail Lights In Your Ford F150
Ford’s F-150 has not only been the best-selling vehicle in the United States for the last 24 years but it has also been the best-selling truck since 1977. For good reason: You can haul or tow anything to anywhere at any time.
Because of its durability and the high quality of engineering that go into each successive generation (they’re on the 12th now), time spent up on the rack at a body shop is minimal over the truck’s lifetime. However, since its lifespan can be as long as its owner’s, there is a host of general maintenance required.
Case in point, light bulbs. On the 1997 and later F-150 XLT, not counting dash lights and gauges, there are 15 light bulbs that will need replacing at some point. Light bulbs fail; the world is an imperfect place. And you’ll need to fix it.
Rest assured, you’d be surprised how simple it is to replace them, sometimes as easy as popping off a plastic cover (dome and map lights) or a little more complicated by unsnapping the housing (headlights). Right in the middle of the skill level spectrum are the tail lights, as removing the whole assembly is fairly straightforward. All you will just need an 8mm socket (or wrench), a hard plastic pry bar (or equivalent) and the replacement bulbs.
First things first: make sure your truck is off and in park; getting a small jolt from a live wire isn’t part of the process. Drop the tailgate, and find the two mounting bolts that retain the housing. They should be just inside the tailgate jamb, the part exposed on the truck where the tailgate sits when it’s closed.
Remove both the 8mm bolts in the tailgate jamb using the socket wrench.
Theoretically, you can just pull the whole tail light assembly out. There are two pins holding the assembly to the outer bed panel, but by getting a good grip on it and pulling straight back, they usually pop free. However, getting something in between the light housing and the sheet metal to act as a pry bar will help (make sure it won’t scratch the paint).
Once inside, find the errant light bulb (brake light is on top, while reverse light is on the bottom). Turn the tail light sockets counterclockwise and remove them from the assembly. Now just replace the light bulbs with new bulbs. Point of caution: Make sure you don’t touch the bulbs themselves since the oils on your fingers will shorten their lifespan. Dispose of your old bulbs carefully.
At this point, you’re nearly done. Just re-assemble the tail light assembly and snap the pins of the housing into the body of your truck. Replace the two 8mm bolts on the inside of the tailgate jamb.
If you have any other questions, or have more difficult Ford F150 repairs to make, check out ChiltonDIY. Just search for the year and model of your vehicle, and you’ll find detailed instructions, diagrams, and advise from Chilton’s highly trained repair technicians, all from the comfort of your garage. Check out our DIY Ford Repair Manual for all of your Ford repair needs.