Brake light bulb on one side burns out quickly

What causes a brake light bulb filament to almost always go out only on the driver’s side of the car?
Any recommendations for a long-lasting bulb, or for something to repair in the electrical system?

On a 2007 Versa, the brake light filament on the combo rear/brake light bulb never lasts long on the driver side. It’ll last maybe a year, and then not work anymore, even though the rear light filament inside the same bulb is still fine. And it’s kind of a pain to change. On the passenger side, I can’t recall the last time I’ve changed the same bulb. Maybe I’ve done it once since 2007? In earlier years I replaced the dead bulbs w Sylvania bulbs. They didn’t last long. Then I switched to cheaper generic brand from Amazon, no better, no worse.

If the filament is “fine” as you say, the bulb should still light up. Are you telling us the bulb is OK but won’t light up but a new one will?

First make sure that you’re using exactly the right bulb. Second, clean up the contacts on the bulb connector really well. Maybe a little abrasive (but not too much) and then some electronics cleaner. And make sure that the fit is nice and tight.


The BCM controls the operation of the brake lights.


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I expect OP was referring to the tail-light filament. Two filaments in the same bulb in other words, one for the brakes, one for the tail-lights. For some reason the brake filament fails sooner than expected, while the tail light filament remains good, but the early brake light failure is only on the driver’s side.

One idea , measure the temperature of each bulb from time to time , right vs left. Thermocouple probe or a fancy laser IR gadget, easy enough to do Maybe the driver’s side is usually warmer. That would explain earlier failure. The cause of a warmer than normal bulb would usually be a higher than normal resistance in the bulb’s contacts to its socket connector.

The two filaments in the bulb are spec’d differently b/c the one for the taillight is on for hours at a time, and the one for the brakes are only on briefly. This may explain why one fails but not the other.

I had a weird interior bulb problem on my Corolla. It kept burning out after 3 months, I’d buy and install a new one, and it would also burn out in 3 months. Finally decided to try a different source where I purchased the bulb. That one lasted 10 years … the first source must have got an entire allotment of faulty bulbs.


I’d check the voltage.

I used to live out of my pickup. I usually stayed outside of it when not driving but bad weather could coop me up in the cab. I bought a bright LED replacement (even a little circuit board). I could read by it all night and not run down the battery. I’d count on the circuit board to maintain a safe voltage. Of course the diffuser had turned opaque a long time ago.

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Could the housing be loose, allowing the bulb to vibrate or bounce around as you drive? Does water ever get into the housing?

I’d like Ray to clarify that rather than guess.

He says the brake light filament on the combo bulb.

My first reaction is don’t depend on the quality of the bulb by the name and certainly not from Amazon. These are all made in China by who know who? At least buy them from a parts store other than az etc.

Sounds like the actual filament is going so vibration on a very poor quality bulb can cause it to break. But yeah check and clean the socket and make sure of a good connection.

I’ve had cheap 110v bulbs from Menards etc. burn out almost instantly when turned on. Nothing wrong except the bulb.

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Mechanical impact / vibration can shorten bulb life severely. As in slamming doors, hoods and decklids.

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Any recommendations on sources/brands for bulbs that are more durable than say Sylvania?

Confirming for Mustangman: it’s a combo-filament bulb that I’m referring to.

It’s unlikely that this bulb jiggles much in comparison to the passenger side one. The lens/light assembly it’s in is mounted solidly. Rear hatch closure affects both sides equally. It also does not get moisture inside. It’s also the specified bulb.

I’ll try cleaning off socket contacts when changing bulb.
I’ll also try using an IR thermometer on right and left bulbs when brakes applied, to see if significant heat difference.

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Take the one on the left and swap it with the one on the right. If the left blows you know it’s the bulb. If the right blows, you know it’s the socket or other issues. Gotta help yourself.



That is what Nissan dealerships here in my area do when a HID head light goes out, to see if it is the light or the ballast/ignitor (however that worked)… I think Dodge/Jeep was doing that also cause of so many issues with the ballast/ignitors being bad and not the bulb… I just sent them to the dealer cause most customers didn’t think they should have to pay to diag a blown light bulb… lol

That’s why when one headlight goes out I replace both at the same time. Hard to get at and no more disassembly for two than one.

Not sure what you mean? Are you speaking only of certain vehicles? Every car I’ve replaced headlights, it is twice as much work to replace two vs one.

You have to remove the the top of the bumper cover in order to get clearance to pull the headlight housing out. So once you have the bumper cover loose, the second one just require popping the housing out to remove the bulb.

2010 Chevy Tahoe:



One, One Side; Includes: R&I Headlamp Assembly. 0.9 hours labor

Each Additional on same side 0.1 hours labor

One, Both Sides; Includes: R&I Headlamp Assemblies. 1.4 hours labor

And many more like it, some with even longer labor times…

I’ve yet to have a vehicle like that. But if I did, I would also replace two at a time. (And likely leave half the connectors off for the next time).

Certainly not all cars, but I’ve had some where I never replaced a headlight. Just saying, you buy the bulb(s), get the hood up, refer back to notes taken from the last time, get the tools out, open up the bumper cover, pull the housing out, replace the bulb and pop the housing back in. Now that you haveveverything there and refreshed your memory, just go ahead and do the other one. Now you’re don3 for a couple years.

Sound advice. What I think most people do not understand is that, although the headlamp is still illuminating, they start to degrade in performance from the minute they are put in service. It happens slowly and gradually so it is hard to notice that the intensity has dropped off 40% for example since they were new. Until you replace them and then it’s a stark contrast…

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