Brightness of rear tail lights

Today I noticed when I was parking at work that my back tail lights don’t seem that bright. When I apply the brakes and such or the backup lights are very bright, but just the normal tail lights didn’t seem to come off as that bright. At night they may appear brighter but this morning in cloudy overcast sky’s with some light snow falling I am not sure if the person behind could have seen my taillights at all. I have a 2003 Impala LS, it’s just over 102,000 miles. Is there a way to test to see if your back taillights are brightenough or is there a way to increase how bright they are when on?

You could check the voltage (should be 12 VDC) or try new taillight bulbs. I don’t think you have a problem however. I was behind a new car the other night (Dodge, I think) and the LED taillights were way too bright. When the driver hit the brakes…it was blinding in the rain.

Keep your eyes open when you’re in parking lots. Maybe you can find someone with the same car and compare yours to theirs to see if yours is normal or not.

I’d probably try new bulbs too, as they can dim over time.

Check for a proper ground. If the ground screw is rusty that can dim the lights as well as old bulbs and dirty contacts. Check the inside of the tail light lens, too. They can get dirty of a seal has failed. If all else fails, you can likely buy LED bulbs to replace your regular brake light bulbs. They should be brighter.

If the bulbs are easy to get at, first try just removing and reinstalling them. IF the problem is dirty/poor contact in the sockets then remove/install might fix it, and you won’t have to pay for new bulbs. And while you are there you can check for grungy bulb sockets and poor wire connections. (You might not have a ground screw there. Many of the tail light assemblies I have encountered have the “ground” wired through the connector into the harness.)

OTOH, if new bulbs are not too costly then it would not hurt to buy them and just install new when you remove the old ones.

And if the bulbs are hard to reach, I would consider new bulbs as first move, just to avoid having to do it again.

Sounds normal to me. They aren’t designed for daytime use. They can’t be too bright or people will confuse them with brake lights.
New bulbs couldn’t hurt, however.

About 10 years ago…many people wired their brake lights to be on all the time. At first I thought it was just a short or people riding their brake pedal…but then learned from a kid my daughter was in high-school with - that people were doing purposely…WHY??? I have no idea. Still can’t figure that one out.

Sounds dangerous. Also won’t pass inspection.
Kids. They do the damndest things.

According To The Department Of Redundancy Department, Rear Tail Lights Are On The End Of A Vehicle, Opposite The Front Head Lights.

Anyhow, as Mustangman said, you can purchase replacement LED bulds. I’ve seen them at Wal-Mart and they weren’t much different in price compared with standard replacements.

However, as people have found out, LEDs are cooler while on and don’t do much melting of snow. Traffic lights with those bright LEDs are great until blown snow covers the lens and remains in place until city workers climb up and clear them.

My Bonneville tail lights have enough warmth to often melt a little area of snow accumulated on the lens while driving to help with visibility.


It appares replacement actually isn’t to tough in this car, however given the avg temp outside over the next week of 20 or below, changing them out right now might wait till a little warmer weather as I have no garage to pull into to do the work. But I think I will replace once the weather improves.

They are very bright when I apply the breaks as is the backup lights, so maybe they are brighter at night, will check them tonight once it’s dark.

Thankfully I believe I solved my starting issues with the security, now just this little issue…

I hate to be Captain Obvious, and it is entirely possible that I am wrong, but…

I really hope that the OP has cleaned all of the accumulated salt residue from the area of the “rear tail lights” (as opposed to…the front tail lights, I guess :wink: ), because the typical wintertime salt accumulation drastically reduces the visibility of those lights.

During the winter, I clean-off my rear lights every couple of days, but–based on what I observe on the road daily–I am one of a very small minority that takes this precaution.

I usually clean them on each fuel up, dirt really not the issue as just had car washed the other day and tail lights pretty clean…

Clean outside every time you have the windshield sqeegee in you hand,…headlights too.
Now take out the bulbs as if to change them and see if the inside is dusty and perhaps the bulbs dusty too. Lamps should be sealed but on a car that age ?

Don’t buy the 3057 bulbs listed for this car…buy the 3157 instead.
Don’t buy the .79 cent specials either…buy the name brands like GE, Sylvania, Osram, etc.

( cleaning my lamps with the squeegee spreads the idea accross the station lot after people see me do it…they realize they should too. Interesting pshyc study to watch as the idea spreads for a few minutes. )

The glass enclosure of conventional bulbs will darken over time, reducing light output.
It’s deposits from the filament as it slowly evaporates.
If they’re easy to remove pull them every couple of years and inspect.
Replace when the tint becomes obvious.

My plan is to go with the high cost newer bulbs, run about $12 for a pair and I believe you have to wear gloves to install as if a finger print gets on the bulb it can burst when on. I like to make sure people know I am there…

It won’t hurt to replace them, but I recommend that you avoid the LED bulbs sold at WalMart or any of the McParts stores. The tail light part is too bright on them and the brake light is not much brighter. It would be hard for someone behind you to notice that you have applied the brakes if your headlights are on.

There are LEDs on the internet that are better for this, but even they will not claim that they are suitable for use on public roads. There is also the issue that some LEDs don’t come with a lens that spreads the light out so they appear as a point of light in the middle of the tail light lens.