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Change Tail Lights

i’ve been trying to change the tail lights on my 2003 Subaru Outback. It used to be so easy! Now it looks like i’ve gotta pull the whole assembly out to change a couple of bulbs. Assistance please.

Look in your owner’s manual. You might have to pull the assembly off - but this is normally not complicated and is sometimes designed to be done without any tools. The owner’s manual will tell you what to do.

I’ll bet money there are access panels inside the car, and the bulbs can be replaced without any tools. The owner’s manual is the place to find the necessary information.

There are indeed access panels in the interior of the car.
As cigroller and mcparadise suggested, the Owner’s Manual has this information, as well as virtually anything else that you need to know for the day-to-day operation of the car.

As the old saying tells us, “When all else fails, try reading the directions”.
The directions are sitting in the glove compartment.


I am not one to be so smug about the information to be found in the owner’s manual. It seldom includes actual repair information. The manual for my Dodge, for example, merely gives a list of replacement bulbs but says nothing about DIY repair procedures.

I dunno about your Outback, but take a closer look at it from inside the trunk. I’ll bet replacement can be made from inside the trunk somehow, either through an access panel or by twisting out the sockets from behind. Figure it out one time and you’re all set for the next time.

Then, obviously there is a difference between the Dodge Owner’s Manual and the Subaru Owner’s Manual!

On pages 11-62, 11-63, and 11-64 of the Subaru Owner’s Manual, there are pictograms, a list of tools needed, and full text instructions for replacing all of the rear light bulbs on this car. On other pages, there is similar information for replacing all of the other bulbs on this car.

My Subaru is older than the OP’s, but its manual has clear instructions, with diagrams, for changing bulbs and many other DIY maintenance tasks.

Thanks for Your responses. i don’t have an owners manual. i bought it used, that’s why i came here. i owned a '92 Subaru wagon and it had the little flap doors that made light changing a breeze. The little plastic covers on an '03 wagon just reveal a couple of screws and nuts, one that’s pretty hard to get to. i tried to get the darned thing off, then thought better of totally screwing things up and put it back before i got the whole assembly out.

Used owner’s manuals and other service books are available, inexpensively, at

Check this out.