Do I really need both taillight bulbs?

My taillight has two bulbs. Somehow the upper bulb is not receiving current. (Both filaments are clearly good. The contacts on the bulb side of the bulb assembly were bent and rotated away from the ring contact. I bent them back and tried to push them back in place but the bulb is still not lighting. I don’t know for sure that the ring is carrying current. But when do I call it a day?)

For what it’s worth, I suspect this all began last February when I changed a bulb outdoors in 0 degree weather. I just didn’t notice for 6 months that I didn’t have a bulb that was lighting.

Plymouth Voyager, but applies to lots of cars.

One is usually for running light, the other lights up when you hit the brake pedal and is activated by a small switch above the brake pedal. If one brake light goes on, it’s probably not the switch. And, I don’t think that working on that in zero temp would have anything to do with it. Check to see what really isn’t working including having someone step on the brake while you’re watching it. Clean the socket contacts well, make sure you’ve got the right bulbs and replace it again just to ensure the bulb really isn’t bad.

If you’ve still got a problem depending on which circuit, look around for broken or disconnected wires, check power to the sockets both with and without brakes applied and see what you’ve got at that point. You can get a 12 volt tester at most parts stores for a few bucks. If you still have a problem, either take it to a shop or let us know.

BTW, a tail light out is one of the most common reasons for police equipment violation stops and in California, “fix-it tickets”.
Take it…errrr,…light. ;>)

You can replace the bulb holder. You will need to cut the wires connected to the existing bulb holder and use an electrical crimping tool to crimp butt connectors to the new bulb holder. Most auto parts stores should have them.

Do you need both of them? Probably not. It depends on the laws of your state. Some states require that ALL lights on a car work, some states are far more lenient.

As for whether you WANT them both to work, well, I would. There are two for redundancy. You say you think you’ve been driving around for six months with one lamp not working. The other one was, and you’ll never know if that one working lamp has saved you from being rear-ended or not.

Me? I’d fix it without a doubt.

Are you sure that you have the right kind of bulb? Types 1156 and 1157 look very much alike, but 1156 has only one filament whereas 1157 has two. The locking pins are offset differently in order to discourage inserting an 1156 bulb into an 1157 socket, but some people manage to overcome that and force the bulb into the socket even though it doesn’t fit and won’t work right.

You’re right that working on it in 0 degree temp isn’t a problem. Breaking the old, cold plastic is a problem. As is just getting done and not checking to make sure that everything works right.

This bulb is totally redundant. (At least it is on the other side.) Even with the bulb out, I comply with Tennessee law (although whether I want to go through the hassle of proving this in court is another matter – I’m pretty certain I won’t win an argument with one of Memphis’ finest if I get pulled over, which means I’d have to drive 200 miles back to Memphis to attend a court date to get the ticket dismissed, or pay a lawyer, both prospects which are extremely distasteful). Actually, now that I’ve put it that way, I think I don’t have a choice. I just needed to see the question in the right light.

I just didn’t see the question in the right light. I was trying to save (I’m not sure how much) some tiny amount of money. I’m technically legal in Tennessee, but (as I wrote above) it might be a real hassle to prove it. I have to fix it.