4 Cheap and Easy Ways to Fix a Broken Car Taillight

Broken taillight
Broken taillight | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Fender-benders have the ability to piss on anyone’s parade. Even though the damage may appear to be minimal and there are no major injuries, the headaches associated with them are one hell of a nuisance. So while a serious accident requires quick thinking and extreme caution, the typical slow-speed impact typically involves things like mild profanity, phone calls to cops and insurance agents, and a rescheduled afternoon itinerary.

Later that evening, as you stand in your drive staring at your dinged-up car, adult beverage in hand and mind reeling, you begin to weigh your options. Maybe it’s the rum talking, but the damage doesn’t look all that bad from this angle, and although the bumper has some superficial scuffs, the smashed rear tail lamp is really the only broken part of the car.

Then suddenly, the rum mysteriously channels your inner Mr. Smee from the film Hook, lightning strikes your brain, and you have an epiphany. The insurance company can’t go over repair options until tomorrow, and instead of dealing with all the paperwork and headaches, you could potentially fix this problem yourself! But where do you start, and what do you buy?

Fortunately for you, we’ve come up with four manageable alternatives that give you the flexibility to skip the insurance red tape, dodge overpriced dealer mark-ups, and jump straight to the front of the line with a quick fix. Naturally, there is a certain amount of DIY expertise that must be implemented, but fortunately the typical cracked taillight is a pretty simple fix and shouldn’t take all that long to mend. Here are four solid options that warrant consideration if you want to fix your ride on the cheap and don’t mind doing it yourself.

1. The 3M fix

3M repair tape
3M repair tape | Source: 3M

Our first cheap cheat of the day is by no means meant to be a permanent fix, but desperate times call for desperate measures, especially if you have to drive somewhere and don’t want to get pulled over for having a busted taillight. Most auto parts stores stock a selection of 3M lens repair film fixes, so even if your clear reverse portion or orange blinker section has been bashed in, you still have an easy to use option available to you while you wait on a replacement lens to arrive.

2. The old junkyard dive

Junkyard | Source: Robby Biron

If you have the tools, know-how, and time, hitting the junkyard is often the cheapest way to get OEM parts. Just be sure to call in advance or check out the yard’s website to guarantee that it has your year/make/model on the grounds, and look the used lens over thoroughly for an official automaker mark to guarantee its authenticity. If you encounter any signs of scorching or burning on the bulb pigtail, melted wiring, or signs of water penetration, walk away; depending on what you drive, there are typically plenty of other options to choose from in a salvage yard that have not been compromised.

3. The eBay find

eBay shopping
eBay shopping | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

If you don’t mind going with something aftermarket, or have zero interest in pulling your own parts from a wrecked car in order to save some cash, looking toward online sites like eBay are a fantastic option. Since gently used OEM taillight assemblies can be difficult to find for obscure, vintage, or expensive vehicles, sourcing aftermarket lenses from companies like Taiwan-based Depo Auto Parts is a solid option. Specializing in high quality aftermarket assemblies with guaranteed OEM fitments, these taillights function just like your old broken unit, and sport a price tag that is a fraction of what you would pay at the dealership.

4. The used car specialist

Used Honda parts shop
Used Honda parts shop | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

This is a great way to get an all-in-one experience because if you find a local shop that specializes in replacing your broken lens, chances are it will have a slew of used parts on hand to pull from. So with a little luck the shop will have the lens you need, and will replace your broken unit with a like-new one for a set fee. So hop on the interweb and see who specializes in working on your vehicle of choice locally, because finding a trustworthy mechanic that specializes in your chassis is a major win.