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OK, this is a discussion for round lights only. The 'square' lights have a different style bulb contact for rear lights.


If you've ever changed a bulb in a round tail light, you may have come across a broken center bulb contact, or more precisely the steel spring layer that pushes the (brass?) electrical contact layer against the bulb.  This stell / brass multilayer contact does two things:

1) supplies electrical current to the center terminal (lump of solder) and pushes the bulb pins against the housing for the ground path; and

2) holds the bulb in place so that the filament is located in the focus of the reflector dish, a parabola.  The focus is the 'sweet spot' that takes the light radiated from the filament and collimates it (directs the light outwards in a beam) through the lens.


Usually a broken contact is discovered when one of two things happens.

(A) you are bending the center contact inwards for more force, and get a little too pushy, breaking it off yourself (oops!), or

(B) your tail (brake, turn, or reverse) light is out, and no matter how far you bend the contact into the socket, it bends back out again as soon as you install the bulb, because the steel layer was previously broken by someone else. (Scheize!)


Either way, you will likely have a light not working due to this problem.  This is a bad thing.  Without adequate force against the bulb, the + and -- contacts are weak and unreliable, so the lamp will not light.  2002 lights are dim enough when they are working, having one out is worse.


Recently while repairing and upgrading a pair of lights for someone on the forum, I designed a very reliable repair method that will solve this problem without having to replace the light with another.  Cheaper, too, and plug-in simple.  No cutting wires, soldering, or other tasks.  Just a bit of heat shrink tube, spade connectors, and voila!  Permanently reliable lighting from a broken tail light.


The repair is designed to replace the existing current paths for both (+ and --) and connects directly to the existing wiring harness in the car for maximum results with minimum fuss.  It also holds the lamp in the socket so the filament sits in the focus and works as intended.  It also allows the cover to fit as usual over the back of the light, and allows the lights to work normally OR can be used to double the tail light size and triple its output by incorporating the tail light upgrade I also designed.  Works either way.


Anyone out there with a broken tail light that needs this repair?  I have two right now that need fixing, I'll be glad to help you or send a bit of advice...

or if you have one in such a condition and want to have a good working spare, send it to me and we'll get it back in working order. 



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I am interested! What did you do? Right now one of my bulbs isn't making contact with the flat brass piece against the back of the bulb. I balled up a piece of tinfoil and insulated it with electrical tape to isolate from the ground. Not a great long term fix though...


Would love to hear your approach!

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Common issue.  Center contacts in these old lights is a four piece assembly, including a plastic insulator, a thick metal contact terminal (flat spade), a soft thin contact piece (brass color) , a slightly thicker spring steel piece behind the brass contact strip.  The steel layer is what you see when you look at the back of the light, they are silvery in color.


This springy steel layer pushes the brass layer underneath against the lamp and provides positive voltage to the lamp PLUS presses the two side pins against their seats in the slots to provide a ground contact (zero volts, if you like).


Sometimes this can be corrected by removing the lamp, bending the steel and brass layers back towards the lamp base contact, and reinstalling the lamp.  Sometimes the bending force exceeds the strength, and the brittle steel layer breaks, a sickening experience.  This leaves the brass layer with practically no springiness or force against the lamp base or side contacts, and there is nothing to be happy about.  If that steel spring breaks, no light will work for more than a few moments, maybe an hour, but not reliably.


Fix- I have designed a high output (brighter, but NOT high wattage) lamp with soldered leads, making the contacts totally reliable, and a small wiring harness for the ground path that conducts power from the lamp back to ground.  It's a workaround that does not rely on the original contact assembly, and avoids all heat issues at the connections because they are made with spade connectors separated from the lamp (and it's heat) by a distance of several inches. And it does not melt the lens, it's nickel base as required, and is the same lamp I sell for upgrades.  Safer in several ways, and brighter by around 1/3.


If you can plug in a flat spade connector, you can install the updated lamp in a minute, and have reliable, brighter lights.  This update works for any of the rear lights, tail, brake, turn, and reverse.


And it's way less money than buying a reflector somewhere, which may or may not have the same failed contacts.

Edited by MoBrighta
add safety info

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OK, you have got me interested . I had the broken steel spring on one of mine. Do the original triangular covers fit still?


how much for a set?

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Yes, the covers still fit. 

Price depends on which lamp needs the repair - tail, US$21 per.  Brake/turn/reverse, US$25 per.

These include the lamp plus power and ground wiring.

Plus shipping, but size and weight are small. 


I have a model sitting on the bench, quick and easy to make another set.



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