Today: can Tom and Ray help Margi get her brake lights working?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Dec 01, 2009

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a 1997 Plymouth Breeze with 110,000 miles on it. I changed the brake-light bulb in the passenger-side taillight, and now none of the lights in that taillight works. When I turn on my right blinker, the indicator on the dashboard blinks very fast. I think I may have blown a fuse, but I don't know which one to look at. Any suggestions before another kind policeman pulls me over to give me a warning? -- Margi

TOM: Well, if you still have your owner's manual (that's the flat thing still wrapped in cellophane under all the nonworking pens and old maps of Historic Boise, Idaho, in your glove box), there's a map of your fuse box in there. You can identify which fuse controls your taillights and how many amps it is, and replace it with a new one.

RAY: But I doubt that's going to solve your problem. More likely, I think you put in the wrong bulb.

TOM: This car uses a single, two-filament bulb in each taillight assembly. It uses one filament for the taillight, and the other for both the brake light and the directional. When the brake and directional are operating simultaneously, it cuts off that brake/directional filament to create the flashing effect.

RAY: If you just went to the store and picked out a bulb that looked like your old one, you may have taken a one-filament bulb that looks identical but doesn't work in your car.

TOM: The fast-flashing directional signal is a sign that a bulb is not working.

RAY: So here's what you do. Go to an auto-parts store, and ask for a 3057 bulb. That's the number of the bulb you need. And then make sure you push it in all the way, so it makes good contact.

TOM: How do you know if it's installed correctly? Well, the lights will all work again. Good luck, Margi.

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