How to change your stop/brake lights [on a 2003 Toyota Corolla] in 2 minutes

Awhile ago, my friend told me that my passenger side brake light was out. (I drive a 2003 Toyota Corolla.) This should be a simple do-it-yourself task, right?

So, I bought a set of stop light bulbs at Kragen Auto Parts. (Cost: About $6) I asked the employee how to change it, but he said he couldn’t help me because people have been suing them for instances where they messed up. (Harsh.)

Next stop: Stop Brake Shops. Fortunately, one of the mechanics was nice enough to change it out for me, and to show me how to do it. Did I need any tools? Nope.

  • Pop the trunk.
  • Look at the backside of the tail light area – it’s wide open. Turn the affected light bulb socket to the left. It’ll take some force, but you won’t break it.
  • Once it unlocks, you can pull the light bulb out.
  • Push the new bulb in.
  • Put the socket back into its place by pushing it in, then turning to the right. It’ll lock back into place.
  • Test the brake light to make sure it works.

Disclaimer: Don’t hold me responsible for any damages you cause to your car. I just documented this process to help you.

Published by

Bryan Villarin

Bryan works at Automattic. Cat whisperer. Sometimes, a photographer and card magician.

24 thoughts on “How to change your stop/brake lights [on a 2003 Toyota Corolla] in 2 minutes”

  1. @Laura: Um, I don’t know. Which one: the white “reverse” light or the turn signal?

    I’ll check that out in a bit when I go out for my lunch break.


  2. Thanks for posting this! Most of the sites that instruct you how to change a bulb only really give full instructions on how to change one from the outside, and no one else really gave full instructions on how to change one from the inside, let alone full instructions on how to change one for this specific vehicle! Thanks!!


  3. Sounds easy, but in practice, it doesnt work that way. A special tool is required to remove the glass bulb from the plastic socket


    1. I’m having the same problem with getting the bulb itself out of the socket. Little clamps in grooves on light connection.


  4. @ Josh: Sounds like either you weren’t doing something right, or your car’s fixture is seriously screwed, because all it takes is a little elbow grease. It seems like it’s worked fine for everyone else.


  5. I did this for my girlfriend’s Corolla and found that her’s was a bit tighter than usual. The solution: A pair of Craftsman Robogrips.

    Just clamp onto the rectangular piece with your Robogrips and slowly turn counter-clockwise as instructed above. Works like a charm.

    Thanks for the post!


  6. It worked exactly like you said!! I just turned it to the left, and out it came! Thanks this post saved me a big hassle!


  7. Yes that will get the housing out but you still have to get the bulb out of the housing. I had to use two small flat heads to push away the tabs that hold the rectangular base of the bulb and then pull the bulb out while rocking it it back and forth.


  8. This was very helpful. My sister and I just changed mine – yes two women in a matter of minutes. I was unable to turn it – but she’s a bit stronger and now all set! Thank you!


  9. I can’t budge it.
    Which way do you turn the plastic contraption. The bulb I hope is on the other side, but I can’t get the plastic thing to turn,


Leave a Reply to Bryan Villarin Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s