Your vehicle’s backup lights serve a couple of very important purposes. They not only let other drivers (and pedestrians as well) know that you are backing up your car, they also give you a certain degree of visibility if you are backing up when it is dark. Your backup lights are activated by means of a backup light switch. When you shift into reverse, the switch tells your backup lights to come on. When you shift out of reverse, the switch tells your backup lights that they are no longer needed.

Because your backup light switch is located under the hood (usually on the transmission), it is not all that vulnerable, and not usually subject to failure. You also don’t use your backup lights all the time, so the switch doesn’t take the wear and tear of some other electrical components. Of course, all electrical components can fail, but the backup light switch can usually be relied on to last a very long time – possibly even the life of your vehicle. When problems occur with backup lights, it is more likely to be a wiring issue, or simply a blown bulb that is easily replaced.

Signs that your backup light switch may need to be replaced include:

  • Reverse lights working only sometimes
  • Reverse lights not working at all
  • Reverse lights constantly on

Legally, you are required to have working backup lights. Simply stated, this is a safety issue, so if your backup lights are not working, consult a professional mechanic, and if necessary, have the backup light switch replaced.

This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How Long Does a Backup Light Switch Last? and was authored by Valerie Johnston.


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