Your car is equipped with a wide range of lights, from the headlights to the taillights to the interior lights that help you see when getting in or out of the vehicle in the dark. This includes your reverse or back up lights. They’re one of the most frequently ignored, yet important lights on your car.

Your car’s reverse lights are actually safety features. They provide a number of different benefits. These bulbs alert other motorists and pedestrians behind you that you’re about to back up the car. They also provide visibility for backing up in low-light situations (reverse light lenses and bulbs are clear, providing brighter illumination).

When you shift your transmission into reverse, the reverse light bulbs should turn on. Having operational back up lights is actually required by law in most states, as well. Of course, because they turn on every time you put your car in reverse, those bulbs will wear and eventually fail.

There is no set lifespan for a reverse light bulb. A lot depends on the type of bulb, as well as how often you put your car in reverse. Most conventional reverse light bulbs will last for at least 5 years, but LED lights can last for up to 12 years or more. Of course, there may be additional problems to consider if your reverse lights don’t work. For instance, there could be a blown fuse (one of the most common problems with inoperable electronics). The reverse sensing switch could also have failed.

While you probably don't think much about your back up lights, they’re important parts of your car and help enhance your safety as well as the safety of others. It’s important to know the signs of failure:

  • One reverse light bulb is not working (this indicates a burned out bulb, rather than a fuse problem or an issue with the switch)

  • Neither reverse light bulb comes on (could be two burned out bulbs, a blown fuse, or another problem)

  • Reverse lights work intermittently (indicates a problem in the wiring, and not a blown bulb)

Given the importance of having operational back up lights, it’s vital that you have them checked if they are not operating. YourMechanic can help. One of our mobile mechanics can come to your home or office and inspect the bulbs, the wiring, the fuse and other components, and replace anything necessary.

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


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