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HomeTips & GuidesWiring Light Socket: How To Replace the Socket and Its Wiring

Wiring Light Socket: How To Replace the Socket and Its Wiring

Wiring light socket is a relatively straightforward process, and we’ll list the steps below. 

Vehicles have several light sockets that power DC light bulbs for specific functions. Think of brake lights, headlights, cabin lights, reverse lights, etc. 

Fixing an issue in this electrical section might require replacing the light bulb socket, electrical wiring, or light bulb. 

The last option is the easiest, so let’s focus on the first two scenarios. Here’s how to wire a light bulb socket.

Table of Contents

How To Replace a Wiring Light Socket

You will need these tools to complete this process.

  • Replacement bulb socket
  • Automotive light tester
  • Screwdriver
  • Fuse puller

Step 1: Access the Light Bulb Holder

Remove the light bulb socket from the lens. This process varies depending on the vehicle, and you might need a screwdriver in some cars. For headlight bulbs, you’ll have to pop the hood. But you might have to undo some plastic panels in the trunk to access tail light bulbs.

A car headlight socket with three electrical wires connected (green, white-green, and white wire)

A car headlight socket with three electrical wires connected (green, white-green, and white wire)

Step 2: Test the Lamp Socket

We always recommend testing to determine the cause of the problem before making any replacements. Use the light tester to check if power reaches the positive socket terminal.

If the tester glows, remove the bulb, then test the contacts inside. But if the tester does not light up, the wiring is faulty. And we’ll look at the wiring process shortly.

An automotive test light with a pointy probe on one end and a crocodile clip on the other side

An automotive test light with a pointy probe on one end and a crocodile clip on the other side

If the tester glows when connected to the terminals but is inactive on the contacts, proceed to step 3 because the socket is faulty. But if it lights up when connected to the socket contacts, replace the bulb.

Step 3: Cut the Power Supply

Disconnecting the battery terminals is easier than unplugging a fuse, but this might reset most vehicle systems, including the clock. So, disconnect the specific light socket circuit from the fuse box if you can.

A car mechanic holding a fuse puller above an open fuse box

A car mechanic holding a fuse puller above an open fuse box

Locate the fuse box first, then undo the cover, and follow the vehicle’s wiring diagram to find the fuse for the circuit you want to work on. Remove this fuse using the fuse puller.

Step 4: Replace the Lamp Socket

If the socket is faulty, you cannot repair it. The only solution is to install a replacement.

Car electrical light connections usually have only two cables: a positive hot wire and a neutral wire (black wire). Disconnect these wires from the positive and neutral terminals, then screw a new socket.

Some cars have bulb holder connectors that simplify this replacement process. Simply pull this connector from the socket, then insert the new one.

A vehicle’s tail light bulb removed from the lens

A vehicle’s tail light bulb removed from the lens

With such connectors, you might not have to unplug the fuse from the distribution box because the insulated cover makes it safe to handle.

Step 5: Reconnect the Power Supply

Insert the fuse back into its slot in the fuse box, then test if power gets to the contacts in the socket. If it does, insert the bulb. It should glow.

Step 6: Finish Up

Complete the replacement process by reinserting and screwing the lamp socket back into the lens, then refit any plastic panels. That’s it!

How To Replace a Lamp Socket’s Wiring

If you test the light bulb socket and notice a lack of power on the terminals, the issue might be in the wiring or the fuse.

So check the fuse and replace it if it is faulty. If functional, follow these steps to install new wires.

You will need these tools.

  • Wire cutter
  • Wire stripper
  • Screwdriver
  • Similar gauge electrical wires
  • Fuse puller
  • A pair of pliers
  • Pigtail wire or butt splice connector
  • Heat gun
  • Crimping tool

Step 1: Cut Off the Power Supply

Unplug the fuse or disconnect the positive and negative terminal wires from the battery.

Step 2: Access the Light Socket Wiring

Remove the lamp socket from its lens using a screwdriver, then unplug the connector. Note the wire gauge and color of the conductors, and look for similar wires.

Most lighting wires in vehicles are either 16 or 18-gauge cables. But get the specific diameter that matches what you want to replace.

A mechanic inspecting a vehicle headlight lens

A mechanic inspecting a vehicle headlight lens

Step 3: Cut the Wires

Instead of cutting the wires close to the socket or connector, leave a short section or pigtail to simplify the wiring replacement.

Bulbs usually have two wires, so cut equal-length replacement wires to connect to the bulb socket.

Step 4: Channel the Wires Through the Harnesses

Install the wire in the vehicle, channeling the positive line to the fuse box. The negative wire will be shorter because it finds its ground in the car’s body.

Follow the existing wire connections to lay down the replacement in a similar design.

A car’s xenon lamp plugged into its socket

A car’s xenon lamp plugged into its socket

The process will be more straightforward if you locate the section of the wire that has either short-circuited or formed a discontinuity.

Simply cut this damaged wire length section, then crimp a new same-color and same-gauge wire to create continuity.

But if you can’t locate the damaged section, replace the two wires, beginning with the positive line. Leave a short pigtail-length wire from the fuse box to connect to the replacement wire.

Alternatively, you can screw it in, but a butt splice connection is easier to install.

Step 5: Connect the New Wire

Use the wire stripper to remove about 0.5 inches of insulation from the wire ends coming from the fuse box and the new wire.

Insert these stripped wires into the butt splice wire connector, then crimp the ends using the crimping tool. Activate the heat shrink tubing using a heat gun after crimping the joints.

Car light bulbs with their connector wires

Car light bulbs with their connector wires

If using a pigtail wire or nylon closed-end connector, there’s no need to strip the plastic insulation. Cut the ends flush, insert them into the connector, then press the cap using a pair of pliers.

The metal tines inside will slice through the outer insulation to contact the wire.

Pigtail wire connectors have a silicone sealant that insulates the joint, but you have to use heat shrink tubing for nylon closed-end connectors.

Do the same for the other end that connects to the light socket.

Step 6: Reconnect the Power Supply

Insert the fuse back into its slot or reconnect the battery, then turn on the light switch for testing.

Wrap Up

Wiring a vehicle’s light socket is similar to handling sockets in lighting fixtures. So you can do the wiring as a DIY project if you are familiar with household wiring. 

The only vital part is to follow the color codes (positive terminal to positive and negative to ground wire). 

That’s it for now. Comment below if you get stuck in the process. We’ll be happy to help.

I am Lillian Yang, having been a sales manager for over 10 years.

I have received many positive reviews from customers. They have praised our excellent service, on-time delivery, and high-quality cable assemblies.

For your projects, please provide cable assembly files/images/smples, etc., so that I can send you a quotation within 24 hours.

Contact me now and let’s get started on building your wire harnesses!

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