How to replace the rear brake light on a 2006 Subaru Impreza wagon

We plan to post various handiwork tips that the authors have encountered over time. Saves money, effective, and makes you a more well-rounded professional! The following was written by Smart Money MD contributing writer (a surgeon).

One of the rear brake lights on my 2006 Subaru Impreza hatchback burned out last week. The dealer charges $98+tx for the repair. One of the other Subaru aftermarket garages was in the $40 range, but was closed on weekends and relatively far away. The bulb itself at Autozone is $6 for a pair. If you buy a box of 10, they are $1.50 apiece. If you order on eBay, they are even cheaper. The bulb model is a 7440/7443. This scenario is a prime example of your time cost of money, where DIY (you are the handyman!) will save you money. Given that I’d have to skip a half day of work to take my car to the garage, I decided to replace the bulb myself. The steps are relatively straightforward if you don’t have rusty bolts.
Access to the panel is from the rear hatch, and there are two screws:
Rear hatch of 2006 Subaru Impreza wagon

Rear hatch of 2006 Subaru Impreza wagon

There is a top screw and a side screw (I did not label the screws in the diagram. The Phillips head only unscrews part way.
Rear plastic screws. Lift gently.

Rear plastic screws. Lift gently.

You can use a needle nose plier to pull the screw and the fastener out vertically. Be sure to pull gently so that you don’t break the plastic fastener/seat. The plastic panel then pops out, and you see that the metal housing is fixed with two hex bolts (size 10, I believe):

Use Size 10 hex bolts

Use Size 10 hex bolts

These bolts can be unscrewed using a long handle bolt wrench or thin nose vise grips. The bolts in the photo above have already been removed. I ended up using WD-40 to loosen some of the rust build-up on the bolt. At this point, then entire light housing unit can be slid out.

For the 2006-2007 Impreza hatchback models, the housing is slid out in AP (Anterior-Posterior) directionThis means that if you are standing directly behind the car, you pull the housing towards yourself. If you have an older model Impreza, the housing should be pulled laterally outward. Be sure to pull gently so you don’t break the plastic fasteners inside:

Blue plastic fastener viewed from side of car

Blue plastic fastener viewed from side of car

In my case, I slid the unit towards me in the back. The photo above is viewed a four-thirds view from the side. The left of the photo is the rear of the car. You can see the direction of the blue plastic fastener that to remove the light housing, you slide the light housing posteriorly. The corresponding grip on the plastic housing looks like this:

Grey plastic seat that corresponds to the blue seat on the car

Grey plastic seat that corresponds to the blue seat on the car

At this point, you will have access to the wires and the light bulb sockets from behind:

Subaru Impreza 2006 wagon rear bulb socket

Subaru Impreza 2006 wagon rear bulb socket

The socket is unscrewed counterclockwise, and the bulb can be unseated from the socket by pulling vertically. Be sure to wear clean gloves when removing the bulb so that you don’t get oil smudges on the bulb. Oil and grime will result in irregular heat distribution on the bulb and can cause premature burnout. After replacing the bulb, just reverse the steps and put the bolts back in. The entire job probably took me less than five minutes. Not bad for a surgeon!

Note: If you have a sedan model, access to the socket is through the rear carpet paneling.

If you have any questions, please sound off below! I did not label the photos with arrows, but hopefully the instructions and photos are self-explanatory!

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  • Peh Peh

    It’s even better than that. You are in good position to snag some nitrile gloves to make the job that much cleaner. I fancy the Kimberly-Clark KC500 (the purple ones). They are thicker than the gray ones and less likely to tear. One of the perks of the job. That and the Procell batteries that power my TV remotes and kids toys.

    • Smart Money MD

      Haha! I absolutely agree with you. Somehow all of the hospitals I’ve worked at use Procells.