Car Doctor Q&A: Toyota Tacoma Back-Up Light Rip-Off

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State safety inspections require that your reverse lights come on when you shift into reverse. This 2006 Toyota Tacoma owner’s stopped working, and the proposed solution involved a lot more than he bargained for.

Q. I own a 2006 Toyota Tacoma with 155,000 miles. Recently, I went to the dealership for a state inspection. When they checked the back-up lights, they realized the lights only work if you hold the manual shifter in reverse. Once you let go of the shifter, the lights go out.

Toyota Tacoma 2009

They recommended that I bring my truck to the dealership who replaced my frame last year. It’s possible that a wire could be pinched. So I brought my truck to the other dealership. When they put the transmission in reverse and held it in gear, the back-up lights didn’t even go on at all.

After further inspection, they realized that it could be a faulty switch inside the transmission which would cost $249 to replace. However, they said that if the new switch doesn’t solve the problem, then it may be a transmission issue, in which case, they said I would need a new transmission. The transmission works perfectly fine.

I find it ridiculous that the dealership would recommend a new transmission if the back up lights don’t work. Have you ever heard of such a thing?

A. The idea of replacing a perfectly good transmission for a faulty switch also sounds crazy to me. The back-up light switch screws into the transmission. When you shift into reverse, the gearshift depresses a plunger that activates the light.

It’s possible that the transmission could be worn and not depressing the switch but there are other alternatives. The simplest would be to mount a standalone switch that would allow you to manually switch on the back up lights.

For reference, the back-up light switch is about $40 and can be replaced in 30 minutes. Considering how easy it is to trouble shoot this issue I would consider finding a new repair shop.

John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England. A certified mechanic, Paul tests dozens of new cars each year and also hosts a radio show on AM 950 and 550.

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John Paul

John Paul