While headlights and tail lights are standard parts of a vehicle, the side marker lights are auxiliary auto lights. This does not mean, however, that they don't serve an important purpose. In fact, a premium side marker assembly can enhance both vehicle safety and aesthetics. Encased in a plastic shell, the side marker assembly is designed to be mounted by the vehicle's fenders. Side marker lights can be activated even if your vehicle is idle, and are useful in making your vehicle more visible at night. By making your vehicle more noticeable, these lights help prevent collisions and accidents. For easy use and activation, side marker lights can be wired to the parking lights, headlights, turn signal lights or even directly to the car battery. Even installation is a breeze; side marker assemblies are usually just bolted or taped onto the vehicle's exterior.
• Makes your ride more visible after sunset
• Emits a bright, easily-seen beam
• Comes with regular bulbs or LEDs
Side Marker Buyer's Guide
- Side markers are auxiliary lights that lack the luminosity of headlights and tail lights. They support the more powerful lights while also making your car look better at night.
- Side markers increase your car’s visibility at night. They grab the attention of other drivers and indicate where the sides of your vehicle reach.
- A side marker has a base, a bulb socket, a lens, a light bulb, and a trim.
- Typically, side markers can cost anywhere between $3 and $79. You can also find them in replacement kits, which cost anywhere between $9 and $499 depending on the other parts included.
- When selecting new or replacement side markers, check their compatibility with your vehicle and pick street-legal colors.
Every vehicle possesses headlights and tail lights. These vehicle lights keep you safe while driving at night. They illuminate the road ahead of your car and reveal your position to other vehicles ahead and behind you.
However, some vehicles also come with side markers. These auxiliary lights lack the luminosity of headlights and tail lights, but they support the more powerful lights while also making your car look better at night. Read more to learn what side markers do, what their parts are, and how to pick a suitable one for your car.
What is a side marker light?
Side markers are auxiliary lights found on the sides of a vehicle’s body. Also called “side marker lights,” they show the position and distance of the vehicle’s sides to other drivers on the road.
A plastic shell covers the light assembly. The casing protects the light bulbs from the elements and minor bumps and impacts.
Depending on their design and the vehicle’s body, side marker lights can attach to bumpers, fenders, or rear quarter panels. You can find the front side markers ahead of the front wheels while rear markers sit behind the rear wheels.
Side marker lights can run in different ways. Some markers light up when you switch on headlights. Others blink helpfully when you use the turn signal lights. And other models can still handle both modes of operation.
The role of side marker lights
Side markers increase your car’s visibility at night. They grab the attention of other drivers and indicate where the sides of your vehicle reach. If another driver wishes to pass your vehicle, he can use the side markers as a visual reference point and judge how close his car can get to yours.
You can activate side marker lights whenever you need or want to. This includes idle periods when the engine keeps running while the vehicle remains still, such as waiting for the traffic light to turn green.
Parts of a side marker
By themselves, the five parts that make up a side marker can’t do anything. But when they combine into a single device, they can reduce the risk of collisions and car accidents at night.
The marker’s base keeps the lighting device in place. Its chrome covering amplifies the light bulb’s brightness and reflects the light over a greater distance.
The shape of the side marker’s base matches the contours of the car body part that it fits on. Since vehicles come in all shapes and sides, a side marker that fits a vehicle may not suit a different model or even year model.
The base of a side marker designed for one side of the car cannot fit on its opposite side. That means you can’t get away with installing a driver’s side marker on the passenger’s side and vice versa.
The bulb socket supports a compatible light bulb. It also connects the latter to wiring, allowing the bulb to draw electrical power from the vehicle.
Most bulb sockets use 3 connector wires. Other wiring arrangements are rare but exist. If you need to replace the socket, inspect its set-up and get a replacement part that uses the same wiring.
The most obvious part of any side marker, the lens sets the color of the light emitted by the marker’s bulb.
Many manufacturers offer side marker lenses in many colors. However, the only colors that meet federal and state standards are amber lenses for front side markers and red lenses for rear side markers. Lenses of any other color violate the law, so you must settle for just two colors.
The part that produces light, the bulb will also need replacement more often than the other parts. Some side markers don’t come with them to save on cost, as you can fit older but working bulbs in their sockets as long as the bulbs prove compatible.
Most side markers use halogen light bulbs. Some use light-emitting diodes (LED), which produce more light while consuming less energy and lasting longer than conventional bulbs.
The trim fastens the side marker to the surface of the vehicle’s body. It holds the entire lighting device in place even when the car travels at high speed or crosses bumpy stretches of road.
Most side marker trims feature chrome. While the lens and the base’s shape impose some restrictions, the trims offer plenty of choices for customization.
You can repair or swap damaged and worn parts while leaving the functioning parts in place. But you may eventually need to replace the entire side marker light assembly.
How much do side marker lights cost?
The price tag of side marker lights depends on their brand, quantity, their inclusion of light bulbs, and the bulb types they use. You can purchase individual markers and sets of 2 or 4 markers.
Typically, side markers can cost anywhere between $3 and $79. You can also find them in replacement kits, which cost anywhere between $9 and $499 depending on the other parts included.
Picking the right side marker
Side markers are simple devices that do one job. However, their contribution to your safety on the road makes them more important than what one may expect. It behooves you to put some thought into selecting new or replacement side markers for your car.
While some side markers can fit many vehicles, no marker can claim the status of universal compatibility. If you intend to replace older markers with a new design or wish to install them on a car that didn’t have them in the first place, you should make sure the devices enjoy compatibility with your vehicle.
It always helps to ask experienced people about the best side markers for your car. If your vehicle came with markers, you can bring the old parts to the shop and compare them.
Online car parts shops usually have filter bars that can quickly find parts guaranteed to fit your vehicle. Take advantage of this function by plugging your vehicle’s year, make, and model in the bar.
State and federal laws require front side markers to exclusively use the color amber. Markers positioned at the vehicle’s rear should feature red coloration. These warm colors make it easier for drivers to spot the illuminated markers at night while also reducing the risk of glare.
Installing your car’s new side markers
It’s easy to install new side markers (or replace old markers) in your car. You can even do the job yourself to save some cash.
Selecting the Right Side Marker
Since 1968, amber front and red rear side markers have been a strict safety requirement across all 50 States. They have been proven to annually prevent over 100,000 accidents, near the same number in non-fatal injuries, and close to $350 million in damages. Buying one is pretty straightforward, but you can maximize what your investment by following these simple tips.
The first thing that you should know is that new and replacement markers should be an exact fit for your vehicle's specific year, make, and model. With the exception of a few of its components-as you will soon see-there is no such thing as Universal fit when it comes to side markers.
Bringing it All Together
There are five components that make up your side marker. Each component can be replaced individually depending on the damage and/or need, or the entire thing can be replaced altogether.
- Bulb Socket: This holds the actual bulb that lights the marker up. This is the only component that is generally universal across the board. The thing to look for when it comes to the socket is the connectors. Very rarely will you find a set-up that isn't the standard 3-wire-but always check the manual of your vehicle or the existing socket to be sure.
- Base: This secures the entire side marker in place and is always chromed out to reflect and enhance the light coming from the bulb. The two things to look out for when picking a base are the fit on your car, and whether or not the one you need is for the driver's side or passenger's side of your vehicle-these cannot be interchanged.
- Lens: The lens is the most visible aspect of the side marker. Do not be fooled by those selling you lenses in a variety of colors. Federal regulations are very clear that the only acceptable color is amber. It is again important to consider the specificity of fit for your ride and which side you're looking to fix a marker on. Some customizability is allowed for vehicles with flat sides-it's still safest to stick with an exact model.
- Trim: Side marker trims anchor the assembly in place. Almost always chromed, they allow for a great deal of customization and come in a variety of designs: from the plain standard versions to those with grills incorporated. The only real limiting factors for the trim are the shape of the base and of the lens that you have installed.
Getting It Right
Research-and a lot of it-make it easy to bring all the elements together to keep you street-legal and safe. For any easier shopping experience, it's always a good bet to use your present markers as a reference. Better still, try to shop on a website that gives you the option to incorporate the specific year, make, and model of your car when searching for side marker parts-this approach minimizes errors of fit significantly.
Replacing Your Side Marker Lights
Your side marker lights not only keep you on the right side of the law, but also serve to protect you because they increase the visibility of your vehicle significantly. The best part is that, when it comes to side markers, replacing them is one of the easiest DIY tasks out there. It will save you a whole lot of money handling the replacement yourself-just follow along with this handy guide.
Time to Complete: 30-45 mins.
Stuff You Will Need:
- New side marker part or whole assembly
- Owner's manual
- Screwdrivers ? flat or Philips depending on your need
- Jack (optional) ? depends on specific vehicle model
Getting It Done:
Step 1: Uncouple the battery and wait at least half an hour before proceeding.
Step 2: Locate the side marker assembly that needs replacement.
Step 3: Access side marker light that needs replacing.
*NOTE* Depending on whether front or rear, and the model of the vehicle, accessing the marker may require something as simple as popping the hood or trunk to something as complicated as lifting the vehicle with a jack. Refer to your owner's manual for guidance.
Step 4: Disengage the bulb and socket assembly-on most vehicles, this requires a simple counterclockwise twist.
Step 5: Remove the bolts or screws that hold the assembly in place and remove the entire lighting fixture.
Step 6: Install any replacements (bulb socket, base, lens, trim-or all of them!) onto your car and secure in place.
Step 7: Reconnect battery and test operation of side markers to verify success of replacement.
- Always wear protective goggles, insulated gloves, and closed-toed shoes when performing replacements and repairs.
- Park on a level surface and make sure parking brake is engaged. Bolster wheels with any pieces of wood or rock to make sure your vehicle stays put.