Jim Smart
December 3, 2003

Taillight Tale

Taillight technology has improved as much as the headlamps at the otherend of your Ford. Of course, the ever-reliable 1157 and 1157A lampsreign supreme when it comes to use around the world. The 1157 is thetwin-filament bulb we've been installing in our tail and parking lampsfor more than 50 years. We call this a twin-filament bulb because, likea single-set headlamp, there are two filaments inside. One filament isfor the parking/driving lights; the other, which is considerablybrighter, is for turn signals and brake lights. Because it is thebrighter filament, it gets our attention quickly. We use the 1157 lampin our taillights. The 1157A is an amber bulb used in clear-lens parkinglamps in front. If our Ford or Mercury uses an amber lens, we use an1157 clear lamp.

Despite the steady, reliable use of the 1157 and 1157A lamps for half acentury, we've come to learn they're not bright enough in someapplications. In some instances, our vintage Fords suffer from milky,bleached taillight lenses. This reduces the amount of light someonefollowing us sees. In normal driving, with the headlamps or parkinglamps lighted, our taillights are often barely visible. This can behazardous.

National Parts Depot has a solution for dim taillights and parkinglights. The H1157 halogen park/taillight bulb greatly increases theamount of light visible from your tail and parking lights. We testedthese small halogen lamps on the Mustangs Etc. '65 test mule, and wereimpressed with the result.

Another type of tail/parking lamp isn't really a lamp at all: It'scalled an LED, or Light Emitting Diode. If you're paying attention towhat's on the road out there, you see LED taillights all the time onnewer cars equipped from the factory. LED lights are used more and morein traffic signals today. They're easily identified by their bright,instant on/off behavior. Light bulbs fade on and off due to theirglowing, white-hot filaments. Diodes appear and vanish instantly.

The nice thing about LEDs is reliability. They virtually never burn out,which means they can last forever in your vintage Ford. We tested one type of LED taillight available from Mustangs Etc. It twists into your tail/parking lamp socket, just like an 1157, 1157A, or H1157 bulb. The LED lamp is also available in a variety of colors such as red, yellow,white, and blue. Because taillights are there primarily for your safety and the safety of others, we suggest the use of warning colors, such as red or white, behind those red lenses. Motor vehicle laws in all 50states mandate the use of red taillights. Use a color other than red and you can expect a visit from the police during your next commute or cruise. Again, red is required for your safety.

California Mustang has another type of LED taillight replacement forclassic Mustangs. Consisting of two 20-LED panels that install in side the taillight housing, these LED taill amps light up brighter than original equipment. They install in a matter of minutes. Lenses and bezels are not included and must be ordered separately.

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