All you need to know about Car Map Lights

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Contact us if you have any questions :)

When it comes to light inside a car, you need to know what your options are. The illumination can come from dome lights, map lights, and more. By learning about a map light, including how to replace them, you can ensure that you always have a way to see what’s going on.

all about car map lights

The options are virtually endless, so you get to have the lighting that works best for you.

What are Map Lights?

Map lights are often found on either side of the dome light or closer to the driver and passenger seats near the front window. They provide a small, focused light so that you can see a map – or anything else when it’s dark outside.

There are a few different types of map lights available.

  • Built-in: These are preinstalled inside your car. Depending on the make and model, the location of the light may vary.
  • Portable: If your car isn’t equipped with a map light or you want a different one, you can find portable units. Many will have a clip so that they can be fixed to wherever it is convenient.
This is box title

The Benefits of Map Lights

Map lights are beneficial because they can provide much-needed illumination in an otherwise dark car. At night, it can be difficult to read a map, a travel brochure, or even let the little ones in the backseat color until their hearts are content.

Too much illumination can pose a problem. When you turn on the dome light, for example, it can be a distraction while driving. When the roads are particularly dark, it can also distract other drivers and cause an accident.

Since you don’t want to cause an accident or get pulled over for distracted driving, map lights are useful. Whether they’re built into your car or you have a portable model, they offer the light when and where you need it the most.

Top benefits of map lights:

  • Low-level lighting
  • Can be manually switched on and off
  • Makes it easy to read in the dark

With various features of map lighting, you can gain even more benefits. For example, some are on a dimmable switch. Some are even movable, allowing you to direct the light to where you want it.

Problems with Map Lights

Just as there are benefits of having map lights, you want to be aware of some problems. If you have lights that are too bright, they can be blinding.

If you’re the passenger, warn the driver that the light is coming on. It can make it easier to prepare for the sudden brightness that will fill the automotive cabin.

Sometimes these lights go out or get dim over time. The good news is they are usually a T5 wedge bulb that is cheap and easy to replace. And if you have an older vehicle, the new LEDs are much brighter and give a whiter light.

Changing Your Map Lights

map light size
Map lights are easy to change. They’re less than 1″ in length.

Just as you choose the lighting throughout your home based on personality, usage, and personal preferences, the same is true for map lamps. You may want to consider changing a number of features:

  • Kelvin Color (we light 5k in our vehicles)
  • Brightness
  • Type of bulb (Google something like: ‘2000 toyota camry map light bulb size’)

SuperBrightLEDs or forums are the best resource for finding the size of your map light replacement bulb.

By understanding more about what options are available, you can take control of your car’s illumination. Further, you’ll be able to handle replacing the bulbs so that you don’t have to take it to a mechanic.


This is box title

Common Types of Bulbs

When you turn your interior light on and nothing happens, it’s generally a sign that the bulb has burned out.

You can look in your owner’s manual to find out what light is recommended. However, this is also a chance to change out the bulb if you want.

Consider choosing an LED or halogen bulb within your vehicle. LED lights offer a number of benefits because they don’t give off as much heat as a halogen bulb. Additionally, they are known to last a considerable amount of time.

How to Replace a Bulb


It’s easy to install a new bulb inside a map light, so you don’t need to have any special automotive skills.

Be sure that you have a bulb that is designed to fit the housing. When in doubt, read the owner’s manual for the specifications. Each vehicle is a little different, but here’s the general procedure to replace a map light.

  1. Find the hinge and plastic tabs on the map light
  2. Insert a small flathead screwdriver between the plastic molding and the lens of the light
  3. Wiggle the map light away from the plastic tab
  4. Pull the lens and heat shield out
  5. Depending on the bulb, it will either pop out or need to be unscrewed
  6. Replace the bulb and give it a test
  7. If the new bulb works, return the lens and heat shield

In just a few minutes, you should have the lighting working again. If you’re struggling with the process, consult with your owner’s manual again or find a YouTube video that offers a step-by-step tutorial.

This is box title

How Long do the Map Lights Last

The lights can last a considerable amount of time. Once you replace the bulb, you can expect them to last approximately 25,000 hours. Considering that you might only use a map light for a few minutes at a time, there’s a good chance that the bulb will outlast the car.

There are reasons why a light might not last as long, however.

Check to see how old the bulb is. If you have one that has been lying around your garage for a few years, it may not have as much life left in it.

LED bulbs will typically last for 25,000 hours. It all depends on the type of light, however. A compact fluorescent may last for 10,000 hours, while a halogen may only last for 2,000 hours.

Other Interior Auto Lights to Replace

The map light is only one type of interior light that you have to consider. It’s important to look throughout your car at all the other lights. It will let you know what lighting options you have and what bulbs you should have on hand in case you need to replace any.

Dome light: The dome light is a safety feature that tells you when your door is open. It also helps you to get situated at night before it turns off automatically. The dome light will use a larger, brighter bulb than your map light.

dome light

Door lights: Door lights are most commonly located on the bottom of each door. It can help you with entering and exiting the car at night.

Interior accent lighting: Most of the interior accent lighting is an aftermarket purchase. They typically are comprised of LED strips and are powered through your car’s cigarette lighter or another source of power.

Trunk light: When you open your trunk, a light comes on. It’s what helps you to see inside your trunk at night.

Fun Ways to Customize Your Car’s Interior Lighting

Whether you are a ride-share driver who wants to go the extra mile to create a fun and memorable ambiance or you want to keep little ones entertained in the backyard on a long road trip, customizations are a must.

The interior lighting of your car may seem limited. Different models and trim levels can leave you wanting more light. It may not be something you think about when you buy the car. Now that you’ve driven it for a while, you may want more lighting.

All sorts of interior lighting kits are available. You can use LED strips around virtually any aspect of your car – seats, center consoles, and more. Some can even be controlled with an app on your smartphone.

(Read more about the laws of interior car lights)

Clip-on lights can be used where you need them, too. If you need to gather some information while you’re on a road trip, you may need to read a brochure or look at a guide. If your map light isn’t working, and you don’t want the distraction of the dome light, a clip-on light can be ideal. You can clip it onto the booklet, or you can clip it onto the grab bar by the door.

This is box title

Change the Color of the Bulbs

When you replace a bulb inside your map lamp, you’ll have an array of different color choices or “Kelvin Temperatures“.

headlight bulb temperature kelvin
Light Kelvin Temperatures –
courtesy of mydepot
  • Bright white: A bright white bulb falls within the white and blue ranges. These are relatively bright and can illuminate quite a hit. This is about 6k-10k
  • Daylight: Daylight is considered the brightest. It’s so white that it actually falls within the blue range. It’s perfect for reading because it’s considered the easiest on the eyes. About 5k. This is what we light.
  • Warm white: This color is between the yellowish and white range. It’s a common choice for workspaces. (3-4k)
  • Soft white/yellow: This is one of the yellowest of the lights and is similar to the lighting you would find on a nightstand or in a den. It’s rated near the 3k range.
  • Colored: Some LED lights can be controlled with your app. With the swipe of a finger, you can change from white to red to green, and any other color on the spectrum.

Often, it’s a matter of preference. If you’re using the map lighting to do a lot of reading, whether it’s a magazine or a map, choose the light that is comfortable for your eyes. Yellow will give you the iridescent traditional halogen light look, and are often dimmer. Colored lights also are dimmer, so you’d want to find a higher wattage than usual. The 5k is a great color for brightness and clarity. This is a “pure white” that makes it easy to see in the dark.

You may even want to have a few bulb colors in your glove compartment. Based on what you will use the light for, you can choose the appropriate color.

Now that you got sweet lights,

Make a Dome Light Replacement

One of the easiest ways to change up the look of your car’s interior is to change out the dome light. If you don’t like the bulb mount or the overall appearance of the dome, you can find a kit to replace it. This will involve removing the existing light off of the headliner.

When you decide to replace your dome light, be sure you take measurements. The new housing should be the same size or larger. Otherwise, you’re going to see damage to your headliner from where the older housing used to be.

New dome housing can help you to create a custom look. Additionally, it’s your chance to control what kind of bulb you want. If your current dome light takes a halogen bulb, find an LED option so that it might be the last bulb you ever have to replace.

Frequently Asked Questions

You should know all about the lights inside your car, including map lights, dome lights, and others. Some of the most frequently asked questions can help you to understand more about your illumination choices and the rules of the road when you drive.

This is box title

What’s the difference between a dome light and a map light?

A dome light is mounted to the headliner. It will typically turn on/off when you open/close the door. A map light is a smaller light that you can turn on manually to be able to read something.

Do all vehicles come with a map light?

No. It will depend heavily on the year, make, and model of your car. Additionally, map lights can be located in various areas, whether up front near the vanity or flanked on either side of the dome light.

This is box title

How long does it take to replace a bulb?

As long as you follow the instructions in your owner’s manual, and you have a replacement bulb, the replacement process should take less than five minutes.

Can map lights be on when driving?

Yes. You can choose to use map lights as you drive. Typically, the passenger should be the one using the map light. If you’re using them as you drive, you run the risk of being pulled over for distracted driving.

This is box title

How bright is a map light?

The brightness of a bulb is measured in lumens. The average map light is between 15 and 20 Lumens, though you can find ones that are brighter if it’s what you prefer.

Is it illegal to customize interior lighting?

Generally, no. You will want to review the laws where you live before you begin adding any kind of interior lighting. In most instances, you can change out the map lights as long as they aren’t red/blue, or they don’t have a strobe effect.

Hit a roadblock? Let us connect you with a pro.

If you’re having trouble with your car, it might be time to talk to an expert. Scanner Answers is proud to partner with RepairPal to help you find the best deals on car repair in your area. RepairPal mechanics specialize in offering high quality work at guaranteed fair prices. Find a Repair Shop or speak with an expert now Call (877) 314-1060