Toyota Sienna License Plate Light Bulb Replacement

Toyota Sienna License Plate Bulb Replacement
Toyota Sienna License Plate Bulb Replacement

Replacing your Toyota Sienna license plate light bulbs is not a trivial thing to do but with my help you can do it yourself.  The light bulbs that light our Sienna’s license plate are both burnt out and I know we could get pulled over for that so it’s been on my list to replace them.  Unfortunately you cannot access them from the outside of the van.  Replacing them requires the removal of the internal panels from the lift gate door.  You can do it with my detailed instructions on Toyota Sienna license plate light bulb replacement…

Toyota Sienna License Plate Light Bulb Replacement

Parts Required:

Tools Required:

Step 1: Pop the lift gate hatch.

Tip: Don’t bother removing those two screws on the outside of the van above the license plate, they won’t help you (BTW: the picture below was taken after the light bulbs were replaced).

Lift Gate Latch Screws
Don’t bother removing the lift gate latch screws-that will not help you

Step 2: Remove the top center trim piece.

This is the piece above the rear window:

2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Liftgate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Back Door Garnish Center Removal
2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Lift Gate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Back Door Garnish Center Removal

This piece is held in place by five clips.  I just used my fingernails and grabbed along the window’s edge and began to pop them free:

2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Liftgate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Back Door Garnish Center Removal 2
Pull the piece free starting along the window on one end
2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Liftgate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Back Door Garnish Center Removal 3
Here the piece is coming free
2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Liftgate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Back Door Garnish Center Removed
Top Center Trim Piece Removed

Step 3: Remove the right lift gate window side trim.

Pull the side trim pieces towards the centerline of the van, away from the post where they are attached.

2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Liftgate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Right Door Side Garnish Removal 1b
Pull the trim piece towards the middle of the van, not down

I pulled down and two of the clips did not come off with the trim piece:

2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Liftgate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Right Door Side Garnish Removed
2 clips stayed in place when I removed this piece

You will need to remove those clips from the door before reinstalling that piece.  I did it right before reinstalling it.

Step 4: Pop the left lift gate window-side trim piece free.

I don’t say “remove” it because the rod for the automatic lift gate door goes through it and I didn’t want to mess with disconnecting the rod so I could completely remove the trim piece.

2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Liftgate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Left Door Side Garnish
The lift gate motor “arm” goes through a hole in this trim piece

Pop this piece free just like I showed you for the right side.  I was able to feed it over and down the power door rod:

2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Liftgate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Left Door Side Garnish Removed
Pop the piece free and then feed up and over the power door control rod
2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Liftgate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Left Door Side Garnish Removed 2
Just let the trim piece hang on the power door control rod

IMPORTANT NOTE: Since we are leaving this driver’s side window post plastic cover hanging on the shock, you want to make sure and DO NOT CLOSE THE LIFT GATE or you may damage that plastic panel.

Step 5: Remove the back door pull strap

Push the cover towards the back window:

2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Liftgate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Back Door Pull Strap Removal 2
Push the cover towards the window to remove it

Here is the cover removed:

2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Liftgate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Back Door Pull Strap Cover Removed
Pull strap cover removed

Remove the 10mm headed bolt:

2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Liftgate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Back Door Pull Strap Bolt Removal
Remove the single 10mm hex head bolt from the pull strap

Make sure that the plastic clip is retained and set the pull strap and bolt aside for reinstallation when we are done:

2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Liftgate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Back Door Pull Strap Removed
Pull strap removed

Step 6: Remove the back door main trim board assembly

This is the large plastic panel that the pull strap was in the middle of.  There are 14 clips and two plastic catches that hold this panel on.  You will want to start on the window edge because there are “catches” at the bottom (latch) edge that cannot be pulled free.

2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Liftgate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Removing Back Door Trim Board
Pull the main trim piece free along the window edge first

Once you have the 14 clips popped free you can lift the trim board assembly up and off the lower catches:

2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Liftgate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Back Door Trim Board Lower Catches
Once the clips are free lift the panel off the two lower catches

Here’s a look at the back door trim board removed from the van:

2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Liftgate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Back Door Trim Board Removed
Back Door Trim Board Removed, note the one clip that didn’t come off

Step 7: Locate the license plate light fixture locations.

With the door open, look up at the inside of the open door.  They are on the inside of the lift gate door, inside a rectangular opening in the sheet metal, above where the license plate is on the other side:

Toyota Sienna License Plate Light Bulb Fixture Locations
Location of the license plate light fixtures

Here’s a close up of the left (driver’s side) fixture:

Left license plate light fixture location
Left license plate light fixture location

And here’s the right (passenger’s) side light fixture:

Toyota Sienna Right License Plate Light Fixture Location
Right License Plate Light Bulb Fixture Location

Step 8: Remove the electrical connectors from each light.

There is a tab on each electrical connector that must be pressed in order to disconnect the connector:

Toyota Sienna License Plate Light Bulb Electrical Connector Release Tab
Electrical connector release tab location

Here I am pressing it with my finger:

Toyota Sienna License Plate Electrical Connector Release Tab Pressed
Press the tab in and gently pull the electrical connector out

Be careful you are not pulling by the wires as you can pull the wires out of the connector and then you will have worst problems to deal with.

Toyota Sienna License Plate Electrical Connector Released
Here the connector has been removed

Repeat this process for the other license plate light electrical connector.

Step 9: Unlatch the license plate light bulb fixture.

This may be the most helpful part of this article as it is difficult to determine how to get these fixtures out and you don’t want to break them.  To release the light fixture, turn it 30-degrees counter-clockwise:

Toyota Sienna License Plate Light Fixture Removal
Carefully turn the fixture counter-clockwise 30-degrees

I had to use an unusual amount of force to get them to release.  This is true about the lift gate tail light bulb sockets as well.  Make sure you are turning them counter-clockwise, with counter-clockwise being when you are looking up at the inside surface of the sheet metal (the side that faces into the inside of the van).  Carefully turn them and they will pop free.  Note: There is NOT any tab to depress to release them.  Here’s what the fixture looks like removed:

Toyota Sienna License Plate light fixture removed
License Plate light fixture removed

Repeat this for the other light fixture.

Here are what the sockets look like when the fixtures are removed:

Toyota Sienna License Plate Light Fixture Socket Empty
Here’s what the socket looks like empty

Step 10: Remove the light bulbs from the light fixtures.

The bulbs pull straight out of their sockets.  You can pull them out with your fingers.  I would NOT use a pliers as you will likely break the bulb.

Toyota Sienna License Plate Light Bulb Removal Instructions
Pull the light bulb straight out

Here is what they look like when they are out:

Toyota Sienna License Plate Light Bulbs Removed from Socket
License Plate Light Bulbs Removed from Socket

Step 11: Verify the correct polarity of your LED bulbs.

I would highly recommend that you replace your bulbs with LED equivalents like I have linked at the top of this article.  They are more expensive but you don’t want to have to repeat this repair any time soon and LEDs will last longer than incandescent bulbs.  If you are installing incandescent (old-fashioned filament bulbs) there is no polarity to them and you can insert them either way–insert them and skip to the next step.  If they are LEDs the polarity matters.  You won’t ruin them if you insert them backwards but they will not work.  Don’t wait till the end to test them–test them now.  What I did was insert both bulbs into the sockets and connect the fixtures to the electrical connectors.  Then turn the ignition to the on position and turn on your headlights and verify they work.  I luckily had them both correct the first time but switched one around for illustration purposes and you can see that the left bulb did not come on below:

Verifying Polarity of LED Replacement License Plate Bulbs
Check that you have the polarity correct before reinstalling the fixtures

Pull the bulb out that was not working and turn it 180 degrees and re-insert it into the socket.  Here they both are working:

LED bulbs correctly inserted
Here both bulbs are working

Step 12: Reinstall the light bulb fixtures.

It is much easier to reinstall the fixtures if the electrical connectors are disconnected so if you just tested your LED bulbs, disconnect the electrical connectors.  The connectors will only go in one way so there’s no worry to get the polarity mixed up from this point forward.  You will need to insert the fixture into the socket so that the tabs fit in the slots. Make sure the fixture is all the way in the socket and flush before you proceed or you could break the fixture.

Light Fixture in socket and ready to be locked into place
Insert the fixture into the socket and turn clockwise
Light fixture locked into place
Light fixture locked into place

Repeat the process for the other light fixture.

Step 13: Reinstall the electrical connectors.

Insert the electrical connector into each of the two light fixtures.  You should hear a click when the latch catches, which will tell you that the connector is all the way in.  The tab goes on the side away from the door:

Reinserting the electrical connector into the light fixture
Re-insert the electrical connector into the light fixture

Repeat this for the other fixture too.

Step 14: Verify your installation.

Before you put your door back together you should check to make sure the bulbs are working.  Turn the ignition to the on position (if it’s not already) and turn on your headlights and verify that both bulbs work.  Important: DO NOT LOWER YOUR TAILGATE since you have one of the plastic panels threaded onto the driver’s side shock and it will be crunched if it is closed.  Peak up at the headlight bulbs to verify they are still on:

Checking the LED Bulbs once Installed
Verifying the LED Bulbs Work–Success!

Step 15: Check for trim clips that pulled free from their panels.

Before we can reinstall the plastic door panels we need to remove all clips that stayed on the door and replace them on the plastic door panel pieces.  I didn’t reuse the clips that came off but used new ones.  One of them broke off so it was good I had replacement ones on hand.  You could probably reuse them if they are in one piece though.  Here I am prying off one of them:

2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Liftgate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Prying Clip Free
Prying Clip Free

There’s a lot of opportunity to stab yourself int the hand when prying these out with a screw driver so be careful.  The last time I did this repair I wrapped my flat head screwdriver in electrical tape to protect the paint job.  The top clip broke into two pieces when I removed the door panel:

2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Liftgate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Top Broken Clip-Annotated
Broken clip on door
2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Liftgate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Clips Replace on Trim Board Assy
Replace the missing clips on the panels

Make sure all the clips are snapped all the way into their slots so they line up correctly when we go to put the panel back on:

2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Liftgate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Push the Clips into Place
Make sure all the clips are fully snapped into place

Step 16: Reinstall the back door trim board.

Start by inserting the hooks on the bottom and then carefully make sure the snaps line up with the holes in the door that they go into and begin snapping them in place.

2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Liftgate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Main Trim Board Hooks in Place
Main Trim Board Hooks in Place
2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Liftgate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Line up Clips with Holes
Line up the clips with their respective holes

I use the palm of my had to snap the panel into place.

2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Liftgate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Popping Main Trim Board into Place
Gently snap the clips using the palm of your hand

Work your way around the edge remembering where the clips are located:

2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Liftgate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Main Trim Board Clip Locations
Trim Board Clip Locations

Step 17: Reinstall the side trim pieces.

The left one was a little tricky since I decided not do disconnect the power door rod.  I found that if you put the piece at the angle I have pictured below, you can feed it up and over the control rod connection and put it into place.  Be careful not to break the trim as I felt like it was cracking as I put pressure on it at one point.  It will go back on so take your time and work it over the elbow of the shock:

2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Liftgate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Reinstalling the Left Side Trim Piece
Orient the piece like this and then lift it up and over the “elbow” on the control rod

The clips on this piece will come off when you are feeding it up and over the control rod so I reinstalled them afterwards (3 total):

2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Liftgate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Reinstalling the Left Side Trim Piece-Installing Clips
There are 2 clips on each of the side pieces

Reinstalling the right trim piece.  You can see that I replaced the two clips (blue) that didn’t come off when I originally removed it:

2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Liftgate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Reinstalling the Right Side Trim Piece-Installing Clips
Reinstalling the right side trim piece

These trim pieces should fit flush with the metal of the door if you have them installed correctly:

2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Liftgate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Seam of Correctly Installed Trim
Correct fit of trim pieces

Step 18: Reinstall the back door pull strap.

Bolt the pull strap in place.  It has a 10mm head on the bolt.  There is a part of the metal bracket that must line up and insert into a hole in the door:

2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Liftgate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Bolting Pull Strap Back in Place
Line up the bracket with the hole and bolt down

I found that it is easier if you transfer the black clip from the metal bracket of the pull strap and put it on the cover before reinstalling:

2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Liftgate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Pull Strap Clip Transferred
Transfer the black clip to the cover

I found that the space I needed to get the cover started would only be available if I pressed hard on the main trim board as shown below:

Reinstalling the Pull Strap Cover
Reinstalling the Pull Strap Cover

Step 19: Reinstall the top trim piece.

This one is pretty easy.  Line up the holes and snap into place:

2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Liftgate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Reinstalling Top Trim Piece
Reinstall the top trim piece

This piece overlaps the two side pieces:

2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Liftgate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Right Top Trim Seam
Top right trim seam
2004-2010 Toyota Sienna Liftgate Tail Light Bulb Replacement-Left Top Trim Seam
Top left trim seam

Now you are done!  I’m sure they are going to charge you for at least a half hour of labor if you get this done at a dealer so now you have saved yourself at least $50 and now you can change out your lift gate tail lights as well as it is nearly the same process.  Here’s a picture of my new LED license plate lights:

Toyota Sienna LED License Plate Lights
LED License Plate Lights
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