Brake light problems don’t have to be head-scratchers. There are certain issues that crop up over and over again when diagnosing brake light issues, which makes it that much easier to figure out what’s wrong with your brakes when you tap the pedal. Check out these four common brake light conundrums and how you can solve them.
1. Burnt Out Bulb
By far, a burnt out bulb is one of the brake light problems that crops up the most, and it’s easy to understand why. Think of how much time you spend with your foot on the brake, and then consider that the bulb has to be illuminated during that entire period. Newer models have switched to LED lights that last much longer, but older vehicles still feature bulbs that need to be popped out and replaced. It’s cheap and easy to do, most of the time, with a basic set of tools.
2. Bad Brake Light Switch
When the brake pedal gets pushed, a switch is triggered to send a signal to the lights out back that it’s time to turn on. Analog switches wear out over time, and they can get dirty, too, which interferes with their ability to make positive contact and transmit the right signal. Replacing the switch is not a big job, and it’s also straightforward for your mechanic to test brake light problems like this one. If all three brake lights are out at the same time, it’s unlikely that the trio of bulbs died simultaneously. In this case, it’s more likely a bad brake light switch.
If your lights don’t illuminate on either side and your brake light switch is good, then the next thing to check is the brake light fuse. Locate your vehicle’s fuse box, which is usually under the hood or on the kick panel inside the passenger compartment. Using the fuse diagram on the box’s cover (or in the manual), find the fuse for the brake circuit and make sure it hasn’t been blown. If it has, replace it with a fuse of the same resistance.
4. Bad Socket
If you have a single brake light out and the bulb is good, then the next step is to check the light socket itself. Brake light problems can include a socket whose connections are dirty or corroded, or one whose wiring has become worn to the point where it’s only making an intermittent connection. Replacing a socket is as simple as snipping the old wires and splicing in the new unit, which is typically an inexpensive part to purchase.
If you keep these tips in mind, most brake light problems will be easy to diagnose and fix on your own.
Check out all the vision and safety products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on diagnosing and repairing brake light problems, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
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Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time. I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.