When your brake lights won’t turn off it will drain your battery and your patience. However, brake lights are life savers as the number of rear end crashes is greatly reduced. Rear end crashes are one of the most common causes of traffic accidents and personal injury. So, you need your brakes lights, but you don’t need them that much. If your brake lights won’t turn off, read on to find out why it is happening and what to do about.
How Brake Lights Work
Brake lights are one of the most important components of the automobile in terms of driver safety. If drivers did not have a way to warn other drivers that that they coming to a stop, there would be so many car accidents. This is especially true at night when it is more difficult for drivers to see one another.
In the old days, drivers mostly used hand signals to let other drivers know when they were about to turn or come to a stop. This system was helpful during the daytime; however, it was difficult to see someone’s hand at night. As the roads became more congested, and travelling speeds increased, the need for more effective warning signals also increased.
Most newer cars have at most three brakes lights: one parking brake light, one brake light for the brake pedal, and one brake light for the anti-lock braking system. These lights are typically red or yellow in color. Older models may only have one of these lights, the one for the brake pedal.
Brake lights are luminous, colored signals designed to activate when the driver is in some part of the braking processing, from slowing down to parking. Brake lights are usually located in the same globe as the taillights; however, the brake light color is usually a brighter red than the taillight. Whenever the brake pedal is depressed, force is transferred to the brakes through the brake fluid. The plunger inside the brake master cylinder pumps the brake fluid through the break lines to the brakes.
Why Do You Need Brake Lights?
Why are brake lights really necessary? After all, every car has rear lamps. The brake light has a specialty in design and that is to reduce the uncertainty the driver feels about the intentions of drivers in vehicles in front of him. The brake light design is a response to the conflict of several vehicles traveling within the same space by bringing order to dense traffic conditions. Generally, the requirement for brake lights is all about safety. A positive relationship exists between the brake light and crashes, especially rear end crashes that happen at night. Improved driver conditions require more than just the rear lamp alone, but also the brake lights for more positive improvement. Brake lights are a huge leap from the primitive hand signal and more effective than rear signals.
Causes of Bad Brake Light
As with any other car parts, the brake lights can also wear down or malfunction. As the light ages or becomes damaged, you will notice that the light will not come on, or that it is always on and won’t go off. There are a few issues that will cause the brake light to get stuck in the ON position:
Wear and tear – Typically, the modern braking system parts are designed to last for the lifetime of the vehicle. Yet, it does not always end up that way. Any automotive part will malfunction from age and excessive use. Vehicles continuously driven, accumulating miles will have parts that wear out. When symptoms can be identified in the braking system, they must addressed right away. Some parts will just have to be replaced.
Bad brake switch – The most common cause of brake lights which won’t turn off is the brake switch (view on Amazon) is stuck closed. The brake switch is a small switch connected to the brake pedal and sends signals within the braking system. It may be an electronic one or two way switch. When the brakes are depressed, the brake light switch activates that sends a signal to the vehicle’s computer and to the brake light. The brake light switches wear over time and are subject to buildups of dirt or corrosion. It could also be that the brake light switch is sticking and will only work some of the time. The switch can also malfunction due to faulty circuits. In either case, the bad switch could result in the brake light not turning off.
When the brake light switch does not work, the transmission shifter will remain in park and the lights will stay on or off Faulty circuitry can also be the problem as the brake light switch must have voltage to work, There could be a problem in the wiring or a fuse could be blown. If the problem is electric, the wires and fuses can be tested to determine what component no longer works.
If the brake light stays on, there is a problem. This is an even bigger problem in modern cars.
If your car has Antilock brakes, push-button start, or vehicle stability control, the car cannot function without the brake light switch.
You Don’t Like Your Car – if you don’t maintain your car, it’s going to have problems and this is why your brake lights are bad. Your brake lights are there to help you when driving and if you don’t look after them, then you’re going to have problems with them. If you want to avoid having bad components like the brake lights, then you’ll need to maintain them.
If you want to avoid brake light problems or other issues and save $100s of dollars that you’ll spend at the auto repair shop, you’ll need to service your vehicle often – you can use our mechanic-rated Auto Maintenance and Repair Manual to do this. It’s basically what mechanics use to go through your vehicle to check if there are any problems that need fixing. As soon as they notice the most minor problem, they’ll ask you to fork out some money even though it’s a problem you can fix yourself in minutes – the manual will teach you how to maintain your vehicle every few thousand miles and it’ll teach you how to fix minor problems that mechanics will ask you to pay for; saving you money in the long run.
A lot of our readers have the Auto Maintenance and Repair Manual printed on their garage wall and 92% of them haven’t visited the auto repair shop in the last year because they know what to do to avoid problems. All it takes is giving your vehicle a little attention every few thousand miles and you’ll never spend money at the workshop again.
Symptoms of a Brake Light Won’t Go Off
When the brake light is malfunctioning, a warning light should activate on your dash. Since you press the brake to disengage cruise control, many of the issues with the brake light and brake switch also involve the components of cruise control. A few things are warnings that your brake light is going bad:
Check Engine Light (CEL) – When the brake light sticks or the circuitry is bad, , the check engine light (CEL) will activate on the dash. Other circuits involved with the braking system will also trigger the Check Engine Light (CEL). If this happens, it means there is more wrong with the braking system than the brake light.
Brake warning light – All modern cars come with a brake warning light and ABS system warning light on the dash. There are sensors inside the brake master cylinder which detect any problems and report them to the computer. Most times, the brake warning light activates when the brake fluid is low, there is a leaking, the brake pads are worn, or the brakes shoed need to be replaced. It will also activate when the brake light is still engaged and throw OBD2 trouble codes.
What to Do Brake Lights Won’t Turn Off
Driving a car with brake lights that are malfunctioning is not safe. Brake lights are designed to decrease the level of uncertainty any driver will experience regarding the intentions of the drivers in front of him. The brake light that won’t turn off gives false intentions that could lead to an accident. So, what should you do when the brake lights won’t turn off? Follow these steps:
Disconnect the battery – When you park your car and turn it off for the night, if the brake lights are still on, that means they are still drawing power from the battery. Until you can get the car to a repair shop, you must disconnect the battery terminals until you plan to drive again. You can also try disconnecting the plug from the brake light switch at the brake pedal. Then check to see if the lights will turn off. If the lights turn off, the switch needs replacing. These are solutions to manually turn off the brake lights off to preserve your battery power. However, these are only temporary solutions until you can get to the repair shop.
Replace the fuse – If the fuse is blown that is responsible for the voltage that goes to the brake light switch, it must be replaced. Check the fuse box for the right fuse. There may be a diagram that shows which fuse is for the switch. If not, check the owner’s manual or the Internet. Once you have located the correct fuse, remove it. Get the replacement fuse and install it in the fuse box. There may be several fuses associated with the brakes so check all of them. Check to see if the brake lights will go off.
Replace the wiring harness – If the problem appears to be electrical, start by replacing the wiring harness. This is a simple do-it-yourself job that can prevent a lot of unnecessary repairs. Simply remove the old connector by cutting off. Strip and twist the wiring. Connect the new switch using a splice connector.
Replace the brake switch – If the brake light switch is worn out, the brake light can stay on indefinitely. This means you should try to replace the switch. If the electrical solutions did not solve the problem, try the brake light switch. To replace the brake light switch, follow these steps:
1. Disconnect the wiring, or pigtail harness and leave it hanging. Press the plastic release on the harness.
2. Remove the brake light switch from the brake pedal linkage.
3. Slide the new brake switch in place.
4. Reconnect the brake light switch to the linkage and to the wiring harness.
5. Check to see if the brake lights will turn off.
Check the OBD2 codes – When components in your braking system stop working properly, the computer records the events event. Use an OBD2 Scanner (view on Amazon) to find out what is behind the brake lights staying on. The diagnostic troubles codes (DTCs) help diagnose the potential problems with your car. More than one code can show up for your brake light and the components associated with the brakes. For example, here is a common code for malfunctioning brake lights:
Error Code P0504 “Brake Switch A/B Correlation” – This trouble code means the brake switch that is causing the problem. The powertrain control module (PCM) has identified some type of failure in the brake switch circuit. The brake light switch connects to so many other circuits so it cause some serious trouble. The P0504 code is generic, which means it defines the problem for all vehicles manufactured after 1996. This code is not the only one that may be thrown because of the brake light. On the other hand, you may not see any codes at all.
Get a professional inspection– If you don’t want to use an OBD2 scanner take your car to an automotive specialist who will use one. Most car repair shops use computerized tools to diagnose problems. If you are not having the problem of the brake lights not turning off yet, you can prevent it by having regular maintenance checks.
Remember, it is not safe to drive a vehicle with brake lights that are not working. Many traffic accidents occur because of a lack of signaling. So, take care of your car and take care of yourself. Fix the problem and get back on the road again, safely.