A brake light is an exterior light located at the rear of your vehicle, along with your parking lights and tail lights.
A burnt fuse or damaged light switch wiring could give you a stuck brake light or one that doesn’t work at all. That’s why regularly checking and fixing your brake lights is important.
But how do you do that?
In this article, we’ll tell you how to fix a brake light in four easy steps, the causes of brake light failure, and signs that indicate your vehicle needs brake light replacement. We’ll also cover how much the replacement costs, and if it’s possible to drive with a faulty brake light.
This Article Contains
- How to Fix a Brake Light: 4 Easy Steps
- 4 Reasons Your Brake Light Fails
- What Are the Signs You Need to Replace Your Brake Light?
- How Much Does a Brake Light Bulb Replacement Cost?
- Can You Drive with a Faulty Brake Light?
Let’s get to it.
How to Fix a Brake Light: 4 Easy Steps
Here are the four easy steps you can take to solve your brake light problem.
Step 1: Find the Faulty Light
There are several lightbulbs underneath each tail light lens. One of them is the brake bulb connected to the brake system.
If your brake lights are not lighting up, a faulty bulb or brake light bulb socket could be the reason.
To find the faulty bulb, ask someone to press the brake pedal so you can check whether your brake light works. Identify which brake bulb under the tail light appears burnt out. The location of the brake light bulb will help you find the correct replacement part.
Step 2: Remove the Brake Light Bulb
In most modern vehicles, you can access the tail light bulb from inside the trunk or by removing the tail light cover.
To remove the brake light, simply:
- Remove the tail light cover and look directly behind the tail light lens to find the malfunctioning bulb. You’ll see the wiring and a plastic base where the tail light bulb is located.
- With the help of a flashlight, check which bulb among the tail light bulb is the brake light.
- To release the brake light holder, turn it counterclockwise and pull out the bulb holder.
- Remove the bulb from the bulb holder.
Step 3: Get a New Brake Light Bulb
To ensure the light bulb will fit, find a replacement bulb online according to the make and model of your car. You can also visit an auto parts store and carry the original light bulb to get a replacement for your car brake light.
Step 4: Install and Test the New Brake Light Bulb
Once you’ve purchased the new brake light bulb, here’s how you can install it:
- Insert the light bulb into the holder.
- Push the holder and the bulb in the tail light assembly and rotate it clockwise to lock it in place.
- Check if the holder and the brake light bulb fit properly inside the tail light assembly.
- Ask someone to press the brake pedal while you check if the new light bulb is working.
Fixing your brake light is easy. But if you’re unsure about your car parts, it’s best to let a car service mechanic perform the brake light replacement.
Now that you know how to fix a brake light, let’s look at some reasons which can cause brake lights to fail.
4 Reasons Your Brake Light Fails
Here are the four most common causes of brake light failure:
1. Burnt-Out Bulbs
One of the first and most common causes of brake light failure is a burnt-out light bulb or a bulb with a broken filament.
While driving, you will press the brake pedal. The brake light illuminates each time you do that. So, wear and tear of working brake light bulbs and exterior lights is common.
In some cars, the brake lights and turn signal lights share the same bulb. When the bulb burns out, it damages both the turn signal and brake lights.
Similarly, in some vehicles, the brake light circuit is connected to the turn signal circuit, meaning the brake light will not come on if the turn signal switch is damaged.
You can use a screwdriver to remove the tail lights and check if the brake light bulb socket is clean, and look for any signs of damage on the bulb. If the bulb has turned black, has a blown fuse, or has a corroded bulb socket, it needs replacement.
2. Bad Brake Light Switch
A brake light switch is an on-and-off switch that activates the brake lights each time you press the brake pedal. If you observe a stuck brake light or all three light bulbs have failed, the brake light switch is most likely the problem.
A brake light switch can fail due to a blown fuse or faulty brake light switch wiring. This brake light issue is common in an analog light switch which causes the light bulb to fail.
Replacing a faulty brake light switch is a straightforward job that a mechanic can easily do. They will locate the wire connecting the turn signal switch and brake switch and back probe the wire with a test light. The wire needs a replacement if the test light doesn’t turn on.
3. Blown Fuse
If there’s no problem with your brake switch, the brake light fuse could cause the failure.
You can check for a blown fuse by locating the fuse box in your vehicle. The fuse box is located under the hood or in the kick panel. You can also find the fuse diagram on the fuse box cover.
Find the fuse for the brake circuit. If you see a blown fuse, replace it with another brake light fuse having a similar resistance.
4. Faulty Wiring
If one of your brake lights is out and your taillight bulb and brake light switch are working fine, you should check the wires connecting the fuse panel, brake light switch, and bulb socket.
You can fix the loose wiring and replace the frayed ones.
Now, there are many signs which can indicate your brake light is going bad.
Let’s look at signs indicating if your vehicle needs a brake light replacement.
What Are the Signs You Need to Replace Your Brake Light?
Here are some signs you need to look out for in case of brake light issues:
- The brake light warning symbol (“!”) lights up on your car dashboard.
- The brake light doesn’t come on when you press the brake pedal.
- Cruise control doesn’t activate due to a faulty brake light switch. That’s because the cruise control and rear light share the same brake light switch.
- The brake lights flicker, or one is dimmer than the other.
Now, if you call a mechanic for this repair, you would want to know how much it costs.
Let’s find that out next.
How Much Does a Brake Light Bulb Replacement Cost?
The average cost of a brake light replacement is $30.
The brake light bulb can cost $5 to $10, and the labor charges are usually $10 to $20. The prices can also vary according to your car model.
Since the car brake light is a small component and doesn’t affect your drivability instantly, you might try to put off the replacement.
But is it safe to drive your car with a bad brake light?
Can You Drive with a Faulty Brake Light?
You can drive your car if one of your brake lights is out, but the other two brake lights work. The authorities can pull you over, but they might let you go with a verbal warning.
However, driving with all three brake lights out is illegal, and you’ll get fined.
Moreover, brake light bulbs are installed to keep you and other drivers safe. Driving in harsh weather with a faulty brake light or damaged light switch can result in road accidents.
Brake light replacement is also necessary because a faulty brake light can damage your vehicle’s automatic transmission and create shifting problems. This happens if your shift lock override turns on because of the faulty brake light. The shift lock override is meant to inhibit your vehicle’s shifting ability when mechanical hazards are detected.
So it’s recommended to get your brake light problem fixed if you notice the brake warning light on your dashboard.
Brake and rear lights are essential safety features to guide vehicles on the road and avoid accidents. Don’t ignore a lit brake warning light, regularly check that your rear brake lights are functioning, and get a bad light fixed ASAP.
And if you don’t want to drive your vehicle to a car service shop, contact RepairSmith.
RepairSmith is a mobile car repair and maintenance solution that offers you:
- Easy and convenient online booking
- Competitive, upfront pricing
- All repairs and maintenance services executed with high-quality equipment and replacement parts
- A 12-month | 12,000-mile service warranty for all repairs
Contact RepairSmith for easy replacement of your brake light, tail light, or parking lights right in your driveway.