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You know what a switch is, right? Okay, well, a brake light switch is a switch . . . for your brake lights. Crazy, right?
Okay, let’s get a little bit deeper than that. The brake light switch is responsible for turning your brake lights on and off. And just in case you need a refresher, the brake lights are the lights that illuminate in the back of your car when you press on the brakes, to alert cars behind you that you’re slowing down.
So, how’s the switch work? It’s pretty simple. Cars have varying brake light switch designs, but most have a pretty universal system. When the brakes aren’t being used, the resting brake pedal presses a button on the switch which turns the brake lights off. Any time your foot depresses the brake pedal, the pedal releases the button on the switch, which turns the brake lights on. When you let go of the brakes, the pedal returns to the button, turning the lights off again.
Still with me? Good, then let’s tackle the final responsibility of the brake light switch. In many cars with push-button ignition, the switch also sends a signal to the ignition and automatic gear shifter when the brake pedal is pressed. This makes it so the car won’t let you shift out of park, or turn the ignition without your foot on the brake.
A malfunctioning brake light switch might be stuck in the off position. Do I need to spell out why that’s bad? If the switch is stuck on off, the brake lights won’t turn on. Without brake lights, the car behind you doesn’t have any indication that you’re slowing down.
Conversely, your brake lights might have the opposite problem: they might not turn off. With brake lights stuck on, your car still won’t have any way of indicating to other drivers that you’re using the brakes. Now, you may think that you don’t need to see other people’s brake lights to be a good driver, but maybe don’t give other people that benefit of the doubt.
It’s not always noticeable when your brake lights are stuck on. Especially during the day, you’re probably not going to notice that your brake lights are on. Brake lights left on will slowly drain your car’s battery. Eventually the battery will run out of juice, and you won’t be able to use the electrical systems, or turn the car on.
If you have a push-button ignition, ever try to turn your car on without having your foot on the brake pedal? Or shift the gear selector out of park without your foot on the brakes? Your car won’t let you, because the brake light switch sends a signal to those systems when the brake is being depressed. If the brake pedal isn’t pressed down, then the ignition may not let you turn the car on or shift out of park. So, when the brake light switch calls in sick for the day, the ignition and gear selector may not get the message.Get a Quote 12-Month | 12,000-Mile Warranty
Well, let’s start with the obvious: If you have a push-button ignition, and your car isn’t turning on because of a funky brake light switch, then a replacement is pretty urgent. What are you gonna do, push your car everywhere?
However, it’s more likely that the brake lights will just be stuck on or off. That’s a safety hazard, since the cars behind you won’t know when you’re slowing down. If that doesn’t seem important to you, I’m not sure what to tell you.
Actually, I know exactly what to tell you. It’s also illegal to have malfunctioning brake lights, and those fix-it tickets aren’t exactly cheap. Now, that got your attention, didn’t it?
12-Month | 12,000-Mile Warranty