Brake Lights Not Working But Tail Lights Are
Brake Lights Not Working, But Tail Lights Are
Driving around without brake lights is one of the easiest ways to get pulled over, and being proactive about issues with any of your lighting systems is always the best policy. So, if you've noticed that your brake lights aren't working but your tail lights are, or vice versa, it's time to take action.
There are a few potential causes of this problem, so troubleshooting will be key. Even though most car issues are never as simple as we either want them to be or think they will be to solve, it helps to start with the most obvious things.
Check Your Fuses
The first thing to check is whether or not the brake light fuse has blown. This fuse is usually located in the fuse box under the hood, and it's relatively easy to check. Just remove the fuse and hold it up to a light - if the wire inside is broken, then you'll need to replace the fuse. To figure out which fuse corresponds to your brake lights, consult your car's owner's manual for the schematics.
If you do find that the fuse is blown, the easiest way to remove the fuse is with the small plastic fuse puller that is stored inside the fuse box. Just insert the end of it under the head of the fuse and pull straight up. If you don't have a fuse puller, you can use a pair of needle-nose pliers, but be careful not to damage the surrounding fuses.
With the fuse removed, take a look at the wire inside. If it's broken, you'll need to replace the fuse with a new one of the same amperage. Once you have a new fuse, insert it into the socket and until it locks in place. Be sure not to touch any of the other fuses in the box while you're doing this because even a small static discharge can cause them to blow.
Once you have replaced the fuse, have a friend help by pressing on the brake while you confirm that both are lit. If both brake lights work: success! If not, then it's time to start thinking about what else could be wrong.
Check Your Bulbs
If the fuse isn't blown, the next thing on the list is to check the brake light bulbs themselves. In older cars, this was always a simple task, but new car models often have brake lights that are integrated into the tail light system, which means getting to them can be a little more difficult.
Start by opening the trunk and locating the panel that will give you access to the brake light bulbs. If you're not sure where they are, consult your car's owner's manual or do a quick Google search for your car model to find a diagram. More often than not — especially with cars that are particularly difficult to access the brake lights — you can find a first-person video of someone performing this exact task, on your exact vehicle, on YouTube.
Once you remove the bulb, take a close look at it to see if it's burned out. If the filament inside is broken or if there's any sign of corrosion, it's time for a new brake light bulb. But before you go and buy a new one, make sure that the socket itself is clean and free of corrosion - otherwise you might just end up having to replace the brake light bulb again in the near future.
If you do need to replace the brake light bulb, be sure to consult your car's owner's manual or look up the correct type of brake light bulb online. RECON has a wide selection of LED bulbs available, which boast exceptional lifespan, low power consumption, and are much brighter than traditional brake light bulbs.
Once you've replaced the brake light bulb, you might want to test the brakes before you put everything back together. If they still aren't working, then it's time to move on to the next potential cause.
Check Your Brake Light Switch
We're really getting into the weeds now, aren't we?! No. Luckily this is another easy fix — in some cases, even easier than getting the bulb out of your brake housing. If both of your brake lights are out, it might be a sign that there is no signal coming from the brakes to the lights at all, indicating that the switch has failed.
The brake light switch is a simple on/off switch that is activated when you press down on the brake pedal, and if it isn't working then your brake lights won't come on. If you have only one brake light out, it is unlikely that the switch is the issue, and you might want to consider other potential issues first.
Start by finding your brake light switch, which is usually located on or near the brake pedal itself, typically up near the firewall. With the brake light switch in sight, have a friend press down on the brake pedal while you listen for a clicking noise coming from the brake light switch. If you don't hear anything, then it's likely that the brake light switch is defective and will need to be replaced.
Replacing the brake light switch is usually a pretty easy task, but it will vary depending on your car model. In some cases, you might be able to replace the brake light switch without having to remove the brake pedal itself; in others, you might need to do just that. No matter what, be sure to consult your car's owner's manual or look up a brake light switch replacement guide online for your exact car model before you get started.
If you do need to replace the brake light switch, you will need to find the right switch for your make, model, and year vehicle. Once you have the brake light switch, the rest is pretty easy — simply remove the old brake light switch and install the new one in its place.
Further Troubleshooting for Brake Light Issues
If you've made it this far and your brake lights still aren't working, then unfortunately it might be time to call a professional. At this point, the issues could be with the brake light wiring itself or with the brake light fuse, both of which are beyond the scope of this article.
Be careful driving to your mechanic without brake lights. You may even want to have the vehicle towed to avoid being pulled over.
Tail Lights Out, but Brake Lights Work?
What if your tail lights are out, but the brake lights activate? For the most part, you can follow the above steps as they relate to the tail lights, starting with checking your fuses.
Again, refer to your owner's manual or find information online about which fuses correspond to your tail lights. If the fuses appear to be functioning normally, then you might want to check the bulbs — just make sure you are checking the tail lights and not the brake lights!
If you are unable to find the problem in either the fuses or bulbs for your tail lights, then this might indicate a wiring issue. Trying to trace a wiring problem through your vehicle is complicated regardless of make or model, so we strongly recommend bringing the vehicle to a professional mechanic at this point.
As with brake light issues, you'll want to be careful driving without tail lights and avoid getting pulled over if at all possible.