Brake Lights Not Working? Here’s How to Fix it

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Written By Danny Sutton

In today’s fast-paced world, the majority of people rely heavily on their vehicles, with automatic cars becoming increasingly popular.

However, a common issue that many drivers encounter is their brake lights not working, leading to the frequent need for bulb replacements. This problem is not just a minor inconvenience; it’s a significant safety concern that can affect everyone on the road.

Understanding why your brake lights stop working and how to prevent this from happening is crucial for every driver. In this article, we will delve into the root causes of brake light failures.

We’ll explore the mechanics behind these essential components, the reasons they may fail, and practical, effective strategies to prevent these issues. Our goal is to help you ensure your vehicle is safe, reliable, and compliant with traffic laws, saving you from unnecessary bulb replacements and potential traffic violations.

So, let’s get started on the journey to demystify the common problem of brake lights not working.

Why your brake lights may not be working – common explanations

1. Prolonged Brake Usage

One of the most common reasons for brake light bulbs to blow is prolonged usage. This often happens when drivers sit stationary with their foot on the brake, such as when waiting for traffic lights to change.

The constant illumination can cause the filament in the bulb to overheat and eventually melt, damaging the bulb and causing it to fail. To avoid this, try to use your handbrake instead of keeping your foot on the brake pedal when stationary for extended periods.

2. Low-Quality Bulbs

Another common cause of brake light failure is the use of low-quality bulbs. While these might be cheaper upfront, they often have a shorter lifespan and are more prone to blowing. Instead, opt for higher-quality LED bulbs, which are more durable and longer-lasting.

While they might cost a bit more, they can save you money in the long run by reducing the frequency of replacements.

3. Electrical Issues

Sometimes, the problem isn’t with the bulb itself but with the electrical system. A short circuit in the wiring or a blown fuse can cause your brake lights to stop working. If you suspect this might be the case, it’s best to have a professional inspect your vehicle’s electrical system.

They can identify any issues and carry out necessary repairs to ensure your brake lights function correctly.

How to prevent brake lights not working

Preventing brake lights from breaking or blowing out can be achieved through the following measures:

  1. Avoid Prolonged Brake Usage: Try not to keep your foot on the brake pedal when stationary for extended periods. This can cause the brake light bulb to overheat and blow out. Instead, use your handbrake.
  2. Use High-Quality Bulbs: Opt for high-quality LED bulbs for your brake lights. They are more durable and longer-lasting than cheaper, lower-quality bulbs.
  3. Regular Maintenance and Inspection: Regularly inspect your brake lights for any signs of damage or wear. Replace any bulbs that are starting to dim or show signs of wear.
  4. Check for Electrical Issues: If your brake lights keep blowing out, it might be due to an electrical issue such as a short circuit or a blown fuse. Have a professional inspect your vehicle’s electrical system if you suspect this might be the case.
  5. Proper Installation: Ensure that the brake light bulbs are installed correctly. Incorrect installation can lead to premature failure.

Remember, maintaining your brake lights is not just about avoiding a traffic ticket—it’s about ensuring your safety and the safety of others on the road.


How can you tell if a brake light socket is bad?

You can use an electrical screwdriver tester on the wire insulation behind your brake light socket. If at least 2 of the 3 wires light up your screwdriver or electrical testing kit, your wiring is in good condition. If not, then you need to replace or fix your current wiring.

How do I find a short in my brake light?

To find a short in your brake light:
1. Disconnect the battery.
2. Inspect the brake light bulbs. If they’re fine, remove them.
3. Check the socket for corrosion or damage.
4. Use a multimeter to test for continuity between the socket and the car frame. If there’s continuity, there’s a short.
5. If no short is found, check the brake light switch and wiring for damage or exposed wires. Use the multimeter to check for shorts along the wiring.

Can I drive with a brake light out?

No, it’s not safe or legal to drive with a brake light out. It’s crucial for signaling to other drivers that you’re slowing down or stopping, and driving without it can lead to accidents or traffic fines.

How do you reset a brake light switch?

Resetting a brake light switch usually involves these steps:

1. Locate the brake light switch. It’s typically near the top of the brake pedal.
2. Disconnect the wiring harness from the switch.
3. Remove the old switch, usually by unscrewing it.
4. Install the new switch and adjust it so it activates the brake lights at the right pedal height.
5. Reconnect the wiring harness.

Remember, the exact process can vary depending on your vehicle’s make and model. Always refer to your vehicle’s manual or consult a professional if unsure.

How much does it cost to replace a brake bulb?

The cost of replacing a brake bulb can vary depending on the make and model of your vehicle and the type of bulb used. However, on average, brake light bulbs cost around $1-2 each, and the labor cost for a mechanic to replace the bulb can range from $10 to $30.


A blown brake light bulb is a common and easily fixable issue. By understanding the common causes of brake light failure and taking steps to prevent them, you can ensure your brake lights last longer and keep you safe on the road.

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