How to Check Your Car Brake Lights

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Brake lights are one of many important safety features we take for granted on our vehicles. Most vehicles are equipped with three brake lights: left, right, and center. The center brake light is typically known under different names: center-mount, high-mount, or even third brake light. Brake lights fail for many reasons, often because there's a burned bulb causing one or more brake lights to be inoperative. Other times the brake light system can have a complete failure of the brake lights.

Many vehicles do not have a “bulb out” indicator so it is important to walk around your vehicle on occasion and conduct a bulb inspection to be certain they are all functioning properly.

Part 1 of 2: Checking the brake light bulbs

Materials Needed

  • Fuses
  • Pencil with eraser top
  • Ratchet/socket set
  • Replacement bulb
  • Sandpaper

  • Tip: Gluing a small piece of sandpaper to the tip of a pencil eraser makes for easy cleaning of bulb socket contacts.

Step 1: Located burned bulbs. Have a friend step on the brake pedal while you observe the vehicle from the rear to locate which, if any, bulb is out.

Step 2: Remove the bulb. Some vehicles have easy access to the tail/brake light assemblies from behind, either inside the trunk or inside the trunk lid, depending on application. Others may require removal of the tail/brake light assembly. Access the bulb according to your vehicle.

Step 2: Replace the bulb. Once the bulb is removed, this is a good time to use the sandpaper-topped pencil eraser to clean the contacts in the bulb socket.

brake light bulb

Insert the new bulb. Have your friend apply the brakes before reinstalling the lamp assembly to verify operation.

Part 2 of 2: Checking the brake light fuses

Step 1: Check the fuses. Using your vehicle owner's manual, locate your brake light fuse. Many modern vehicles have more than one fuse box in different locations.

Step 2: Replace the fuse if blown. Fuses can sometimes blow simply due to age. If you find the fuse to the brake lights blown, replace it and check the brake lights. If the fuse remains good, then it may have simply blown due to age.

If the fuse blows again immediately or after a few days, then there is an electrical short in the brake light circuit.

  • Note: If your vehicle is blowing brake light fuses, there is a short in the brake light circuit that should be diagnosed by a professional.

It could be anywhere from the fuse box, to the brake light switch, wiring to the brake lights or even the brake/taillamp housing itself. Also, if your vehicle is equipped with LED brake lights, either all three or simply the center brake light and it is not functioning, the LED circuit itself may be defective, requiring replacement of that LED lighting assembly.

If replacing brake light bulbs has not resolved your issues, contact a professional mechanic, such as one from YourMechanic, to replace your brake light bulb or figure out why your brake lights aren't working.


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Number of Reviews

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Rating Summary
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Rigoberto

9 years of experience
706 reviews
Rigoberto
9 years of experience
Chevrolet Equinox - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Niles, Illinois
Rigo was great! He got there early, finished the job early, left everything clean. He changed my rear pads and rotors. The original quoted time was 90 minutes, he was done in about 60. He knows what he is doing and I am recommending him to all my friends and coworkers.
Mercedes-Benz C250 - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Chicago, Illinois
Rigo is a maverick hands down. Don’t take your car for work elsewhere. Especially great at Mercedes—this guy knows his profession! I will be using him for everything related to my car going forward.

Arturo

25 years of experience
35 reviews
Arturo
25 years of experience
Kia Forte - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - San Diego, California
ARTURO is great! very professional , fast, replaced my front brake pads and oil an filter change. everything now works and works well. Brakes have much improved stopping power and engine is smooth and quiet.Arturo is also kind and thoughtful. "Your mechanic" is very fortunate to have Arturo Lopez represent your company. I enthusiastically recommend him and "Your mechanic> as a fine operation Best regards to the Team Peter Marto
Nissan Maxima - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - San Diego, California
Arturo was prompt and completed my brake repair, including new rotors in a very efficient manner. I am very pleased with the quality of the work and the parts and will definitely look to have him service our other car in the near future.

Scott

32 years of experience
345 reviews
Scott
32 years of experience
Lexus IS250 - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Denver, Colorado
Always on time, speedy, professional, and pleasant to interact with. The work is always consistent and we'll done. I can't reccomend Scott highly enough!

Michael

10 years of experience
15 reviews
Michael
10 years of experience
Nissan Sentra - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Conyers, Georgia
He was promptly on time and got the job done efficiently in a timely manner. I really appreciate the rapid respone on getting the job done! I would most definitely use this service again.

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