Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Brake Light Bulb

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While newer vehicles are increasingly being built with LED lighting technology, regular light bulbs are still commonly found on the vast majority of vehicles for all of the vehicle’s lighting needs. Some of the most important bulbs found on any vehicle are the brake light bulbs. Just as their name implies, the brake light bulbs are the bulbs that light up when the brakes are applied to alert the vehicles behind you that you are slowing down. Just as with any other bulb, over time with repeated use, they also will eventually burn out and need to be replaced. When the brake light bulbs are starting to go out, they will usually display a few symptoms that can alert the driver that a problem has occurred.

1. Dimmer or brighter than normal

One of the first symptoms commonly associated with bad or failing brake light bulbs is a change in the brightness. When a bulb is about to to burn out it may begin to shine more dimly than it once did; or the opposite, it may glow even brighter than normal. These are both symptoms that the filament inside the bulb has begun to wear out to the point that it has changed how the bulb lights up. This is usually a sign that the bulb is near the end of its service life and may need to be replaced soon.

2. Slow responding bulb

Another symptom commonly associated with a bad or failing brake light bulb is a bulb that is slow to respond and light up when the brakes are applied. A slowly responding brake light is a sign that the bulb is worn or damaged and cannot light up correctly anymore. If the bulb is not functioning correctly it should be replaced before it fails completely.

3. Brake Warning Light

Another more direct symptom of a failed brake light bulb is a Brake Warning Light. Some newer vehicles will come equipped with a visual indicator that will directly tell the driver that a bulb has burned out. Some vehicles will have a warning light on the dash, others as an on-screen notification that will let the driver know that attention is required.

Since the brake light bulbs allow the drivers behind you to know you are braking, they are very important to the vehicle’s overall safety. For this reason, if you suspect that your brake light bulb may be failing or is about to burn out, have the the brake lights inspected by a professional technician, such as one from YourMechanic, to determine if your car needs a brake light bulb replacement.


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