Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Brake Light Bulb

brake light bulb

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.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Ask a Mechanic
(100% Free)

Have a car question? Get free advice from our top-rated mechanics.

Ask A Mechanic
Over 10,000 questions answered!

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.


Post a question and get free advice from our certified mechanics.


More related articles

P0121 OBD-II Trouble Code: TPS "A" Circuit Range Performance Problem
P0121 code definition Throttle Pedal Position Sensor/Switch (TPS) A Circuit Range Performance Problem What the P0121 code means P0121 is a generic OBD-II code which indicates that the Engine Control...
P0240 OBD-II Trouble Code: Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance
P0240 code definition Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance What the P0240 code means P0240 is an OBD-II generic code triggered when the Engine Control Module (ECM) detects the intake boost...
Insurance Requirements for Car Registration in Kentucky
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet requires that all drivers in Kentucky carry liability automotive insurance, or “financial responsibility” in order to operate a vehicle legally and maintain vehicle...

Related questions

Q: How do I turn on the headlights?

The headlights are controlled with the Headlamp Control knob. To turn on the headlights, rotate the knob to the headlight position.

Q: Brake Pedal feels loose have to push all the way down pumping it helps stop it but mostly it keeps sliding until I pull E-brake.

Hello. After replacing any brake hose or line, the brake system has to be bled of any air. Did your friend do that after installing the hose? Try bleeding the entire brake system. If the seal under the brake fluid...

Q: Rear lights not working.

Looking at the wiring diagram for your vehicle, I see that none of these circuits share a common ground. They do however, all receive power from the totally integrated control module (TIPM). This module is basically a smart fuse box....