Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls
  1. Home
  2. Articles
  3. What Does the Brake System (Hand Brake, Parking Brake) Warning Light Mean?

What Does the Brake System (Hand Brake, Parking Brake) Warning Light Mean?

What Does the Brake System (Hand Brake, Parking Brake) Warning Light Mean? - main image

There are 2 main types of warning lights for the brake system. One lets you know that the parking brake is engaged, symbolized with a “P” and the other to warn you that there is an issue with the system, symbolized with a “!”. Many car manufacturers combine these into one light to simplify things a little bit. Usually there will be the word “brake” written out as well.

What the brake warning light means

As mentioned before, the brake light may be on because the parking brake is engaged. If disengaging the parking brake doesn’t turn off the light, then the computer has detected an issue with the braking system. Most commonly, this may be due to an issue with the brake fluid.

The brake fluid reservoir has a fluid level sensor built in to make sure there is sufficient fluid in the system at all times. As your brake pads wear out, more fluid is pushed into the lines which lowers the overall level in the system. If the pads get too thin, the fluid level will go down too much and trip the sensor. A leak in the system will also cause the sensor to trip and the light will illuminate to warn you of the low levels.

What to do when the brake warning light is on

If the light is on, first check to make sure that the parking brake is fully disengaged and then check the fluid level inside the reservoir. If neither of these seem to have any issue, then you should have your parking brake cable inspected and adjusted, if necessary. A cable that is out of adjustment may not completely disengage the parking brakes even if the handle is released. If the vehicle is low on fluid, have the pads and brake lines inspected for leaks or worn out parts.

Is it safe to drive with the brake warning light on?

Depending on how severe the issue is, the car may or may not be safe to drive. If the light comes on, you should pull over safely out of traffic to check the parking brake and fluid level. With a severe fluid leak, you will not be able to use the brake pedal to stop the car quickly and you will have to use the parking brake to slow the vehicle down. This is risky as the parking brake is not nearly as effective at stopping the vehicle as the brake pedal.

If your parking brake isn’t fully disengaging, it is recommended that you get your car towed as the constant resistance is not good for your vehicle’s drivetrain.

If your brake warning light is on and you can’t find the reason, one of our certified technicians would be able to assist you in diagnosing the issue.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
Icon-warranty_badge-02

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

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.

GET A QUOTE

More related articles

How to Buy Fuel Treatments
Adding a fuel additive to your gas tank when you fill up is one way to clean vital engine parts of deposits, improve the performance of your engine,...
How to Transfer a Car Title in Idaho
In order to prove ownership of a car, you must have the title. However, when a car is sold, given away or inherited, the title needs...
P2159 OBD-II Trouble Code: Vehicle Speed Sensor B Range/Performance
Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC): P2159 P2159 code definition Vehicle Speed Sensor B Range/Performance...


Related questions

Q: orange triangle blinking in dashboard lightsystem

Hi there, thanks for writing in about your 1999 Mercedes E320. Most common cause in Mercedes of that era is the brake light switch. I would have a diagnostic run on the warning light in order to be certain of...

Q: Brake line leaking at front passenger's side wheel

Hi. Sounds to me that you have a leaking brake line to your brake caliper. Also the loss in brake pressure is because of the release in pressure from the leaking line. I would recommend having a certified mechanic come...

Q: Q: Warning lights after ABS brake flex lines replaced

The rear lights, including the brake lights, all go through the light control module and should have nothing to do with the ABS system. You may have bad bulbs. Have them checked to see if one or more brake lights...