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5 Reasons Why Brake Lights Not Working But Tail Lights Are

Driving at night with either brake lights or tail lights not working is dangerous for you and other drivers on the road. It takes a long time to notice when the brake lights not working but tail lights are or vice versa. It is so because you won’t know what is happening in the backside while driving until someone points it out.

Both brake and tail lights are crucial for road safety. If any of them does not work, other drivers behind you won’t see if you are moving or not. It can cause severe accidents, especially on dark streets or during heavy rain and snow. The cops will also flag you if they see you are during without functioning lights.

The Reasons for Brake Lights Not Working but Tail Lights Are

It’s a peculiar problem since you the tail lights work fine when you drive but hitting the brake produces no response from the rear lights. Sometimes, pressing the brakes turns off the tail lights too and they don’t start working again until you let the brakes off.

The possible reasons for brake lights not working but tail lights are:

The Light Bulbs

Blown out light bulbs are the most common reason for why the brake lights not working but the tail lights are. Remove the screws from the bulb lens (which you can access through the trunk or see your vehicle repair manual to get the exact location). Push the bulbs and turn them counterclockwise to remove from the socket.

brake lights not working
Blown out lights could be a reason.

You need to replace bulbs if they have got darkened or the filaments are blown. Choose the new bulbs of the same type and wattage. In most European cars, the same bulb does the job of the tail and brake lighting. However, it has double filaments, allowing one set still working while the other set is burnt.

Fuse Box and Light Switch

You have to find the fuse box or the power distribution center (PDC). You will get the fuse panel under the dashboard and the PDC under the hood. The brake light switch is also to be found under the dashboard and check if its plunger touches the brake pedal arm. Any problem with the fuse box and light switch will affect the brake lights.

In case if the fuse is blown, change it with a new one. Remember that the new one has to have the same amperage of the old unit. Besides, try to find out the cause of the blown fuse. Otherwise, it will be a recurring problem.

The Electrical Ground

If the brake light switch is functional, you have to check for a bad electrical ground (some car models have the switch provided ground). It could happen due to a loose connection of the wire or the corrosion or damage of the wire ends. Connect the light switch to a good ground with a jumper wire and press the brake pedal. If the brake light turns on, you have to fix the ground connection.

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Check the Wiring

If all the components mentioned above are working just fine, you have to look somewhere else to find the source of the problem. The wiring from the fuse panel to the brake light switch and from the switch to the bulb sockets and lights could be loose or frayed. The connection and the bulb housing could be corroded. You have to change these parts if found any such problem.

Examine the Turn Signal Switch

The brake light circuit can be a part of the turn signal circuit in some vehicle models. The brake light won’t respond if the switch is damaged or bad. Check the switch’s wiring diagram and find the single wire that establishes a connection between the brake light and turn signal switches. Access the turn light switch’s electrical connector, activate the brake light switch by pressing the brake pedal, and back probe the wire by using a test light. If the test light is not on, you have to change this wire.

Why Won’t My Tail Lights Work When My Headlights Are On

why wont my tail lights work when my headlights are on
Sometimes tail lights may not work properly while the brake lights are fine.

The rear and headlights have separate connections. So, one set will still work while the other set might have some problems and don’t work. Tail lights could turn off for several reasons and they are almost similar to the causes why brake lights not working but tail lights are.

The causes for dysfunctional rear lights are:

  • Burnt bulbs
  • Blown out fuse
  • Damaged wiring
  • Electrical issues

If you still cannot find out the problem for your non-functional brake lights or tail lights or are not sure about the steps mentioned above, take the vehicle to an expert mechanic. Don’t try to fix anything whether it is a major repair or a small one when you have little knowledge about car mechanism.

Frequently Asked Questions

Brake lights, tail lights are the most famous car parts that car owners want to understand about, since there are so many problems around them. In this article, our car experts will help car owners answer some of the most common questions:

What would cause brake lights not to work?

There are three things that could lead to this issue: 

  1. Faulty brake light bulbs.
  2. The brake light wiring switch is damaged. 
  3.  The automobile has a broken brake light system fuse.

Luckily, all of these problems can be spotted and solved easily. 

What would cause my tail lights to stay on?

There are many causes for tail light constantly staying on while the car is turned off: A broken brake light switch, damaged trailer light plug, faulty brake light switch stopper, broken wiring harness,… There are various reasons, however, you can check whether it is the brake lights or the tail lights to see which are the parts having problems.  

Are brake lights and tail lights the same?

They are different. Brake lights are the lights that turn on immediately when drivers press the brakes pedal, while tail lights are only engaged while your parking brake is on or when you turn on the headlights. You can also recognize by the color: The tail lights are normal red, while the brake lights are a more luminous red on most cars. 

How do I fix my brake lights not working?

In the situation when brake lights are not working properly, you need to make sure that the power is going through and check the fuse. If the brakes lights are turned on at the same time as turn signal lights, you need to bring it to the mechanics for a check. 

How do I check brake lights by myself?

In cases that you need to check brake lights, this is the guideline:

First of all, turn the ignition on. You need the ignition to be turned on in order to give brake lights a clear check. Also, make sure the vehicle is not in gear and open the car door. The next step is to find a floor brush or mop and put its end on the brake pedal. By doing this, you can apply pressure to the pedal while also checking the brake lights. Car owners can now push down until the brake is engaged and locked in place. Now you can get behind your car and check the brake lights.  

How much does it cost to replace a brake light?

Lucky for us, a brake light is quite cheap compared to other car parts. It is always a minimal cost for replacing the brake light bulb.  A bulb costs from $5 to $10 and the charging process costs $20, so the maximum price will be around $30. 

How much does it cost to rewire brake lights?

It depends on the design of the brake lights: Some automobile manufacturers design it to be easy to rewire, but some automobiles required tail light removal in order to replace and rewire brake lights. So the labor cost will be around $7 to $60. Plus with the cost of the bulb from $1 to $8, car owners will cost a maximum of $68 in order to rewire brake lights. 

Can I drive with no brake lights?

No. First of all, you will get pulled over and be fined by a police officer since it is definitely illegal to drive without a working brake light.

Second of all, other drivers cannot see you very well in the dark. Without brake lights, it is impossible for them to know whether you are stopping or not, so accidents on the road are very likely.

Imagine driving at night on the highway and your car’s brake lights are broken. 

How long does it take to fix a brake light?

1 hour. This is the maximum time for brake light bulb replacement since it is not complicated at all. The process should be around 40 to 60 minutes to complete. 

7 Comments
  1. Trevor says

    When I apply brakes my headlights come on what causes it

  2. Ray says

    My tail lights don’t work, but my hazards, blinkers and brake lights do. What’s the problem? Im thinking a fuse, but it’s so difficult to locate that fuse. Need help.

  3. Stephen says

    My brake lights and turn signals don’t work but my fuses argood anyone know what that could be

  4. Suren says

    I have a Ford Focus St. All my lights work , but if I have my lights on at night travel, and if I try pressing my brake, then my left rear lights goes off. There is no lights on the left rear only. However if I travel in the day, with no lights switched on, then my brake lights function perfectly. What could be the cause of this problem? Please advise. Thank you.

    1. James Imhuelsen says

      Suran I think you have a broken wire, bad relay or bad light/signal switch. I’m having the same issue currently

      1. Suren says

        Thank you for your advice , I will do as you suggested, & let you know .

  5. Jodi spence says

    please help me. i have a 2000 saturn LS1, my brake lights will not come on, I have changes the brake light switch, both the two prong and the four prong switches, the bulbs are fine and the fuses are fine. and they are still not coming on, i am at my wits end because i just dont know what to do. Can someone please give me advice.

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