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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.


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.

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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.