You will be very disturbed when the brake light suddenly comes on while driving. Is this dangerous? Brake lamp warning light – what does it mean? How to fix it?
Your car’s dashboard contains all kinds of warning lights that can pop out for many reasons. One of them is the brake system warning light. When it suddenly turns on, it tells you something is wrong with your brake system.
The first thing you should do is to check if you have completely disengaged the parking brake. Some cars use the same warning light for parking and brake systems. If the parking brake is still engaged, its sensor will turn on this warning light.
Read on to learn more about the brake lamp warning light, what it means when it turns on, why it turns on, and how you can fix this issue.
Brake Lamp Warning Light
An Issue with the Car’s Brake System
All modern vehicles, big or small, have a dashboard or instrument panel that contains several warning lights. These lights warn you if something is wrong with your car’s operating systems.
You may wonder, “why is my brake lamp light on?” When the brake warning light on your dashboard suddenly turns on, it could mean something wrong with your car’s brake system. The first thing you need to check is your parking brake. Is it still active?
Engaged Parking Brake
You have to disengage it if it is, and the brake lamp warning light will turn off. However, if it still stays on, there is another issue in your brake system. Perhaps, this warning light is connected to the parking brake and the brake system. Maybe it is used by these two components of your car.
The parking brake is still engaged is one of the most common reasons why this warning light is triggered while you are driving. You need to know how to turn off the brake lamp light.
Fix this issue by simply disengaging your parking brake. However, if the warning light won’t go off, there could be another problem with your brake system.
Low Brake Fluid
The other reason the brake lamp warning light persists on your dashboard is probably your brake fluid is already low. Another reason is that the hydraulic brake system is experiencing a brake pressure differential.
If you are unsure of the cause, the best thing you can do now is to drive your car to the nearest car repair shop and have the brake system of your car checked by a qualified mechanic.
You can’t drive your car for long distances if the brake lamp warning light is on. It is dangerous to do so. You don’t know why the warning light turned on.
There could be a serious cause that can endanger your life if you will continue driving. Fix the issue before driving your car again.
Brake Lights Meaning, Symbol, and More
In modern cars, the brake lamp warning light is the light on the car’s instrument panel that is usually represented by a circle with an exclamation point inside it. There are cars with the words “BRAKE” fully spelled out. If this light turns on, something is wrong with your brakes or brake system.
Other Lights Connected to the Brake System
There are times when the brake lamp warning light turns on at the same time that other lights connected to the brake system also turn on. What are these other lights?
- Brake pad warning light – this light appears as a circle with dashed lines
- ABS warning light – this light is spelled out as “ABS.”
- Parking brake light – this light is represented by the letter “P” inside a circle.
Can You Drive with Brake Lamp Light on?
Brakes are essential; you wouldn’t drive your car if you knew they were not working. However, when the brake lamp warning light turns on, some drivers ignore it and continue driving their cars. They are not just endangering themselves but also other road users.
You should not ignore this light because it is warning you of a potential safety issue that, if ignored, can spell a major disaster. Your car should not be driven by you or anyone else until this issue is examined and fixed by a competent car mechanic.
What to Do If Brake Light Turns On
So, what should you do if this warning light suddenly turns on your dashboard? Here are the things that you should do when this thing happens unexpectedly:
1. Don’t Drive Your Car
You’re about to leave your garage and just turned on the ignition. But you noticed that the brake lamp warning light turns on. Don’t drive yet:
- Check if you have fully disengaged the parking brake.
- Check the parking brake.
- Pull-on the parking release lever to see if it completely disengages. If the warning light does not turn off, it is a sign that there is a problem with your brake system.
- Turn off the engine.
- Call for a mechanic to fix it or have your car towed to the nearest car repair shop for examination and repair.
2. Don’t Panic
Let’s say you own a Honda Accord. Don’t panic if the Honda Accord’s brake lamp turns on while driving. There are two separate brake systems in your car. Both operate hydraulically, meaning they use liquid to deliver their braking power.
Drive Toward the Safest Place to Park
So, even if you have a problem with one of the braking systems, you still have another braking system that you can use to stop your car. However, with just one hydraulic brake system working, your braking will not be as fast as before.
Drive your car to the nearest safe place so you can park it there. Step on your brakes gradually until your car comes to a full stop. Then call for a towing service so they can bring it to your trusted car repair shop for a brake system check or repair.
3. Make It a Habit to Check If the Brake Lamp Warning Light Is Working
This warning light is essential for your driving safety. It tells you when it is unsafe to drive your car. However, if the Honda brake lamp light isn’t working, how can it warn you that something is wrong with your brakes?
So, you need to check if it is working properly periodically. You don’t have to ignore this chore because it’s not very difficult to do.
Just be observant. During engine start-up, right after you turn on the ignition system, you will notice that all the warning lights will turn on the dashboard. That includes the brake lamp warning light. These lights will go on for a few seconds, and then they will all fade away.
This start-up procedure ensures that all the warning lights are fully working. If any of these lights do not turn on at this point, it could mean its bulb or light source is malfunctioning. So, that particular light is also not working.
Always remember that if your car’s brake lamp warning light is not working, it can’t warn you if there’s a problem in your brake system. That can endanger your life and the lives of others.
Again, why is your brake lamp warning light on? When your brake lamp warning light is on, there is an issue with your car’s braking system that you must deal with immediately.
Why Your Brake Lamp Warning Light Turns On
There are several reasons why the brake lamp warning light on your dashboard suddenly comes on. Here are some of the most common causes:
1. Parking Brake Is Still Active
This is the most common reason for turning on this warning light. This occurs when you don’t fully disengage your car’s parking brake. The fix is easy: fully disengage the parking brake, and the warning light will turn off.
Don’t be driving around with your parking brakes still engaged. This will overheat the brake pads and accelerate their wear and tear. Increased temperature will also make the brake fluid deteriorate faster.
2. Already Worn Out Brake Pads
If the brake pads are already old and worn out, it will cause a drop in the brake fluid level. Why? The caliper pistons need to go further so they can contact the rotor. This can trigger the brake lamp warning light.
The warning light can also turn on because of the signal from the brake pads’ sensor wire. This sensor will contact the rotor if the brake pads are already old and worn out. This action triggers the brake warning light to turn on.
3. Low Level of Brake Fluid
A sensor is present in the brake master cylinder. It monitors the brake system’s brake fluid level. This sensor will activate the brake lamp warning light if the level goes below the minimum.
Why can the level of brake fluid go down below the minimum? There could be a brake fluid leak. So, it is best always to include a brake fluid level check whenever you are doing the daily inspection of the important fluids of your car.
4. Bad Sensor
All the warning lights on your dashboard use different sensors that monitor whatever part of the system they are connected to. Your car’s brake system uses several sensors.
There is a sensor for the ABS, the master cylinder, and the parking brake. If any of these sensors has gone bad, it will activate the brake lamp warning light on your dashboard.
5. Malfunctioning Anti-Lock Braking System
Many modern vehicles come with an anti-lock brake system or ABS. There is an ABS brake warning light on the dashboard to monitor this system. If there’s a problem with the car’s ABS, it will trigger both the ABS light and the brake lamp warning light.
What are the usual causes for this to happen? It can be as simple as a dirty wheel speed sensor or a more complicated electrical malfunction. The only one who can fix this issue is a competent mechanic from a car repair shop or a car dealer.
6. Bad Rear Brake Lights
There are car computers that also monitor rear brake lights. These brake lights could be a single bulb or an array of LED bulbs. If one of these bulbs dims, it may trigger the brake warning light on the instrument panel.
This is good for you because while you are driving, you will not be aware if suddenly, one of your brake lights goes bad. Brake lights are your way of communicating with other drivers that you intend to stop. It is used to prevent collisions. So, your brake lights should always be working.
How to Fix Brake Warning Light Issue?
While fixing technical issues related to the brake lamp warning light remains to be the area of qualified car mechanics, there are still certain things that you can do, at your competency level, to solve this problem.
Here are some things you can do if you encounter this issue:
1. Check If the Parking Brake Is Still Engaged
If it’s the parking brake that triggered the light, you can check if the parking brake is still engaged. Perhaps you have not fully deactivated the parking brake. So, bring down the lever more and see if it will turn off the warning light. If the light turns off, you’ve fixed the problem.
2. Top Up the Brake Fluid
If the brake fluid triggered the light, check if its level is already below the minimum. You only need to top up the brake fluid and check if the warning light goes off. The brake fluid container is usually a hard yellow plastic material.
It should have markings indicating the maximum and minimum fluid level you can pour into it. If the fluid level is below the minimum, that must have triggered the brake warning light. So, fill it up to the maximum level, and the light will turn off.
3. Have a Mechanic Fix the Brake Pedal on the Floor
You also need to check the play of your brake pedal. If you step on the brake pedal with force and it goes down easily to the floor, there could be air or a leak in the hydraulic brake system.
This problem can be fixed only by a qualified mechanic. However, it is still good if the brake pedal is firm and holds its place.
Frequently Asked Questions
The brake warning light is a topic that can raise many questions in the minds of those, not in the know—if you are one of them, perhaps reading the answers to the most often asked questions about this topic will help you better understand the issue:
Why Is the Brake Warning Light Coming on On My Dashboard?
Perhaps, you didn’t fully disengage the parking brake when you started to drive your car. The brake lamp warning light will turn on if it is still activated. This is the most common reason this light turns on in a car’s instrument panel.
Check if you haven’t completely disengaged the parking brake to fix the problem. If the warning light does not turn off, your vehicle’s brake system could have an underlying problem. You need to have it checked by a qualified mechanic.
Is It Dangerous to Drive with the Brake Warning Light On?
Yes, if you still haven’t figured out what caused the warning light to turn on. Many things can trigger this warning light on your dashboard. Until you pinpoint the cause and apply the proper fix, you shouldn’t drive your car, even for a short distance.
What Are the Other Causes Why This Brake Warning Light Turns on?
Here are some of the other causes of the triggering of this warning light:
- Low brake fluid level
- Malfunctioning brake hydraulic system
- Bad brake sensors
- The brake lights are not working
- ABS not working
- Worn or damaged brake pads
What Do I Need to Do When This Warning Light Suddenly Turns on While Driving?
Here’s what you need to do:
- Don’t panic
- Be aware that your brake system has two hydraulic brake systems. You will be so unlucky if both systems fail. Usually, only one does. So, you can still safely steer your car to safety.
- When your car is already in a safe place, call for a towing service so they can bring your car to a repair shop where a proper repair can be done on the brake system.
In Closing: Meaning of Brake Lamp Warning Light Means
All warning lights are contained in your car’s dashboard or instrument panel. One of them is the brake system warning light. If while you are driving and this light suddenly turns on, it is telling you that there is something wrong with your braking system.
First, you must check if you have fully disengaged the parking brake. Perhaps your car uses the same warning light for the parking and brake systems. If you have not completely disengaged the parking brake, its sensor will turn on this warning light.