Brake Lights Won’t Turn Off [Causes and How to Fix]

Your car’s brake lights need to work properly. The brake lights let drivers behind you know when you are slowing down and stopping. So what if your brake lights won’t turn off?

If the brake lights don’t turn off, then it could be because the switch is either stuck or malfunctioning. You need to make some adjustments on the switch or replace the switch if the damage is too serious. If you do not fix this problem, the brake lights can drain the battery if they are on for too long.

Read on to learn more about why your car’s brake lights won’t turn off and what you can do to fix it.

Reasons Why Brake Lights Won’t Turn Off

brake lights wont turn off

There are several reasons why your car’s brake lights won’t turn off and are always on. You might need to check all of them to figure out what the problem really is:

A Broken or Faulty Brake Light Switch

If the brake lights remain on even when you turn off your car, then the switch that turns it on may still be engaged. Many vehicles share the same design for positioning the brake light switch. They use a plastic stopper on top of the brake pedal lever to disengage the switch when your foot isn’t on the brakes.

Check the brake pedal and look for that plastic stopper. It may have broken off or shifted from its original position, leaving the brake light switch turned on.

The Return Spring of the Brake Pedal Is Faulty

If you are driving a rather old car, then the reason why its brake light does not turn off could be a weak or faulty pedal return spring. This spring is responsible for pulling the brake pedal back to its original position when you take your foot off it.

If the spring is not as strong as it used to be, then it may not have enough force to hold the brake pedal against the brake light switch to turn it off. In that case, you should also worry about the condition of your brakes.

If the return spring can no longer hold the brake pedal back, it would be like you are riding the brakes all the time. Have your brakes checked, and make sure that the pads and the rotors are still in good condition.

How to Check If Your Brake Lights Won’t Turn Off

How will you find out if your brake lights are working properly? Here are some valuable tips to check if all the lights at the back of your vehicle are working as they should:

1. Get Someone to Help You

The easiest way is to get someone to help you. Ask a friend, your spouse, an older child of yours, or anyone who can follow straightforward instructions to hop into the driver’s seat. Position yourself behind the vehicle and ask your helper to step on the brakes. It would be a good idea to have someone who knows how to drive. See if the lights are working properly.

2. Use Storefront Windows

If you are away from home, find a shopping center with parking spaces in front of the stores. Back your car into the parking space, place it in park mode, and engage the parking brake. Look at your rear-view mirror. You should see the reflection of your car’s rear end on the shop window.

Keep looking at the reflection of your car and step on the brake pedal. Are the lights going on as usual? Take your foot off the pedal. Did the brake lights turn off? Did it take a while before the lights went off? Or did they stay lit?

While you are there, you might as well check the other tail lights (turn signals and backup lights).

3. Use Your Garage Door

If you are at home, you can also use your garage door pretty much the same way as a storefront window. The process may be somewhat different, though. Pull your car into the garage and close the door behind you.

Turn off the lights in the garage and hop into the driver’s seat. Turn on the engine, place the car in park, and engage the parking brake. Look behind your car, then step on the brakes. You should be able to see the lights bounce off the garage door.

4. Use a Broom

If you do not have a covered garage and cannot find someone who can help you, use a broom or anything similar to press on the brakes.

Make sure that the car is in park mode. Engage the emergency brake, too. Wedge the broom handle between the driver’s seat and the brake pedal. Walk behind your car to check if the brake lights turned on. Remove the broom handle and check the lights again if they turned off.

These simple methods should allow you to check if all your tail lights, not just your brake lights, are working properly. I highly advise that you do these checks regularly.

How to Fix Brake Lights Not Turning Off (Are Always On)

my brake lights wont turn off

Now, let’s say that you have figured out that your brake lights are not working properly. How should you fix them? Hopefully, the issue is not that serious, and you can fix it yourself, so you do not need to spend on a mechanic. If that is the case, the most common ways for you to fix faulty brake lights include the following:

1. Fixing the Brake Pedal

The most common reason why brake lights won’t turn off is that the brake pedals got stuck in place, or it may just slightly press the switch. It is also possible that dirt and debris got stuck between the brake light switch and the pedal. It can prevent the lights from turning off.

If that seems to be the issue, you can rest assured that it will be an easy fix. You have to grab an old toothbrush and give the contact points between the switch and the pedal a good scrub. This can help in removing most of the dirt and debris. After cleaning, give the brake pedal a couple of good pumps to return to its normal position.

2. Fixing a Broken or Misaligned Brake Pedal Stopper

The stopper prevents the brake pedal from going too far down when you step on it. These are usually made of hard plastic material. They can get worn down after some time due to regular use. Sometimes, they even get a bit loose and get pushed off their original position.

If the stopper is broken or loose, it is best to replace it with a new one. They are not expensive, and you can find them easily online. Installing the stopper is easy, and you can find lots of online tutorials for it.

3. Fixing a Faulty Electric Switch

If you found out that the switch itself is the problem, it is advisable to disconnect the battery’s negative terminal. You have to do this before you start fixing anything.

4. Fixing the Wiring of the Brake Circuit

Another reason why a brake light won’t turn off is a short circuit in the wiring. This means the circuit remains closed even when the switch is open. Check the pigtail harness connected to the brake light switch. If you see any signs of damage, like burnt plastic or what looks like rodents chewed them, then that is your problem.

You can try fixing the wiring harness if you know how to. However, note that even experienced automotive electricians know that it is more cost-effective to rip out the old harness and replace it with a brand new one.

5. Fixing the Damaged Brake Light Switch

The brake switch itself could be the problem. The brake light switch is an analog type. It means that you have to press the device to open and close the circuit physically. Over time, wear and tear could deteriorate the mechanism of the switch, making it malfunction most of the time.

Don’t even try fixing the brake light switch. You might not even have the right tools for the task. If you discovered that your brake light switch is the issue, remove it and replace it with a new one.

What Could Happen If You Don’t Fix the Always-On Brake Lights

brake light won’t turn off

You might think that you can ignore the brake light being on all the time. It won’t damage the car in any way. However, it is time to stop that kind of misconception. You actually need to take this kind of problem seriously, as the broken brake light might signify that something else is wrong with the vehicle.

Here are some of the things that may happen if you don’t fix your malfunctioning brake light:

1. Drain the Battery

This is the most common issue you would run into if you leave your brake light. The problem is that the brake lights could remain lit even when the engine is off. It means that if you did not notice that your tail lights were still on when you got out of your car and went inside your house, you would find that your car’s battery is already dead the following morning.

2. Burn Out the Brake Light

Another issue that you would be running into when your brake light is constantly on is that you would be literally burning through brake light bulbs. Although brake light bulbs are cheap, it is the hassle of replacing them every week or so that is the problem.

Taking off the tail light cover and putting it back on can get quite tedious. If done enough times, the gasket that keeps the water out of the light enclosure may get damage.

3. Damage the Brakes

If the reason why your brake light does not turn off is that the pedal will not retract completely, then it means that the brakes are still somewhat engaged. This means that you have unwittingly been riding the brakes this entire time, and that does not bode well for your poor brakes.

If you are riding the brakes, then it means you have been wearing down the brake pads, most likely down to the metal, and the calipers gouged the rotors. The best way for this to end is to reface the rotors. However, if worse comes to worst, you will need to replace all the brakes.

4. Get Pulled Over a Lot

Brake lights that are constantly on can be a road hazard as well. With your brake lights always on, the person driving behind you will not know when you are stepping on the brakes. This may cause a rear-end collision.

It also means that the police will pull you over when they see that your car’s brake lights are malfunctioning. You might get away with a warning the first few times. However, it is also possible for you to get a hefty fine for your traffic violation. Rack enough tickets, and you will get your license revoked.

5. Cause Serious Accidents

As mentioned earlier, if your brake lights are busted, the driver behind you will not know when you are braking. It usually ends in them rear-ending your car. It is also likely that your brakes would suddenly give out on you while you are on the highway. The reason is that you have been riding on the brakes without you knowing it. If that happens, all sorts of horrendous accidents may occur too.

Conclusion – Brake Light Won’t Turn Off

If your car’s brake lights are constantly on, then the most probable cause is that the switch is stuck or malfunctioning. You will either need to adjust the switch or replace it if it is seriously damaged. If you ignore the problem, you will most likely face serious issues later.

Moreover, if your brake lights don’t turn off, you need to remedy it right away. If you don’t, then you will only end up spending more money while putting yourself and your family in danger because your car is a rolling death trap.