Repair & Maintenance

What to Do When Your Brake Light Comes On

What’s that light?

Few things will stop you in your tracks quite like seeing your brake warning light come on. When your car’s brake warning light comes on, it tells you something is wrong with the braking system; it can’t be put off or ignored until later—the price for doing so could very expensive and very dangerous.

Brake warning light = brake system problem

Just about every car, truck or SUV has a series of warning lights located on the instrument cluster of the dashboard. Among them is a brake system warning light that lights up and tells you when something is wrong with your brake system.

You wouldn’t knowingly drive a vehicle without brakes, but some drivers do almost the same thing by ignoring what the dashboard brake warning light is trying to tell them. Any brake system problem has to be regarded as a major safety issue and your car should not be driven until the problem has been resolved by a mechanic.  

I started my car and the brake light is on - now what?

If you've just started your car and notice that the brake system warning light is on, don't run the risk of driving the vehicle. 

First, check to make sure that the parking brake is completely disengaged. Some cars have a common warning light for the brake system and the parking brake. Examine your parking brake and pull on the release mechanism to ensure that it is completely disengaged. If the dashboard light remains on, it's telling you that thre is a brake system problem that could prevent you from stopping your vehicle. Turn off the engine and arrange to have the vehicle transported to your trusted mechanic. 

I was driving and my brake light came – what should I do?

If you’re driving along and the brake warning light comes on or it comes on and stays on after you press the brake pedal, there’s no need to panic—your vehicle has two separate brake hydraulic systems connecting the brake pedal to the wheels, so even when you have a problem with one system, you will be able to safely bring your vehicle to a stop. Be aware that it may not stop as quickly using only one hydraulic system.

Drive the car to a parking area or onto the shoulder of the road as safely as possible and gradually press the brake pedal to bring your vehicle to a stop. Once safely stopped and out of the traffic flow, make arrangements to transport the vehicle to your favorite repair shop.

Be proactive – verify that your brake light is working

Think of the brake warning light as your best friend who is trying to tell you that you may be driving a car with no brakes. But the warning light can’t deliver its message if it doesn’t work, so be a little proactive and confirm that it is working properly. It’s easy to do and you can get into the habit of doing it every time you start your car.

During vehicle start-up, after the ignition system is turned on and before the engine starts, all of the warning lights on the dash, including the brake warning light, are illuminated and after a few seconds, they should all go out. This is designed to verify that all of the warning lights are operating properly—if any do not illuminate at this point, it means that the bulb or other light source is inoperative and the warning light is not working properly.

There are no standardized locations for the warning lights, but you can familiarize yourself with those in your vehicle by reviewing the owner’s manual. Remember, your brake warning light can’t warn you of any danger if it’s not working. If you discover that it isn’t working, consult your manual to determine which bulb needs replacing.

Learn more about Wagner Brake parts, find your car part, or find a local car repair shop today.

The content contained in this article is for entertainment and informational purposes only and should not be used in lieu of seeking professional advice from a certified technician or mechanic. We encourage you to consult with a certified technician or mechanic if you have specific questions or concerns relating to any of the topics covered herein. Under no circumstances will we be liable for any loss or damage caused by your reliance on any content.

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