Brake Light On: Why? What to Do?

Written by

Tim Miller

An automotive mechanic and blogger at

No one likes seeing their car’s warning lights on the dashboard turn on — it always means something is wrong with the car, and when things go wrong with a vehicle, it tends to get expensive.

Your car’s brake light could indicate some different things. What causes the brake warning light to illuminate, and what should you do if you see it?

There are some instances where you can check it out after your trip and other times when you shouldn’t drive it anymore at all. So how do you tell the difference?

Here's where you can find out what to do when the brake light comes on
If you don’t know what to do when the brake light is on, this is the right place for you

Why is The Brake Light On?

First, what causes the brake warning light on your dash to turn on? Depending on your car, it could indicate some different problems, including but not limited to:

  • Parking brake engaged: You left the parking brake on when you were trying to drive. This is, of course, the simplest and easiest to fix the problem on the list, but if you don’t usually use your parking brake, it can be easy to forget that it’s own.
  • Brake fluid levels: If brake fluid levels are low, in some cars, it can trigger the brake warning light. Your manual will tell you if that’s the case.
  • ABS (Anti-Lock Brakes) problems: Most modern cars have a separate ABS light that comes on when there’s a problem with that system, but some vehicles still trigger the brake warning light instead.
  • Brake light bulbs: Newer cars may light up the brake light if one or more of your bulbs has gone out.

The best way to get the most accurate answer is to check your car’s owner’s manual. This book will have a detailed list of your car’s warning lights and what each one means. Sometimes you can find out what to do without even leaving the seat of your vehicle.

Read more: SRS Light / Airbag Light on – What should I do?

To fix brake light on, you should know these reasons that turn the brake light of your car
Four main causes why the brake warning light on your dash turns on

What To Do When The Brake Light is On?

What should you do if your brake light comes on? First, check your owner’s manual. Find out precisely what the brake light means for your particular make and model to remove most of our troubleshooting steps.

In case you don’t have an owner’s manual or don’t want to dig it out of your glove compartment, you can always look online. Most car manuals can be found with a quick Google search, giving you everything you need to know.

Here are some quick troubleshooting steps to follow:

Here are some steps to troubleshoot brake light on
Four quick steps to do when your brake light is on
  1. Check your parking brake: If you engaged the parking brake the last time you stopped your car and forgot about it, that could be the problem. Just shut off the parking brake, and you should be good to go.
  2. Put the car in park, pop the hood and check the brake fluid levels: If the levels are low, top the brake fluid off and start the car again to see if it fixes the light.
  3. Consider a professional: If your car’s generic brake lights also indicate a problem with the ABS, you might want to have the system inspected by a professional. Brakes are one factor you don’t want to cut corners on — faulty brakes can be dangerous or even deadly.
  4. Check your brake lights: Have someone stand behind the car while you press the brakes to see if one or more of the bulbs have burned out. If they have, replace them, and the brake light should shut off.

Most of the problems that a brake light indicates are simple and easy to fix. The only time you’ll want to make sure you take a trip to your mechanic is if there’s a problem with your vehicle’s ABS.

How to Prevent the Brake Light From Coming On?

Can you prevent your car’s brake light from coming on?

Regular vehicle maintenance can keep things like the brake fluid levels and ABS from becoming issues that take your car off the road until they’re addressed. While you should follow your vehicle’s maintenance schedule for things like oil changes, seasonal maintenance, or even just checking your fluids regularly can help prevent your brakes from becoming dangerous or putting you or your passengers in jeopardy.

Closing Thoughts

You don’t have to panic if your brake light comes on. Quickly run through these troubleshooting steps, and double-check your owner’s manual to determine why your car might be warning you about a problem.

Read more: How does Electronic Parking Brake Work?

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