Is it Safe to Drive With Brake Warning Light On?

A Tale of Two Lights Or Maybe More

Before delving into what a brake warning light means for you and your car, it is important to clear up what might lead to a bit of confusion. When we talk about a brake warning light, we need to understand that there can be multiple dashboard warning lights that pertain to the brake system. Each light has a different purpose. A different meaning. So, the question is, to which light are we referring?

Back in the day, cars had one brake light. It would signal a driver if there was a problem with the brake system. Over time, brake systems became more complex and required a more sophisticated means of notifying a driver of an issue. Today, there are up to four different kinds of brake lights that can illuminate a dashboard display to tell of trouble with specific parts of the system.


An Easy Fix For Your Brake Light Concerns

You don’t want to be driving around with a faulty braking system, so it’s always better to have a reliable mechanic come to you whenever there are brake issues with your car.

And to do that, all you need to do is contact RepairSmith.

RepairSmith is a convenient mobile vehicle maintenance and repair solution, and here’s why they’re your best option:

  • Braking system replacements and fixes can be done right in your driveway
  • Online booking is convenient and easy
  • Competitive and upfront pricing
  • Expert, ASE-certified technicians perform all vehicle repairs
  • Repairs are performed using high-quality equipment, tools, and replacement brake parts
  • RepairSmith provides a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for all repairs

What about the cost?

As the cause of an illuminated brake warning light can vary, so will the repair costs. 

For an accurate estimate of what your brake system repair will cost, simply fill out this online form.

Now that we’ve covered the basics of brake lights, let’s go through some FAQs.

How do I Turn Off the Brake Light on my Dashboard?

As you can see, there are several reasons why your brake light is staying on, on the dashboard. If you know your parking brake is fully engaged, it is likely one of the issues we mentioned above is to blame. 

Your first step to turning off the brake light is identifying what the problem is. Once you know why the brake light is on, you can fix the problem and the light should switch off. Let’s take a look at the fixes for the most common causes of a brake light that won’t turn off. 

Replace the brake pads

If the light is on because your brake pads are wor

If the light is on because your brake pads are worn out, this is easy to fix. Book your car into the mechanics and get the brake pads replaced. Driving on worn-away brake pads is dangerous and can lead to your car failing to stop.

If you identify that the brake pads are causing the issue, make sure you get them replaced as soon as possible. 

Change the bulbs

Working out if your brake bulbs are dim or burnt out altogether is a simple process. Ask a friend to stand behind your car while you get behind the wheel and compress the brake.

If the rear brake lights do not illuminate when your foot is on the pedal, you will need to insert a new bulb. The rear brake lights are essential and must be working correctly to signal to other road users that you are slowing down. 

Add brake fluid

Low brake fluid levels can cause the brake light to stay on in the cluster when you start the engine. If your brake levels are low, it could be because of a leak in a system.

The best way to solve this issue is to get your car to a mechanic, a professional will be able to find any leaks, fix this issue and top up the brake fluid. 

Get the ABS checked

If your ABS light is on and you are struggling to identify the issue yourself, you may want to seek help from a professional. A mechanic can run diagnostic tests to find out if the wheel sensors are working or if there is another electrical fault in the system.

You don’t want to ignore warnings for your ABS because this is the system that stops your car from skidding as it prevents the wheels from locking up. 

Once you have worked out why your brake light is on, fixing the problems is fairly straightforward. Making repairs and replacements to parts in the braking system is best left to the professionals.

Unless you have extensive mechanics knowledge, book an appointment with your local repair shop to make sure the job is done correctly and safely.

The ABS warning light

The Anti-Lock Brake System (or ABS) integrates with the rest of the braking system to help you maintain control when you drive on wet, slippery, or uneven surfaces. The ABS prevents your brakes from locking up in the event that your tires lose traction with the ground when you step on the pedal. This comes in extremely handy on snowy surfaces when driving on loose sand or gravel.

The goal of ABS is not so much to help you stop sooner (although that is the case sometimes), but rather to allow you to maintain control of your steering while you brake. By making sure your wheels are still rolling even when your tires are slipping, the ABS ensures that steering is still possible, even if it takes a bit longer to stop. In an urgent situation, control of your steering is important.

To do this, wheel speed sensors detect how fast your wheels are rotating. The information from the sensors is transmitted to a computer, the ABS module, where it is constantly monitored. If one or more of your tires stops spinning or locks up because you hit a slippery patch, the computer detects the lack of rotation. Then the computer engages the ABS actuator (a hydraulic pump that communicates with the ABS module) to prevent the wheel from locking up and skidding. The actuator pump squeezes and releases the brakes in rapid-fire succession, rather than simply grabbing and holding on. This way, the wheel slows down, but the tire does not skid.

The ABS warning light comes on to tell you of a problem specifically with the ABS. If the light is on, you will still have brakes, but not anti-lock brakes.

Alert #2: The brake fluid is low

For many vehicles, a yellow circle with an exclamation mark "!" in the middle signals low brake fluid. While the light is yellow, the brake system may still have enough fluid to function. And if it turns red? See a professional as soon as possible. A red light that flashes on and off could signal low/almost empty brake fluid, but also a serious issue with the brake’s hydraulic system. If the light comes on and stays on, you could end up with a potentially catastrophic (and costly) brake failure. An expert technician can identify the cause and determine what your braking system needs, whether it’s a brake fluid flush or brake repair.

ABS issues

Anti-lock braking systems (ABS) often have dedicated warning lights. However, troubles in the ABS can trigger a brake warning light too. To diagnose an ABS issue, a mechanic will need to read the codes from the on-board computer.

Sensor failure

A car’s braking system has sensors monitoring fluid level, E -brake position, and in some cases brake pad life. A failed sensor can trigger the brake warning light. A technician will need to look at your vehicle to determine whether the light is caused by a failed sensor or an actual issue with the braking system.

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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.

How Do I Reset My Brake Light?

Let’s say that after you saw your mechanic for your brake light issue that the lights still didn’t go out when they should. You have two options here. You can go back to your mechanic, or you can reset the brake light yourself.

How would you do the latter? Let’s explain.

The reason your brake warning lights are still glowing on your dashboard is due to an issue with the onboard diagnostics or OBD. The computer within has a code that’s causing the light to stay on. By deactivating that code, the light should turn off.

You want to begin by finding your assembly line diagnostic link port. If you’re in your vehicle’s dashboard, look beneath the control panel towards the bottom left. You should see the port there.

If you have an OBD scanner, which is recommended for this job, then connect it to the assembly line diagnostic link port. Also, put your car key in the ignition without turning on your vehicle. With your ODB scanner activated, a code should appear on its screen.

Check your car or truck’s service manual or go online to make sense of the code. Once you know what the code means, you might want to go back to the mechanic if that specific issue wasn’t already taken care of.

Otherwise, you can reconnect the OBD scanner to your assembly line diagnostic link port and put the key back in the ignition a second time. You still don’t want to turn on the vehicle, though. Within your ODB scanner, click “delete.” This should clear the code, so the brake warning lights finally go out.

To reiterate, you should not do this if the brake light is bothering you, and you haven’t seen a mechanic yet. Voiding the brake light does not mean the issue has gone away, only that you’re trying to forget about it. That’s not a smart choice for yourself and other motorists, as you become a liability on the road.

Alert #4: Your brake light bulbs need to be replac

Alert #4: Your brake light bulbs need to be replaced

Some vehicles will cue the brake warning light on the dashboard if the rear brake lights are dim or burned out. Helpful, right? To check for this problem, have a friend stand where they can see the back of your car as you press down on the brake pedal. If both bright red brake lights aren’t coming on, you’ve identified the problem! Get your brake light bulbs replaced and the warning light should go off.

Psst! Your brake light isn’t the only dashboard light you want to keep an eye out for. Let these important dashboard lights linger for long and you could wind up stranded or stuck with major repairs down the road.

Whether you’re in need of a parking brake check or a brake fluid flush, Firestone Complete Auto Care is your go-to brake repair and service center. We offer free brake inspections. Simply drop by or schedule an appointment online for a time that’s most convenient for you! Visit a Firestone Complete Auto Care near you for a dashboard light diagnosis, free brake inspection, and brake repair, if needed. When it comes to solving your brake problems, we don’t take breaks!


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