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Why Won’t My Brake Lights Turn Off? 4 Common Causes

Every once in a while, we get a call from one of our customers here in Langley, BC who says, “My brake lights won’t go off.” If your brake lights are stuck on, this can be more than a nuisance and actually be a significant safety issue.

Here are the four most common reasons why your brake lights may not shut off as they should. You’ll also get advice about what to do in that situation and why you need to address it immediately.

Image by Lothar Wandtner from Pixabay

Brake Lights Are a Key Safety Feature

It should come as no surprise to you that your vehicle’s brake lights are an important safety element. They let vehicles behind you know that you are slowing down or stopping, which helps avoid rear-end collisions.

Because they are such a vital safety feature, like your horn, your brake lights should work even when your car or truck is shut off. But this presents a problem if your brake lights become stuck in the “on” setting. You can shut the ignition off, and the lights remain on, making it look like you’re in the driver’s seat, perhaps about to pull out of a parking space.

We’ll get into more safety issues surrounding stuck brake lights below. But first, let’s look at why your brake lights won’t go off in the first place.

4 Reasons Brake Lights Won’t Go Off

If you’re wondering, “Why won’t my brake lights turn off?” one of these four reasons is likely the culprit:

Something is wedged beneath the brake pedal

One of the top reasons why brake lights don’t go off is if the brake pedal itself becomes jammed. Sometimes, a piece of the brake system can crack off and become lodged at the base of the brake pedal, making it seem like the brake is depressed. Other times, something else can roll under the base of the brake pedal, like a hard piece of food, a coin, or some other small loose item from your cabin.

This is one cause of brake lights being stuck on that you can probably fix yourself. Your first action if your brake lights won’t go off is to check on the floor around the brake pedal to see if you find anything and if you can remove it. That might solve the problem right there. If you think a loose item is part of the brake pedal or brake system, though, it’s smart to have your mechanic check it out.

You have a bad fuse

Fuses in an automotive vehicle function like the electrical panel does for your house. They protect against dangerously high levels of current that could cause the electrical system to stop working or even cause a fire. They also protect against short circuits, which are essentially gaps in the wiring.

Fuses can blow (become dysfunctional) in a car, van, or truck for five basic reasons:

  • Larger electrical problems, as mentioned above
  • Age or general wear and tear
  • Overloading the circuit, usually with added-on accessories
  • Installing poor-quality fuses
  • Using fuses with the wrong amperage rating

There’s a wiring problem or a short

If you have a blown fuse, it’s smart to have your mechanic replace it. That way, you can make sure it’s an isolated incident or it failed for a trivial problem, not a larger issue with the electrical system.

Unfortunately, electrical wiring problems — including short circuits — can be responsible for brake lights that won’t go off. What causes wiring problems?

  • Old age and wear or degraded insulation
  • Loose connections due to jarring
  • Exposure to water or high degrees of humidity
  • Corrosion from salt in the air near the ocean and from road treatments
  • Chewing from small animals, especially mice
  • Accidents and physical damage
  • Poor installation or repair jobs

A switch is broken near the tail lamp

Sometimes a switch that controls the brake lamp breaks. That can occasionally cause brake lights to stay on if it breaks while the brake pedal is depressed.

The older your vehicle and the more abuse it takes, the easier it is for parts like this to fail. This isn’t a major repair, although it can be harder to access the switches in some models.

My Brake Lights Won’t Go Off — Should I Still Drive My Vehicle?

Having your brake lights stay on indefinitely is a pain in the you-know-where. It can burn out the bulbs and, if it goes on long enough, affect your battery health. If the cause is a larger problem with the electrical system, other components could be malfunctioning too.

Stuck brake lights could actually present a safety concern as well. Cars driving behind you can’t tell when you’re slowing or braking to turn or stop. Once they get used to your brake lights being constantly on, they may drive too close and hit you from behind. Normally, rear-end accidents are the fault of the driver who hits the car in front of them. But if your brake lights aren’t functioning, depending on where the accident occurs, you could be legally found at fault.

If something is stuck below your brake pedal, that’s the worst-case scenario. You could wind up losing control of your brakes, which could cause a disastrous accident.

Therefore, if your brake lights are stuck on, you should get your vehicle to your mechanic as quickly as possible. If you’re close by and traffic is light, you might be able to drive there. Otherwise, play it safe and get a tow. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your vehicle’s brake system.

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