Brake Light Is On—Does That Mean the Brakes Are Going to Fail?

Posted on: 29 August 2016


In general, there are three types of people when it comes to warning lights in cars. There are people who ignore the lights, those who know what the lights mean and fix the problems, and those who worry without knowing what's going on. If your brake light has come on, and you're in the last category, you need to know why that light came on and what you can do about it. There are three general reasons for this light to come on.

Check Your Parking Brake

As embarrassing at it can be, sometimes the light is on because you left the parking brake on. If your parking brake is still engaged, the light is on to let you know before you start driving. If you check and your parking brake isn't engaged, you could have a bad sensor. In this case, a quick trip to the shop will correct the problem.

Check Your Brake Fluid

The second reason your brake light could be on is because you have low brake fluid. Brake fluid is responsible for creating the hydraulic pressure needed to close your brakes and stop you on demand. A sensor in the brakes monitors the level of brake fluid. When the fluid level drops, it activates the light to let you know.

The reason for low brake fluid is usually a leak in the line somewhere. While you can temporarily fix this by refilling the brake-fluid reservoir, it's a serious issue that necessitates a trip to an auto shop for a repair. Failure to fix this means that the leak could become catastrophic, and you could lose all of the brake fluid and be left without brakes.

There's also a chance that the sensor is bad and you don't have a leak at all. In this case, your repair shop can fix the issue quickly and easily. However, this still requires that you go into the shop.

Check What That Light Doesn't Mean

The light does not indicate the status of your brake pads. Your brake-pad thickness needs to be manually measured if you're concerned about it. Usually, you'll know when your pads are wearing thin because you'll hear a light grinding sound.

The brake light may seem like a mysterious oracle of doom that shows up on your dash, but it's far from that. It's just there to let you know that your brake system needs some attention. Check your parking brake, and if that's not the issue, consult with a licensed car mechanic to see what your options are.