What does the brake warning light do and why is it on?

The brake warning light can be turned on when the parking brake is engaged, brake fluid is low, or brake pads are worn. This light is serious and should be checked out as soon as possible. 

Common reasons for this to happen

  • The parking brake is on
  • The Parking brake switch is shorted
  • Brake fluid is low (can be caused by worn brake pads or a fluid leak)
  • Brake pads have worn down and brake pad sensors are grounding out

Can I drive with the brake warning light on?

It’s better to be safe than sorry on this one. It may be something as simple as getting your brake pads changed, but if there is a fluid leak the vehicle could lose all function of the brakes and not be able to be stopped.

How do I fix a brake warning light?

  1. Check to make sure your parking brake isn’t on
  2. Check the brake fluid level 
  3. If the brake fluid level is low it’s due to worn brake pads or a leak in the hydraulic system. 
  4. If the brake pads are worn, have them replaced, which should bring the brake fluid level back up to where it should be.
  5. If the brake pads are not worn, have the vehicle checked for a brake fluid leak. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my brake light come on when I accelerate and then turn off?

  • This can be caused by the brake fluid level being just low enough not to turn the light on, but when you accelerate the fluid sloshes and causes the light to turn on.

I just had my brake pads replaced. Why is my brake light on?

  • On newer cars they have sensors in the pads that wear out with the pads; if they didn’t change these when they changed the pads, this could cause it. Also, they could have caused a brake fluid leak when servicing the brakes. Have the vehicle towed back to the shop to have them check it out.

My brake fluid is full, my parking brake is off and the brake light is still on why is this?

  • On some cars, the parking brake is a handbrake. If something metallic is dropped in the center console next to the hand parking brake it can short the parking brake sensor out and cause the vehicle to think the parking brake is on all the time. In this case, the center console may have to be removed to remove the object. You can also look down next to the parking brake and see if you see anything like loose change or a bobby pin. If so, try and fish it out with a magnet.

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