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What does the Brake Light Mean?

What does the Brake Light Mean?

The brake light may come on for several reasons: low brake fluid levels, the emergency brake is engaged, the Anti-Lock Brake System has issues. Sometimes it’s a problem with the sensors. The repairs are necessary for ensuring our brakes function properly.

Auto Repairs Are EXPENSIVE


It is common for the brake light to turn on with the other lights on the dashboard when the car is started, but after a few seconds, all of the warning lights should turn off. If the light stays on, the reason varies as does the severity of the repair. 

The majority of repairs can be made within one day and are affordable; complete brake replacement is the most expensive of repairs. Despite the cost, ignoring the brake light could mean brake failure while driving.

Understanding why the brake light is on is key in learning how it got that way and estimating the cost of the repair. This is an essential repair.

This article outlines what a brake light is, why it is on, and associated repair costs.

What Is the Brake Light and What Does it Do?

The brake light communicates a warning that means it’s time for a brake inspection. 

When you use the brake pedal in a car, force is created and transferred to the brakes. Brakes need a great amount of force to stop a car. The brakes take hydraulic force and create energy. Hydraulic fluid moves through the brakes creating the pressure required to slow or stop the vehicle.

Of course, this all happens in seconds. Think about quickly a car can stopped when the driver slams on the brakes! That’s a lot of power, but it’s also a lot of responsibility. If anything should happen to the car’s brakes, the risk of collision certainly increases.

Why Is the Brake Light On?

When your brake light comes on, the car is letting you know that the car is low on brake fluid, the emergency or parking brake is activated, the Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS) unit is having issues, or there is a problem with the sensors.

When the brake fluid level falls below a certain point, the sensor within the brake master cylinder is activated and lets you know the brake system needs attention.

If you leave the emergency or parking brake on while driving, the brake light will come on to remind you to turn it off while driving. Driving with the parking brake on can cause a lot of damage to the brakes.

It’s a simple fix, and it should be the first thing you check out should the brake light illuminate on your car’s dashboard.

The Anti-Lock Brake System may have an issue causing the brake light to be lit. If the brake fluid is full and the parking brake is not on, you need a mechanic to read the vehicle’s computer codes to diagnose the repair.

Sensors in the brake master cylinder can fail, prompting the brake light to turn on. A mechanic can identify the sensor that has caused the light to come on and replace it.

If you are driving and the brake light comes on, find an area to pull over and turn off the engine. Wait a few minutes for the vehicle to cool slightly and check the brake fluid. Restart your car and see if the brake light is still on. If it has not, you should have a safe ride to your destination.

If the brake light is still on, get help from a mechanic. Go to the mechanic closest to you as brakes are essential to your safety. If your mechanic happens to be far, you should consider asking to have the car towed. 

If it doesn’t seem safe to drive a vehicle in its condition, don’t push it. Call a tow truck.

What Do You Do When Your Brake Light Stays On?

If you just started your car and the brake light is on, don’t drive the vehicle. 

To begin, check to make sure the parking brake is off. If it is even slightly engaged, the light will remain on. If the brake light remains on, there is some type of brake issue that could prevent you from slowing or stopping your vehicle. It’s never worth the risk to drive a vehicle with faulty brakes.

If you’re driving and the brake light comes on or it comes on and stays on after you use the brake pedal, don’t panic. Even though you may not stop as quickly, you should still be able to slow, move to the side of the road, and stop. From there, call a tow service and make arrangements to visit your mechanic.

How Long Can You Drive with your Brake Light On?

If your brake light is on, you should contact a mechanic immediately. 

Brakes are one of the most important safety features of a vehicle. The brake light could be on for a variety of reasons, including:

  • A brake needs to be replaced
  • Low brake fluid or worn brake pads
  • Grinding, leaking, or failing brakes

One of the most common reasons the brake light comes on is when a brake needs to be replaced. The light does not tell you which brake is bad, so you will need to go to a mechanic who can inspect them for you.

Sometimes brake fluid levels are low, meaning the fluid needs to be replaced or topped off. This could be why the brake light is on. Other times, the brake pads are worn and need to be replaced. You may hear grinding noises.

Leaking brakes could cause the brake light to turn on. This is a dangerous situation as you will not be able to stop the car with leaking brakes.

If your vehicle pulls to one side when you are braking, this indicates either a brake fluid leak or that the brakes need to be replaced.

It is not safe to drive a car with a brake light on. It means the brakes are not working properly and should be repaired as soon as possible.

In summary, you could drive your car with a brake light on, but you shouldn’t. Doing so is dangerous for you, your passengers, and others out on the road.

How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Brake Light?

Spying the old brake light on a dashboard can be frightening. 

If you’re not sure what you’re looking at is even the brake light, you should then consult the car’s owner manual which has a key of what every warning light means.

Just like other indicator lights, it will only get worse if ignored. The brake light can be on for a variety of reasons. However, if the brake light itself needs to be replaced, this is fairly inexpensive, ranging between $75 and $85 in parts and labor.

If your brakes are bad and causing the brake light to turn on, the average cost to replace them ranges from $300 to $1,000. This is the priciest of all possible repairs.

Brake fluid is very inexpensive to buy to top-off levels in your vehicle. If you want to ensure the brake fluid is as healthy as possible, you could have a brake fluid flush which generally costs $100. Some gas stations even have attendants who will help.

Replacing brake pads is fairly easy for a mechanic, so the job can be done quickly, should this be why your brake light is on. Brake pads typically cost less than $100 per axle. Labor is often $100 to $150. In general, brake pad replacements costs between $200 to $300.

Do not ignore the brake light and continue to drive as it can cause more damage and be very dangerous. 

However, if you cannot afford the repair or do not want to invest, there is another option: sending the car to a junkyard.

Can I Replace a Brake Light Myself?

If the brake light is on, we may or may not be able to fix the problem, depending on its severity.

The easiest repair to make relates to the brake fluid. Check the fluid level in the brake master cylinder. If it fluid is too low, add new brake fluid to the reservoir. If you have driven extensively or it has been a long time since this has been done, you may want to flush the brake fluid before adding new. 

Ensure that the parking brake is not engaged by releasing it all the way. If it is even slightly engaged, the brake light will be on. Another easy fix.

The most difficult of repairs relates to worn brake pads or complete brake replacement. If you are not a mechanic or professional, this could be a difficult and timely install. This repair is best left to a professional.

Some of the repairs can be done yourself for a fraction of the cost, saving you money. If you can’t afford the repair, don’t have the time, or the vehicle isn’t worth the investment, a great option is delivering the car to a junkyard.

Remember, a job not done correctly will cost you in the end. If you don’t know what you’re doing, see a pro!

Is Fixing a Vehicle with a Brake Light on Worth It?

The brake light is one of many dashboard indicators that help communicate problems within our vehicle. Without it, we may not know there is a problem until it is too late.

The brake light on could mean one of many repairs that need to be made. These costs vary from $100 to $1,000 depending on the severity. If we ignore these repairs, we risk brake failure. This could lead to serious damage.

Although some of the repairs are expensive, the cost of the repair is necessary if you want to drive a safe vehicle. However, depending on the age and quality of your vehicle, you may want to consider other options.

If the vehicle is old or needs to have several repairs done, the value of the car may not be worth the investment. You could sell the car, disclosing repairs that need to be made.

Another excellent option is selling the car to a junkyard. Once assessed, they will strip the car of its valuable parts and recycle what remains. The best part is you will have payment in cash to apply to your new vehicle purchase. 

A Brake Light That Kicks On Is Nothing to Ignore

Few car issues will make time cease quite like brake issues. When the brake light is on, it is communicating that something is wrong with the braking system. 

Understanding the reasons why a brake light is on means that you have plenty of options and can make an informed decision about what to do next. If deal with it immediately, you will have peace of mind knowing that your car functions properly and is not a safety threat to you or others.

If you can afford the repair, have your car towed to your mechanic. Don’t risk possible brake failure while driving. Safety is more important.

If you can’t afford the repair, don’t drive the vehicle around and ignore the problem. Ask family, friends, or coworkers to help with your commute. Consider your options, including sending the car to a junkyard.

Try to think of the dashboard as your best friend letting you know when you have an issue within the car. If the messages are delivered properly and you are proactive, you can make sure your car is dependable.