What Causes Brake Light On Dash To Stay On | Reasons and Solution

What Causes Brake Light on Dash to Stay On?


Have you ever noticed the brake light on your dashboard staying on longer than expected? That little light can be quite alarming. It’s not just a signal to your fellow drivers when you’re stopping; it also serves as a crucial indicator of your vehicle’s braking system health. Ignoring it is like turning a blind eye to a red flag. So, what’s really causing that brake light to stay on, and what should you do about it? Let’s dive in and explore the possible reasons. what causes brake light on dash to stay on —

Understand the Brake Light System

The Role of Brake Lights

Brake lights are a vital component of your vehicle’s safety system. They signal to other drivers when you’re slowing down or stopping. However, the brake light on your dashboard serves a different purpose. It alerts you to potential issues within the braking system itself.

How the Brake Light System Works

The brake light on your dashboard is connected to several components within the braking system. When everything is functioning correctly, the light remains off. However, if there’s a problem—like low brake fluid or a stuck parking brake—the light will stay on to alert you.

Common Reasons for Brake Light Staying On

Engaged Parking Brake

Causes and Solutions

One of the most straightforward reasons for your brake light staying on is that the parking brake is engaged. Sometimes, even if you think you’ve released it, it might not be fully disengaged. This can cause the light to stay on.

Solution: Double-check to ensure the parking brake is completely released. If the problem persists, there might be an issue with the parking brake switch, which may need adjustment or replacement.

Low Brake Fluid Levels

Causes and Solutions

Brake fluid is essential for your braking system’s operation. If the fluid level drops too low, it can trigger the brake light.

Solution: Check the brake fluid reservoir and refill it to the recommended level if it’s low. If you find yourself frequently topping off the fluid, there could be a leak in the system that needs addressing.

Worn Brake Pads

Signs of Worn Brake Pads

Brake pads wear down over time, and when they become too thin, they can cause the brake light to illuminate. You might also notice a squealing or grinding noise when braking.

Solutions and Maintenance Tips

Solution: Inspect your brake pads regularly and replace them when they show significant wear. It’s a good idea to check them at least every 20,000 miles or as recommended by your vehicle manufacturer.

Faulty Brake Light Switch

Symptoms and Diagnosis

The brake light switch is responsible for turning on your brake lights when you press the brake pedal. If it fails, the dashboard light might stay on.

Symptoms: Difficulty shifting out of park, brake lights staying on even when the pedal is not pressed.

Diagnosis: A mechanic can test the switch to see if it’s working properly.

Repair Options

Solution: Replacing a faulty brake light switch is usually straightforward and inexpensive. Most automotive repair shops can handle this quickly.

ABS System Malfunction

Understanding the ABS Light

Your Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) has its own warning light, but sometimes, a malfunction in the ABS can cause the brake light to come on as well.

Solution: If both lights are on, it’s important to get your vehicle inspected as soon as possible. ABS issues can affect your overall braking performance.

How ABS Issues Affect the Brake Light

ABS problems might stem from sensors, wiring, or the ABS control module. Diagnosing and fixing these requires specialized knowledge and tools.

Electrical Issues

Faulty Sensors

Identifying and Replacing Faulty Sensors

Your car’s braking system relies on various sensors. If any of these sensors fail, it can cause the brake light to stay on.

Solution: Using a diagnostic tool, identify which sensor is malfunctioning and replace it. Common sensors to check include the wheel speed sensors and the brake fluid level sensor.

Wiring Problems

Common Wiring Issues

Electrical problems, such as broken or shorted wires, can also keep the brake light on. These issues might occur due to corrosion, damage, or wear and tear.

Solution: Inspect the wiring associated with the braking system for signs of damage or corrosion. Repair or replace any faulty wires.

Fixing Wiring Problems

Solution: Wiring repairs can be complex. It’s often best to leave this to a professional, especially if you’re not comfortable working with automotive electrical systems.

Hydraulic System Issues

Brake Fluid Leaks

Detecting Brake Fluid Leaks

A leak in the brake fluid system will reduce fluid levels and can trigger the brake light. You might notice fluid puddles under your car or a softer brake pedal feel.

Solution: Inspect the brake lines, hoses, and calipers for signs of leaks. Replace any damaged components and refill the brake fluid.

Repairing Leaks

Solution: Depending on the location of the leak, repairs can vary from replacing a hose to more extensive work on the brake lines or calipers. Professional inspection and repair are recommended.

Master Cylinder Problems

Signs of Master Cylinder Failure

The master cylinder is a critical component of your braking system. If it fails, it can cause the brake light to stay on and affect your braking performance.

Symptoms: Spongy brake pedal, loss of braking power, or brake fluid leakage around the master cylinder.

Solution: A faulty master cylinder often needs to be rebuilt or replaced. This is a complex job best handled by a mechanic.

Other Potential Causes

Malfunctioning Dashboard Light

Diagnosing a Faulty Dash Light

Sometimes, the issue is with the dashboard light itself rather than the braking system. A malfunctioning dash light can falsely indicate a problem.

Solution: Check the dash light’s wiring and connections. If everything looks fine, the light bulb or the dash module might need replacing.

Steps to Fix or Replace It

Solution: If you’re comfortable, you can replace the dash light bulb yourself. Otherwise, have a professional handle it, especially if it’s related to the dash module.

Computer System Errors

How Computer Issues Affect the Brake Light

Modern vehicles rely heavily on computers. A glitch in the car’s computer system can trigger the brake light.

Solution: Resetting the car’s computer might resolve the issue. Disconnecting the battery for a few minutes can sometimes clear the error. If the light returns, professional diagnostic tools will be needed.

Resetting and Reprogramming the System

Solution: Reprogramming or updating the car’s computer system can solve persistent issues. This typically requires specialized equipment and should be done by a professional.

Diagnosing the Problem

Using a Diagnostic Tool

How to Use an OBD-II Scanner

An OBD-II scanner is a valuable tool for diagnosing car issues. It connects to your vehicle and reads error codes that can help identify the problem.

Solution: Plug the scanner into the OBD-II port (usually located under the dashboard), and follow the instructions to retrieve error codes.

Interpreting Diagnostic Codes

Solution: Each code corresponds to a specific issue. Refer to the scanner’s manual or an online database to understand what each code means.

Visual Inspection

Steps for a Thorough Visual Inspection

Performing a visual inspection of your braking system can help spot obvious issues like leaks, worn pads, or damaged wiring.

Solution: Look for any signs of wear, leaks, or damage around the brakes and fluid reservoir.

What to Look For

Solution: Pay attention to brake pads, fluid levels, hoses, and connections. Any abnormalities should be addressed immediately.

Preventative Maintenance Tips

Regular Brake System Check-ups

Importance of Routine Inspections

Regular inspections can prevent many brake system issues before they become serious problems.

Solution: Follow your vehicle’s maintenance schedule and have your brakes checked by a professional regularly.

Recommended Maintenance Schedule

Solution: Check your brake system at least once a year or every 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for specific intervals.

Keeping Brake Fluid at Optimal Levels

How to Check and Refill Brake Fluid

Regularly checking and maintaining the brake fluid level helps ensure your braking system functions correctly.

Solution: Locate the brake fluid reservoir, check the level, and refill with the correct type of brake fluid if necessary. Avoid mixing different types of fluid.

Replacing Worn Brake Components

Identifying Components That Need Replacement

Over time, components like brake pads, rotors, and calipers wear out and need replacement.

Solution: Regularly inspect these parts for wear and replace them as needed to maintain optimal braking performance.

Choosing Quality Replacement Parts

Solution: Use high-quality replacement parts to ensure the longevity and reliability of your braking system. OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) parts are usually the best choice.

When to Seek Professional Help

Understanding When DIY Isn’t Enough

While some brake system issues can be handled at home, others require professional expertise.

Solution: If you’re unsure about any aspect of your brake system or if the problem persists after basic troubleshooting, consult a mechanic.

Signs You Need a Mechanic

Solution: Persistent brake light, unusual noises, or a spongy brake pedal are signs you should seek professional help.

Choosing a Reputable Repair Shop

Solution: Look for repair shops with good reviews, certifications, and experienced mechanics. Ask for recommendations from friends or family.


Now you know what causes brake light on dash to stay on. In summary, the brake light on your dashboard is an essential warning signal that should never be ignored. Whether it’s a simple fix like topping up brake fluid or a more complex issue involving the ABS system, addressing it promptly can save you from more significant problems down the road. Remember, maintaining your braking system is crucial for your safety and the safety of others on the road.


  1. What should I do if my brake light comes on while driving?

    • If the brake light comes on while you’re driving, find a safe place to pull over and check your parking brake and brake fluid level. If everything appears normal and the light stays on, drive cautiously to a repair shop for further inspection.
  2. Can I drive with the brake light on?

    • It’s not advisable to drive with the brake light on. It indicates a potential issue with your braking system that could compromise your safety. Have it checked by a professional as soon as possible.
  3. How much does it cost to fix a brake light issue?

    • The cost can vary widely depending on the cause. Simple fixes like adding brake fluid or adjusting the parking brake might cost little to nothing. More complex repairs, like replacing the master cylinder or ABS components, can be more expensive, often ranging from $100 to several hundred dollars.
  4. Why does the brake light come on when it’s cold?

    • Cold temperatures can cause brake fluid to contract slightly, potentially lowering the fluid level enough to trigger the brake light. If this happens, check your brake fluid level and top it up if necessary.
  5. Is it safe to drive if the brake light and ABS light are both on?

    • Driving with both lights on is risky. It indicates significant issues with your braking and ABS systems. Avoid driving if possible and have your vehicle inspected immediately to ensure safe operation.
  6. Certainly! Let’s address these frequently asked questions about brake lights:

    1. Why is my brake light on but brakes work fine?

    2. How do you reset the brake light on a dashboard?

    3. Why won’t my brake light on my dashboard turn off?

    4. Can you drive with the brake light on?

    5. What is the most likely cause of brake lights staying on?

    6. What would cause the brake light on the dash to come on?

    7. What does a red brake light mean on a dash?

    8. Can worn brake pads cause brake light to come on?

    9. Does brake light mean low fluid?

    10. How to tell if brake fluid is low?

    11. How to fix brake warning light?

    12. What two things does the brake system warning light tell you?


    This was the whole Detailed article on – what causes brake light on dash to stay on.

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I'm Ankit Gawande, the driving force behind this automotive haven. As an avid car and bike enthusiast, I've spent years immersing myself in the world of automobiles, and I'm thrilled to share my passion with you through this platform. At autocurious.com, I wear many hats - from a DIY enthusiast tinkering in the garage to a tech-savvy explorer delving into the world of electric vehicles. Through informative blogs, insightful tips, and comprehensive guides, I aim to empower fellow enthusiasts with knowledge about cars, bikes, and everything in between.

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