Why is my Brake Warning Indicator Lamp on?

Is the red brake warning light on your dash illuminated? If so, it could indicate that there is something wrong with the brake system. It may be the only warning indicator illuminated, or it may be accompanied by an ABS warning indicator, traction control indicator, or any combination of the above. The braking system is vital to the safety of you and the ones around you, and it is critical to ensure that it’s always working properly.

How could this happen to me?

There could be several reasons for the brake warning light to come on. Sometimes, it can be easily fixed without any help from your mechanic or other specialists. Let’s take a look at some of the basics.

1.Your Parking Brake is Still Engaged

The first and easiest check that you can do is to make sure the parking brake is disengaged. Many vehicles use the same brake warning indicator for multiple faults, while others employ the use of a dedicated parking brake warning indicator.

Most vehicles have a switch that opens or closes when your parking brake is on. If the parking brake is not fully released, your car will think that it is still engaged and trigger the warning indicator when you attempt to drive your vehicle.

The purpose of this function is to keep you from driving around and burning up your brakes. This simple alert can help you maintain adequate braking function and avoid costly repairs. Keep in mind that even if the parking brake is fully released, there may be an issue with the parking brake switch or mechanism.

2. Your Brake Fluid Level is Low

The second most common reason for the indicator to come on is low brake fluid level. There is a sensor inside the brake master cylinder reservoir which will trigger the warning indicator if the fluid level falls below the minimum mark.

The purpose of this function is to alert you that there may be a leak in the hydraulic system. This is serious business, because a leak in the hydraulic system can lead to partial or even complete braking loss. You should have the brake system checked right away if it is determined that the fluid level is low.

3. An ABS or Traction Control Fault is Present

If the brake warning indicator is accompanied by an ABS or Traction Control light, the vehicle is indicating that there is a problem with one or more of these systems. If you’ve checked that the brake fluid is full and that your parking brake is not on, then the next step is to check the vehicle for any fault codes that may be stored in any of the the on board computers.

Older vehicles equipped with ABS usually have a way to check codes via the warning indicator itself. Terminals inside a dedicated diagnostic connector can be jumped and the warning light will flash in pulses corresponding to the fault code that is set. Most newer vehicles will require the use of a scan tool or code reader to access the computer’s fault code memory. Any stored faults must be assessed to determine a diagnostic testing plan in order to pinpoint the problem.

4. Electrical Gremlins or Other Problems

It is not uncommon for modern vehicles to experience strange failures that can cause a Christmas tree effect on your instrument cluster. Modern vehicles rely on many computer controlled systems which must work together, and what may seem like miles of wiring, to function properly. A shorted wire or faulty control module can cause the brake warning indicator, as well as several other indicators, to illuminate.

When in doubt, have the vehicle checked by a knowledgeable and trustworthy mechanic, and be sure to check us out at NewParts.com for all of your brake parts needs. We carry thousands of quality parts from the top brands in the industry to help you extinguish your brake warning indicator with the least amount of headaches possible!


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