Brake Light on Dashboard: Understanding the Malfunctions

The brake light on dash could stay illuminated for various reasons. The light reminds the driver to release the parking brake while driving. Brake Light on Dash It can also indicate brake issues such as leakage of fluid, pad damage, or a blown rear bulb. Here we will explore these and other reasons and suggest ways to stop the warning light.

Why Does the Brake Light on Dash Stay on When Driving?

The brake light on dash stays on when driving because you have engaged or stuck parking brakes. It can also happen if your car has damaged brake pads or low fluid in the reservoir. Moreover, a problem with ABS sensors or a blown bulb may trigger the warning.
  • Engaged or Stuck Parking Brake

Sometimes the parking brake light stays on if you have engaged the handbrake or it is stuck. This light appears on the dashboard after the sensor detects engaged parking brakes. The indicator reminds the drivers to release the parking brake before driving because it leads to the following problems:
  • The brake components can damage and reduce the braking performance. The handbrakes create friction between the brake shoes and the rotor. It produces excessive heat that damages the braking parts.
  • The brake components overheat due to prolonged friction. The brakes fade and become less effective over time, causing difficulty in slowing the car.
  • Engaging the parking brakes while driving imposes safety risks. The driver experiences a loss of control and stability which can lead to accidents.
  • The car displays poor driving performance due to reduced acceleration and feels sluggish.
  • The car consumes more fuel because it has to overcome the resistance.
The light should turn off as soon as you release the brakes, but you might have difficulty releasing the stuck brakes. In that case, the parking brake light keeps coming on and off while driving. The handbrake gets stuck due to one of the following reasons:
  • The brake gets stuck because of frozen brake cables. It happens in cold areas when moisture enters the brake and freezes. You can melt the collected ice by blowing hot air from a hairdryer or parking your car in a heated room.
  • Moisture corrodes the brake, so the rust prevents it from releasing. Lubricating usually solves this problem.
  • Having damaged or frayed brake cables or worn brake pads jams the brake.
  • Foreign particles can obstruct the brakes and prevent them from moving.
  • Brake Warning Light Indicating Low Brake Fluid Levels

If the brake system warning light yellow blinks on the dashboard, you might have a low brake oil quantity. The light indicates leakage from the brake oil reservoir or other reasons behind low liquid levels.
  The light comes on when the sensor in the master cylinder sends a low fluid-level signal to the dashboard. The warning triggers after the fluid quantity drops below a specific limit. You can observe the fluid level in the plastic reservoir without opening the lid. This prevents the entrance of foreign particles into the tank and the contamination of brake oil. The fluid level may drop due to one of the following reasons:
  • Damaged brake components such as brake calipers (if you own a car with disc brakes) or wheel cylinders (in case of drum brakes) develop leaks. The leakage occurs when the seals in these components break, and the brake fluid escapes.
  • Loose fitting in the braking system can develop leaks. These fittings connect different parts, such as hoses and brake lines, so when the fluid passes through them, it escapes through the cracks.
  • A damaged master cylinder may develop leaks and fail to generate the hydraulic pressure for the brake calipers.
  • Long-term exposure to moisture, dirt, or debris can corrode or damage the brake lines and cause leakage.
  • The fluid reservoir can get damaged and develop holes or cracks.
Detecting leakage is easy because you only have to look for fluid dripping from the car. However, you might have to hire a mechanic to understand the exact leakage point.
  • Light Indicating Broken Brake Pads

The brake light on dashboard goes on and off if the car has broken brake pads or shoes. The pads help slow down or stop the vehicle by pushing against the rotor or brake drums. This generates friction required for slowing the wheels. Warning of Brake Light The sensors in your car send signals to the dashboard to alert you when the pads wear out. You might hear a screeching sound from your vehicle beside the brake pad warning when you press the brake pedal. Since they are constantly under pressure, you should replace the pads regularly. The pads have a material layer that provides the necessary friction. When that layer breaks, the metal underneath comes in contact with the metal rotor, damaging the components. The brake shoes in your car can get damaged due to the following reasons:
  • The purpose of brake shoes is to create friction, so they have to withstand tremendous pressure and heat. The constant exposure to heat and friction damages the pads over time.
  • Exposure to dirt and moisture corrodes the material covering the brake shoes. Dust or sand particles can settle on the pads, increasing abrasion and damage.
  • The brake pad material has a limited lifespan. They can be ceramic, organic, or composite, so they have different heat resistance and durability.
  • Aggressive or excessive use of the brakes can damage the pads. Applying more force or braking on downhill paths puts strain on the pads.
  • Lack of lubrication and avoiding brake maintenance increases the chances of brake shoe wear.
  • A Flawed Anti-Lock Brake System (Abs)

The brake warning lights illuminating the dashboard do not always warn about a brake problem. Therefore, if you are not engaging the handbrake and the brake fluid is filled, you might have a flawed ABS. The ABS is a safety feature in modern cars that saves the wheels from locking when you apply brakes. This helps the driver by giving him more control over the steering while braking. Since it works close to the brakes, a problem with the ABS affects the brake functions and triggers the warning light. However, some cars have only one light to indicate issues with the brakes and the ABS. If the control module detects a fault in the ABS, it shuts down the system to prevent severe damage. The light indicates that the ABS has failed, and only the standard braking function is available. It alerts drivers to be cautious, especially while braking on slippery paths. Sometimes the check engine light accompanies the ABS warning.
  • Brake Warning Light Indicating Faulty Sensors

There are many sensors associated with the braking system of your car. A problem with one of these sensors can trigger the brake warning light on your car’s dashboard. So even when the brakes are correctly working, the sensors send false signals to the control unit. Although your car might not have all of these, the following sensors can fail and trigger the warning light:
  • The steering angle sensor informs about the movement of the steering wheel. It also helps the ABS to find suitable brake pressure modulation for better performance.
  • The wheel speed sensor works for the ABS by assessing the rotational speed of each wheel. It also informs the ABS about unusual events such as skidding or wheel locking.
  • The brake fluid sensor checks the hydraulic pressure. The sensor provides the ABS with brake pressure modulation specific to each wheel.
  • Dashboard Warning About Brake Light Bulb

Your car has rear brake lights that inform the vehicles behind you that you are applying brakes. These brake lights may have single bulbs or an array of LED lights. When one of these bulbs goes out, the dashboard caution light illuminates. It alerts the driver about a problem with the bulbs so they can replace them as soon as possible. The bulb may stop working because it’s old, or there might be an electrical fault. You can check the fuse, socket, and wiring in the light housing to find the cause of the blow-out if a new bulb burns. Sometimes dirt or moisture enters because of broken seals and burns the bulb. Although the brake light bulbs have a significant safety function, you do not have to worry if the warning appears. If you’re wondering how long can you drive with your brake light on, you can for as long as you want. However, replacing the bulb soon will ensure your safety.

How Can You Fix the Brake Light Warning on the Dashboard?

You can fix the brake light warning on the dashboard by filling enough brake fluid in the reservoir. If your car has faulty brake shoes or bulbs, you can replace them to end the dashboard warning. If there is no detectable problem, you can reset the handbrake warning light.
  • Fix the Leaking Brake Component and Top up the Brake Fluid

If you want to know how to fix brake light on dashboard, you should fill the brake fluid reservoir. If the fluid quantity drops soon after filling the reservoir and you notice a clear fluid dripping under your car, you have a damaged brake system. The first step should be repairing the leaky part in the brake system. Any exhaust part or gasket can get damaged and develop cracks or holes. You should hire a mechanic to detect the faulty part and repair it. Once the leaky component is fixed, you should top up the brake fluid. Follow the steps below:
  • Find the reservoir in the engine compartment on the driver’s side. Most cars have a translucent brake fluid reservoir with a screw-on cap.
  • Clean the reservoir, especially around the cap; otherwise, the dirt and other contaminants will fall inside when you unscrew the cap.
  • If the fluid is less than the minimum mark, fill it so the volume lies between minimum and maximum labels.
  • After consulting your car’s user manual, buy a suitable quality fluid with a compatible DOT rating.
  • You can use a funnel for fast and clean pouring.
  • Replace Damaged Brake Pads or Blown Bulbs

If you are still finding out how to turn off brake light on dashboard, you should check the brake shoes or rear bulbs. If they appear damaged, you can replace them to make the warning indicator disappear. Fix the Brake Light Warning Brake shoe replacement costs around $100 to $300 per axle. The cost depends on the type of pads you buy. As mentioned earlier, there are different pad materials, so the price would depend on your chosen material and quality. It would be best if you also considered the labor cost. The process is straightforward, but the cost would depend on the mechanic’s hourly rate. Sometimes there is a need to replace other components, such as the rotor, which adds to the total cost. Replacement of the rear light is quite simple and inexpensive. After buying the bulbs, you can do it yourself and save the labor cost.
  • Fix the Parking Brake Troubles

Start the car repair process by releasing the handbrake. If you are unable to do that, try lubricating. However, if you fail to detect any problem with the brakes, you can reset the light. Wondering how to reset parking brake light? You only have to disconnect and reconnect the battery. Use a tool to loosen the clamp and disconnect the cable on the negative terminal. Wait 15-30 minutes for your car’s electric circuit to reset and reconnect the negative terminal cable. You can test the warning indication by starting the vehicle. Resetting Parking Brake Light

Can Worn Brake Pads Cause the Brake Light to Illuminate on the Dashboard?

Can worn brake pads cause the brake light to illuminate on the dashboard? Yes, it’s one of the common causes and signs of worn brake pads. When brake pads wear down, the brake fluid level in the master cylinder drops, triggering the brake light. Additionally, a squealing or grinding noise, reduced braking performance, or a vibrating pedal are also indicators of worn brake pads.


After reading about what causes brake light on dash to stay on, you should know the common reasons and seek professional help to fix it. However, you can also perform a few repair methods yourself. Let’s look at the main findings from this article before you move on to the fixing stage:
  • The dashboard brake light illuminates due to an engaged or stuck parking brake.
  • Damaged brake shoes, rear car bulbs, and faulty ABS are other reasons behind the alert.
  • You can stop the light by resetting the handbrake alert light or replacing the worn bulbs and brake shoes.
Keep these points in mind and get rid of the annoying dashboard light.
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