Reader Question: Brake Lights Stay On?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply! 

Jenny asks: I have a problem with my car’s brake lights. They won’t turn off, even with the key out of the ignition. I checked the fuses and tried jiggling the ignition to see if that would fix it but no luck. Can you help?

My reply: I think so!

I had this happen to one of my own vehicles (2002 Nissan Frontier). One day, the brake lights came on and wouldn’t turn off, just as you’re dealing with. In my case – as I suspect will turn out to be the case in yours – a plastic grommet that was part of an electrical switch deteriorated and fell out (I found the little plastic piece on the carpet below the brake pedal). This triggers the connection that keeps the lights on, even with the ignition off. Sometimes, the fix is as easy as glueing the little plastic piece back into place. You may also need to replace the switch.

It’s not an expensive switch. The main hassle is getting at it, in order to fix (or replace) it. The first thing I’d do is look around the driver’s side floormat area and see whether you can find a little piece of plastic or a grommet-looking thing. If you do find it, you have likely found your problem – and the fix is per above!

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  1. In addition to all of the above: A bad power brake booster can also allow the brake pedal to sink when your foot isn’t on it, thus keeping the lights on. I bought a car one time that had the brake lights staying on, thinking it was just the little switch that Jim mentioned above, that needed adjustment…but as I soon discovered, it was the p?b booster….which I had to change out…in 20*F weather- which made laying under the dash in various contorted poses even more uncomfortable.

  2. I had a car back in the 1980s that did the same thing. There was a switch up against the brake pedal that operated similar to a closet door switch that turns the light on when you open the closet and off when you close it. The mechanism came loose, so when you released the brake pedal, instead of depressing the switch, the switch simply slid upward and the brake lights stayed on. Now, this was an older car (1980 vintage) and the brake light switch was very low tech compared to today, but I think the problem is very similar to what you just described. Easily fixed, but a pain in the butt.


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