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My Brake Light Came On While Driving. Now What?

Brake system warning light in car dashboardAny time you’re driving and a light pops up on your dashboard whether it’s the check engine light, the oil pressure warning light, or the brake light it can be a little unnerving. After all, your car is communicating something is wrong. When you associate the words “wrong with brakes you’re likely feeling alarmed. So, when this light comes on when you’re driving, does that mean your brakes have failed completely? Not likely, but it is a warning that it’s time for a brake inspection. Find out what’s causing your brake light to come on and how to fix it.

When you depress the brake pedal in your car, force is created and is transferred to the brakes with the use of brake fluid. Brakes need a substantial amount of force to stop your 3,000-pound car, so the force created by the action of pressing the brake pedal is multiplied a great deal. Using friction and resistance, the brakes take the motive energy and create heat energy with hydraulic force. Hydraulic fluid moves through the brake lines creating the pressure required to force the brake pads or shoes to push down on the rotors or drums to stop or slow the vehicle.

Brakes are an essential part of your vehicle’s safety features, so keeping them in working order is a must. Why is the brake light on while driving? When your brake light comes on, your car is letting you know that either your vehicle is low on brake fluid, the emergency brake is activated, there’s trouble within the ABS unit, or there’s a problem with the sensors.

Brake Fluid – Within the brake master cylinder lies a sensor that evaluates how much fluid is in the system. When the level falls below a certain point, the sensor activates the brake light to let you know the brake system needs attention.

Parking Brake – Your transmission will thank you for using the parking brake whenever your vehicle is in park but, leaving it in the on position while driving will cause the brake light to come on and possibly send an auditory warning. Most vehicles have a sensor that confirms whether the parking brake is engaged or not. If the parking brake is still activated even in the slightest, the sensor will prompt the brake light to notify you it’s still engaged. While seemingly harmless, driving with the parking brake on can actually cause a lot of damage to your brakes by compromising the brake fluid, overheating the brakes and wearing down the lining of the brake pads or shoes which will necessitate replacement.

ABS Malfunction – Whether your vehicle has an ABS light or not, troubles within the ABS system can trigger the brake light. If you’ve confirmed the brake fluid reservoir is full and the parking brake isn’t engaged, a brake expert will need to access the vehicle’s computer to read the codes generated for proper repair.

Defective Sensors – Sensors located in the brake master cylinder measuring brake fluid or the parking brake sensor may fail, prompting the brake light to come on. An expert on brake repair should be able to identify the sensor that has caused the light to come on and replace it.

If you’re driving and the brake light comes on. Don’t panic. Find an area to pull over safely and turn off your engine. After a few minutes, check your brake fluid, topping it off if it appears low. Restart your vehicle and check to see if the light has turned off. If it has, you may proceed to your destination. If the brake fluid level is normal and the light has not turned off, seek immediate help from an automotive professional. For safety reasons, you should avoid driving the vehicle and arrange for a tow truck to retrieve your vehicle and deliver it to your nearest auto service center.

Your brakes are the only thing between you and your safety on the road. Any time your vehicle is having brake troubles, you should seek assistance from a brake professional immediately. A Certified Technician will confirm the condition of your brakes and present the best possible options for repair. At Sun Devil Auto, we are the Brake Experts! We offer a free brake inspection to make sure your brakes are in top condition. As part of this inspection, our technicians will carefully measure the thickness of the rotors and drums and the brake pads and shoes as well as check for leaks in the hydraulic system. Our Technicians are ASE Certified to repair and maintain all areas of your vehicle, especially brakes. Give yourself a “brake” and visit a Sun Devil Auto near you today for your next brake repair!