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So, the inevitable has happened and your brake light has just turned on. Ignoring this dashboard light could prove to be dangerous. Instead of hoping it will go away with time, learn why this important dashboard light comes on, and how to handle it.

Possibility #1: The parking brake is engaged

When your parking brake is activated, your brake light will also be on. In many cases, the light looks like a red or yellow circle with the letter “P” or an exclamation mark “!” in the middle. Check your owner’s manual for the symbol and instructions specific to your vehicle. Do not continue to drive when the parking brake is engaged, as you can damage the brake pads and rotors. After you release the parking brake, this warning light should go off. If it doesn’t, the brake may not be fully released or there may be something else going on.

Possibility #2: The brake fluid is low.

For many vehicles, a yellow circle with an exclamation mark in the middle signals low brake fluid. While the light is yellow, the brake system may still have enough fluid to function. And if it turns red? A red light that flashes on and off could signal low/almost empty brake fluid, but also a serious issue with the brake system. If the light comes on and stays on, you could end up with a dangerous brake failure. An technician at Integrity Automotive can identify the cause and determine what your braking system needs.

Possibility #3: There’s a problem with the anti-lock brake system.

Many modern vehicles are equipped with anti-lock brake systems that help prevent the wheels from locking up and tires from losing traction. This system has a separate warning light that typically says, “ABS,” but may vary depending on your vehicle. There are a variety of reasons this light might come on, from an electrical malfunction to a broken or dirty wheel speed sensor. When the speed sensor isn’t working properly, the anti-lock braking system will not work either. The guys at Integrity are happy to perform a diagnostic test on your vehicle to determine what’s causing the ABS warning light to come on and find a solution.

Alert #4: Your brake light bulbs need to be replaced.

Some vehicles will cue the brake warning light on the dashboard if the rear brake lights are dim or burned out. To check for this problem, have a friend stand where they can see the back of your car as you press down on the brake pedal. If both bright red brake lights aren’t coming on, you’ve identified the problem! Get your brake light bulbs replaced and the warning light should go off.