Having working brake lights is not only a legal requirement in most states, but also an important safety feature on your vehicle. When your brake lights stop working properly, it’s critical to get them fixed right away. But how much will it actually cost to repair brake light wiring?
In this article, we’ll break down the common causes of brake light issues, how much you can expect to pay for repairs by a mechanic or doing it yourself, and steps you can take to troubleshoot and fix faulty brake light wiring.
Here’s a quick answer: The average cost to fix brake light wiring is $70-$150 if done by a professional auto mechanic. For minor issues like replacing a bulb or fuse, you can often DIY for under $50. More complex repairs like replacing the wiring harness can cost over $150 for parts and labor. Troubleshoot the exact cause first before paying for repairs.
Common Causes of Brake Light Issues
Before we dive into costs, let’s look at some of the most common reasons your brake lights may have stopped working:
- Blown fuse – The brake lights are wired through a fuse in the fuse box. If this fuse blows, it will cut power to the lights.
- Faulty brake light switch – This switch activates when you press the brake pedal. If it’s damaged, the lights won’t know to turn on.
- Bad ground connection – The bulbs rely on a good ground connection to complete the circuit. Loose, corroded, or damaged ground wires can cause issues.
- Burned out bulb – Like any light, brake light bulbs can burn out over time and need replacement. This is one of the simplest fixes.
- Damaged wiring – Accidents, road debris, weather, and age can all damage the wiring to the brake lights. This may require re-running the wiring.
Knowing the root cause of the problem will help determine if it’s a quick DIY fix or requires a professional mechanic’s labor and expertise.
Cost to Repair by a Mechanic
Hiring an auto repair shop to diagnose and fix your brake light issues will cost you $70 to $150+ on average, depending on exactly what needs repair. Here are some typical repair costs:
- Basic diagnosis – $70-$90
- Replacing a brake light switch – $90-$120
- Replacing a fuse or relay – $70-$90
- Replacing a bulb – $20-$40
- Fixing a ground wire – $70-$100
- Rewiring or replacing brake light wiring harness – $120-$150+
More complicated electrical issues that require troubleshooting could cost $100 or more in labor. And that doesn’t include parts which would be additional.
At a dealer shop, you’ll pay a higher hourly rate around $125 which means repairs may cost $150-$250.
Cost to Repair it Yourself
You can often save 50% or more by troubleshooting and fixing brake wiring issues yourself. Here are typical costs:
- Fuse or relay – Under $10
- Brake light switch – $15-$40
- Bulb – $5-$15 per bulb
- Electrical wire & connectors – $15-$30
- Wire crimping/stripping tool – $5-$10
Watching some DIY videos to diagnose and locate the issue is free. So you may be able to solve it yourself for less than $50 in parts. Even re-running damaged wiring is doable with some basic tools and knowledge.
The biggest cost will be your time. It may take a few hours to troubleshoot, source parts, do repairs, and test drive to confirm everything works. But it can save you $100+ in labor costs if you DIY.
Troubleshooting Brake Light Issues
Before paying for any repairs, it’s smart to do some basic brake light troubleshooting yourself:
1. Check All Bulbs
Make sure all brake lights are actually burnt out and not just a dead bulb. Swap the suspected bulb with one from another working light to test. Replace any dead bulbs.
2. Test the Brake Light Switch
The switch activates when you press the brake pedal. You can test it with a multimeter or by tapping it and listening for a click when pedal is pressed. Replace if faulty.
3. Check Fuses
Find the brake light fuse in the fuse box and make sure it hasn’t blown. You can test with a fuse tester or multimeter for continuity. Swap in a new fuse if needed.
4. Inspect Wiring
Look for any damaged wires, loose connections, or heavily corroded areas that may be interrupting the signal. Repair or replace wires as needed.
5. Test Ground Connection
Use a multimeter to ensure the ground wire has continuity and is securely fastened. Clean or replace as needed.
6. Retest Lights
Once you’ve made any repairs or replacements, test drive to confirm brake lights now function normally before paying for full repairs.
Questions and Answers
Are brake light repairs covered by warranty?
If the vehicle is still within the manufacturer’s bumper-to-bumper warranty period (typically 3 years or 36,000 miles), brake light repairs may be covered. Electrical components like switches and wiring are generally included. Always check with your dealer.
Can I drive with brake lights out?
It’s not safe or legal to drive with non-functioning brake lights in most states. Police can pull you over and issue “fix-it” tickets requiring you to repair them within a certain timeframe to avoid fines. Get faulty lights fixed promptly.
Why did all my brake lights stop working at once?
If all the lights simultaneously stopped working, the most likely culprit is a blown fuse or faulty relay that powers the whole brake light circuit. Check and replace those first before investigating other causes.
What if the problem keeps returning?
If you’ve fixed the brake lights but they soon stop working again, there may be an underlying electrical issue at fault. Take it to an auto electrician who can test wiring and connections to isolate the real problem. Intermittent issues can be harder to pinpoint.
Can I upgrade my regular bulbs to LEDs?
Yes, you can upgrade to durable and long-lasting LED bulbs. Be sure to get ones marked for brake/tail light use. Make sure they don’t emit a hyper-bright light that could dazzle other drivers.
The Bottom Line
Having your brake lights fail can be frustrating and dangerous. In most cases, with some basic troubleshooting and inexpensive new parts, you can fix minor issues yourself for under $50. More involved repairs may cost $70-$150 if done by a professional mechanic.
Whenever your brake lights aren’t working properly, address the problem promptly before getting back on the road. Properly functioning lights greatly reduce your risk of collisions. Investing in repairs is a small price to pay for much improved safety.