Having functioning brake lights is critical for safe driving. Malfunctioning or burnt out brake lights increase your risk of accidents and traffic stops. Luckily, you can easily check your brake lights yourself without any special tools or help from others. This article will teach you several methods to test your brake lights so you can fix any issues promptly.
Here’s a quick step-by-step guide:
- Back up toward a garage door or other reflective surface. Have someone watch the brake lights as you pump the pedal.
- Use a broomstick or pole propped against the seat to depress the brake pedal. Walk behind the car to check the lights.
- While parked near a reflective building or car, look at the brake light reflection in your rearview mirror as you press the pedal.
- For a foolproof test, use an inexpensive brake light circuit tester plugged into the socket. It will light up when the lights activate.
Why Should You Check Your Brake Lights Regularly?
There are two main reasons why checking your brake lights regularly is so important:
- Avoid accidents: Burned out or malfunctioning brake lights make it harder for vehicles behind you to know when you are slowing down or stopping. This increases the risk of a rear-end collision. Checking your lights regularly allows you to identify and fix any issues before an accident occurs.
- Avoid traffic tickets: In many places, it is illegal to drive with faulty brake lights. Police officers can pull you over and issue citations if your brake lights are not working properly. Regularly verifying functionality keeps you compliant with the law.
Experts recommend inspecting your brake lights at least once a month. Make it part of your routine maintenance schedule. Checking them yourself only takes a few minutes.
How to Check Your Brake Lights
There are several easy methods you can use to verify your brake lights are functioning properly.
Using a Wall or Garage Door
One of the simplest ways to check your lights is by backing up towards a wall, garage door, or other reflective surface. Have a friend or family member stand behind your car and pump the brakes while you look at the reflection. You should clearly see both brake lights illuminate when the pedal is pressed.
If you don’t have someone to help, you can do this alone too. Simply put your car in reverse, look over your shoulder, and pump the brakes while watching in your side mirror. Just be cautious not to actually back into the wall or door!
Using a Broomstick or Pole
You’ll need an extendable pole like a broomstick, mop, or painting pole. Place one end against your brake pedal and prop the other end upright on the seat. Walk to the rear of the car and have someone press down on the pole to depress the brake pedal. Check that both lights activate properly.
Alternatively, you can lean the pole against the seat back and pump the brakes yourself with your foot, then walk to the back to verify the lights.
Using Reflective Surfaces
Whenever you park near a reflective surface such as a glass building facade or polished car, check your brake lights. Look at the reflection in your rearview mirror as you pump the pedal. You should see both lights illuminate in the reflection.
Brake Light Circuit Testers
Brake light circuit testers are handy tools that let you easily verify all brake lights are working. Simply plug the tester into your brake light socket, then walk to the back of the car and have a helper press the brake pedal. The tester will light up if the circuit is functioning properly.
These testers are inexpensive, portable, and take the guesswork out of checking your brake lights. They also confirm your turn signals, reverse lights, and running lights are operational.
What To Do If a Brake Light Is Out
If your inspection reveals any brake lights that fail to activate, you will need to replace the bulb. Here is a quick guide:
- Purchase replacement bulbs that match your vehicle’s specifications. Check your owner’s manual if unsure.
- Remove the brake light assembly by unscrewing any bolts or screws. This may require removing interior trim panels.
- Unplug the electrical connector for the bulb you are replacing.
- Remove the old bulb from its socket. Do not touch the glass of new bulbs.
- Insert the new bulb, reconnect the electrical plug, and reinstall the assembly.
- Test the light to make sure the new bulb is working.
Replacing brake light bulbs is an easy, inexpensive DIY project. New LED bulbs often last years without needing to be changed. But if the issue is not the bulb itself, you may need to take your car to a professional mechanic for brake light repairs.
Frequently Asked Questions About Checking Brake Lights
How often should I check my brake lights?
Experts recommend checking your brake lights at least once a month as part of routine vehicle maintenance. Verify they are fully functional after any rear-end collision as well.
Can police pull me over for a burnt out brake light?
Yes, in many jurisdictions it is illegal to operate a vehicle with faulty brake lights. You may be ticketed and fined if pulled over.
What tools do I need to check my brake lights?
No special tools are required. You can check them using common household items like a broomstick or pole, or by backing up to a reflective surface. Handy circuit testers are also inexpensive and easy to use.
Do brake lights fail often?
It depends on usage, but most brake light bulbs last 1-2 years. Higher-end LED bulbs can last 5 years or longer without needing replacement. Checking lights regularly allows you to replace bulbs before they burn out.
Can I get my brake lights checked at a mechanic?
Yes, brake light inspections are commonly included in routine maintenance by auto technicians. They can diagnose and replace any faulty bulbs or wiring issues.
Regularly inspecting your brake lights takes only a few minutes and helps keep you safe on the road. Follow the simple methods here to check your lights monthly or anytime you suspect an issue. Address any problems promptly by changing bulbs or visiting a professional. Make functioning brake lights a priority for smooth and accident-free driving!