That dreaded service brake system warning light we all fear – it’s come on bright as day on your dashboard. What does it mean? How worried should you be? And more importantly, can you easily reset it or is a trip to the mechanic inevitable? Before panicking, there are some key things to understand about this amber brake warning indicator.
Here’s a quick answer:
Although the service brake warning light can temporarily be reset using an OBD2 scanner or by disconnecting battery power, it’s critical to determine and address the underlying cause first with a brake inspection, before clearing codes. Resetting the light alone does not fix issues like worn pads, leakages or sensor faults triggering the initial warning. Safety first requires diagnosis.
What Causes the Service Brake System Light?
There are a few common culprits:
- Low Brake Fluid Levels – Over time, brake fluid can leak slowly from the brake system. Low levels mean less effective braking and, if left unaddressed, a complete failure of stopping power. Running low on this vital fluid is usually the primary reason your car computer triggers the service brake warning.
- Worn Brake Pads or Discs – If your brake pad material has worn too thin, is down to the metal backing plates, or the discs themselves are excessively worn concave, your vehicle’s automatic brake monitoring system detects the issue and warns you. Worn pads equal worn discs over time too.
- Faulty Brake System Components – There are a multitude of sensors and switches in a vehicles braking system that could malfunction and trigger the warning light – wheel speed sensors, brake fluid level sensors, pressure differential switches, park brake switches, etc. When they fail or send abnormal signals, on comes the dreaded light.
Is Resetting My Brake System Light Wise?
In short – don’t do it. Well, not as your only action at least. Chances are, one of those previously mentioned underlying issues is still present if that warning light appeared initially. Turning off the visual cue does not equal addressing the root problem. At best, consider resetting that light a temporary move while you book an inspection or brake service. At worst, ignoring it without professional input is downright dangerous.
Simply erasing an electronic warning signal does not replace worn friction material or restore low fluid levels. And driving for extended periods relying on inadequate braking components can lead to complete failures – not something you want happening at highway speeds!
So How Do I Temporarily Reset That Light?
There are a few options DIY-savvy drivers use to switch off that pesky dash illumination for short journeys before properly addressing the cause. But again, caution strongly advised in relying solely on this method – brakes are simply too critical. Now that we’ve stressed that strongly enough, here are three common techniques:
Method 1 – OBD2 Diagnostic Scan Tool
A universal OBD2 scan device is relatively inexpensive and simple to operate. By plugging into your vehicle’s OBDII port (usually under dash near steering column) you can access computer sensors and even erase some warning lights. Following menu prompts allows resetting that service brake illumination – but the cheap route comes with some annoyances too. Clearing the code does not stop it reappearing soon after if the cause persists. Plus, non-specialized scan tools only offer limited brake data.
Method 2 – Dedicated Brake Scan Device
An automotive scan tool devoted primarily to brake systems and diagnostics offers greater detail into cause analysis should you wish to self-diagnose and repair your brake issue armed with data. Best course of action is to scan, record reference codes, reset light, book professional brake inspection/repair, share scan codes for diagnostic shortcut. Again, the root problem must be fixed but this speeds mechanic diagnosis.
Method 3 – Disconnecting Car Battery
Completely removing battery terminal connections for 15 minutes resets all electronic systems, wiping trouble codes and dash lights in the process upon reconnection. This crude (but effective short term) method robs all electric devices of back-up power too, often necessitating reprogramming of radio stations, electric seats, etc that rely on memory functions. Choosing this quick light reset risks systems losing synchronization too but requires no scan tools.
While all three techniques do reliably erase that amber warning glow temporarily, there are downsides to simply “turning it off”. Without addressing what caused it to show originally, you’ll soon see that stubborn little light return to frustrate you once more!
|Using an OBD-II scanner
|This method involves connecting an OBD-II scanner to the car’s diagnostic port and using the scanner’s software to reset the light.
|Using a scan tool
|This method involves using a dedicated scan tool to reset the light. Scan tools are typically more expensive than OBD-II scanners, but they offer more features and functionality.
|Manually resetting the light
|This method involves manually resetting the light by disconnecting the car’s battery for a short period of time. This method is not recommended, as it can erase other important data from the car’s computer.
What’s The Damage To Reset My Brake Light?
If opting for professional assistance in scanning and resetting that troublesome dash illumination, costs vary dramatically:
- DIY Via Retail Scan Tools – $60-$150+
(one time purchase of own OBD scanner for repeated use offers value but provide limited brake data)
- Auto Shop Scan & Reset Service – $50-$150
(quick reset using shop owned scan equipment in 5-10 minutes without diagnosing/repairing underlying issue)
- Full Brake Inspection & Light Reset – $150-$250+
(best option for safety – find root cause via comprehensive inspection and address as needed via parts/labor charges additional)
As with any automotive service, prices range dramatically between DIY home scanning options under $100 to shop scanner resets around $100 and full professional brake service over $150+. But don’t let that deter you from proper attention – brake system neglect risks serious accidents or breakdowns. Choose reputable mechanics and explain your dash light experience for helpful insight into its cause and your smartest (and safest) options moving forward!
Quick Reference Table
|Retail Scan Tool
|Shop Scan & Reset
|Full Brake Service & Inspection
|Depends on cause
|Addresses root problem
Flickering Service Brake System Dash Light?
An intermittent or flickering brake warning that’s not steady illuminated still deserves prompt attention too for risk analysis. Electronic faults causing random activation, damaged wiring, low quality or incorrect brake parts can still compromise roadworthiness despite not triggering continual warning status. Don’t ignore on/off indicators – hidden issues often lurk behind inconsistent warnings! Schedule brake inspections stat with your favorite mechanic anytime uncertainty arises with critical systems.
Arming yourself with knowledge is the wisest tactic in handling confusing warning lights. That service brake dash illumination is designed to grab your attention to prevent driving with inadequate stopping performance.
But like any vehicle computer monitoring process, glitches happen and false signals emerge too. Resetting alerts is fine temporarily but should not replace determining root causes via brake inspections by seasoned professionals. Only once fully satisfied your system meets optimal safety levels should that amber glow be kept extinguished for good!
1. Why does my brake warning light come on sometimes but not others?
An intermittent or flickering brake light could indicate an underlying electrical issue like a faulty sensor or damaged wiring. It deserves inspection as inconsistencies can hide problems not bad enough to trigger continual warning yet still compromise braking safety.
2. Are there any quick checks I can do before I reset the brake light?
Yes, inspect brake fluid level visually in the reservoir under the hood before any light reset. Top it up to MAX line if low. Also check for any wear indicators on brake pads through wheels if visible. Address any obvious issues first.
3. How do I find the OBD port to use my scan tool?
In most vehicles, the OBDII port is located under the dash, driver’s side, close to the steering wheel and easily visible if you peek your head under. Consult vehicle manual if struggling to locate as its position varies slightly between auto manufacturers.
4. Can I erase brake codes with my remote insurance telematics device?
Unlikely – basic telematics devices fitted for insurance monitoring purposes only capture limited fault code data focused on engine emissions systems. Erasing specialized brake codes requires an OBD scanner/scan tool directly interfacing with brake control module.
5. The light is off but my brakes still feel weird – now what?
Brake system issues don’t always trigger the light immediately if developing slowly over time. Things like a fading brake pedal, pulling, vibration, noise, longer stopping distance, or fluid seepage still require equal attention to keep brakes working safely. Don’t ignore tell-tale signs.