What does it mean when my car’s brake warning light comes on?

If your car’s brake warning light is on, you should bring your vehicle in to have it checked out immediately. Your vehicle may be unsafe to drive. Find out why the brake warning light may have come on and what you need to do about it by reading on.

Vehicles are equipped with several lights that deal with the braking system: 1) the parking brake (this one is typically “red” or “yellow”), 2) the anti-lock braking system (usually “yellow – click here to learn more about the anti-lock braking system), and 3) the brake system warning light (“red” in color). The first sign that the situation is a critical issue is the fact that the brake warning light is “red” in color. A red dashboard warning light always indicates a serious problem. If you are driving and the brake warning light comes on, you should safely pull over and call for a tow. If it comes on and stays on when you start the car, don’t drive. Again, call for a tow.

Note: For cars with only one brake warning light, first make sure the parking brake isn’t engaged before calling for a tow.

Why did the brake warning light come on?

When there is low brake fluid, the brake warning light will come on. Here is a list of some of the more common reasons this happens:

  1. The brake pads are worn. When the brake pads are worn out, the fluid level will go down. When the brake pads are replaced, you may need to add the proper amount and type of brake fluid for your vehicle. If we are doing the brake repair work on your vehicle, we will check to see if you need brake fluid and add it for you. The type of brake fluid your vehicle requires will be stamped on the top of the reservoir and is also listed in your owner’s manual.
  2. There is a leak in the braking system. A brake fluid leak is a very serious concern. If all the fluid leaks out, you won’t be able to stop your vehicle. Brake fluid can leak anywhere in the braking system, from the brake lines to the master cylinder.

If the light isn’t on, but you think you are having problems with your brakes, bring your vehicle in for a brake check (click here to read more about your car’s braking system). If you are concerned about driving it, you can have your vehicle towed to our auto repair shop in Morristown, NJ. Click here to schedule an appointment for brake repair with Shade Tree Garage.


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