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Car Brake Lights Stuck On

Last night my wife informed me that her brake lights were stuck on. It had been a rainy day, so my biggest fear was that there was some sort of electrical short God-knows-where inside the car. This could be expensive. After some back-and-forth of tapping the brakes, turning on the car, turning the lights on and off with no result I finally changed clothes and squirmed under the dash to see what was up. Here’s what I found, in case it might be helpful to others.

The brake pedal is connected to at least one button for turning the brake lights on and off. As the pedal is released, the button is depressed. As the pedal is pressed, the button is released. When the button is depressed, the lights go off. When the button is released, the lights go on.

In the case of my wife’s 1996 Ford Escort, there is a small, blue rubber pad on the ‘contact plate’ that the brake light button presses against. The reason I was looking under the dashboard in the first place is because my wife asked if maybe the blue rubber filings and rubber pad that she recently found on the driver-side floorboard might have something to do with her brake light problem. She was right after all.

Brake Light Button Diagram

Since the pad had fallen off of the contact plate the button was not getting depressed far enough to turn off the lights when the brake pedal was released. The solution is to replace the little blue pad. I was not able to find out what this thing was called or even if you could buy one without replacing the entire brake light switch.

The rubber pad worked like a ladies ear ring. It had a little nub on the back that fit into a hole in the contact plate. Probably due to age, this nub broke off and created a big headache for me. In order to avoid visiting the Ford dealer I simply reconnected the nub with some super glue and, after a lot of sweating upside down under the steering wheel, snapped the blue pad back in place. It’s been a few days. So far the super glue is still holding the rubber pad together. My wife’s brake lights are back in action.

UPDATE

Well, the repaired rubber pad didn’t last long: 2 days. Now it’s broken into several pieces.

rubber_broke

But I came up with a better solution. This time I rebuilt the pad using a foam-based wine bottle cork, a circle cut-out in heavy coated paper (a better surface for the button to press against) and the original pad’s little stem. All assembled with super glue. Let’s see how long this one lasts.