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Time Needed: Undetermined, Difficulty: Beginner, Cost: Free-$100

The dashboard light always wins the staring contest. No matter how hard you sit there and wish it would go away, it never blinks. Dashboard lights are so clearly evil that even the ones that are supposed to turn off upon driver input, like the parking brake light, occasionally decide to stay on. And unlike error codes, this stuck light cannot be reset with an OBD2 scanner.

In a normally functioning vehicle, engaging the parking brake turns a parking brake light on. It illuminates your cluster to inform you that it’s on and working. Then, when you disengage the parking brake, the parking brake line is supposed to turn off.  So when you disengage the parking brake, and the light stays on, you know there’s an issue somewhere in your vehicle.

To better understand the process of diagnosing a stuck-on parking brake light, we’ve assembled a quick guide of suggestions for how to proceed. Get the safety glasses and mechanic gloves ready, and let’s dive in.

1. Double Check the Area Around the Hand and Foot Levers

Guess what happens when you lift up your hand lever? It creates a small black hole where all sorts of car interior debris can land. Pens, iPhone cords, receipts, straw wrappers, and whatever else gets thrown around inside your car might have snuck its way in there and could now be blocking the handle from going down all the way. It’s not exactly the same for foot levers, but you get the idea.

2. Top Off the Brake Fluid

Make sure the brake fluid is above the minimum (MIN) line on the brake fluid container on the master cylinder. Brake master cylinders often have sensors built into the body or cap, and if the fluid goes below a certain point, the sensor should recognize this and throw the light.

3. Check the Brake Master Cylinder Sensors and Connections

If you go to check the brake fluid, and it’s already in the correct position, check out the sensor we just spoke up. Take it off, plug it back in, clean where necessary, and inspect the wires for any damage or interference.

4. Inspect the Parking Brake Switch and Connections

Regardless of whether you have a foot brake or a lever brake, you likely have a switch that works with the pedal or lever to send a signal when it’s engaged. If the contacts or connections on these switches no longer align perfectly, have been damaged, or are blocked, the light might stay on. So, you might have to tear apart your footwell or center console to find the switch and make sure it’s in good shape.

The gear selector and parking brake of a 2021 Hyundai Elantra.
The parking brake will be a hand lever or an electronic switch.

5. Check The Actual Springs and Linkages

Mechanical parking brakes operate using levers, pedals, cables, springs, and linkages. Check them to make sure the parking brake is operating correctly.

The Car Bibles Questionnaire

Your questions, our answers about your parking brake light.

Q: How Do You Activate The Parking Brake?

A: With a paddle switch, a lever handle, or a foot pedal.

Q: How Do I Turn My Parking Brake Off?

A: With a lever handle, you press the button and lower the handle. With a foot pedal, you press the pedal until it unlocks and releases. With a paddle switch, you will need to press up or down, depending on the design.

Q: What Happens If You Drive With Your Parking Brake On?

A: You will wear down your brakes quickly, you will lose performance while driving, and you will cause a safety issue by driving with your parking brake on at all times.

The Parking Brake Light Video Tutorial

The Tools To Buy For Diagnosing a Parking Brake Light

Socket set

Screwdriver set

OBD2 scanner

Trim panel removal tools

Flashlight

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