Home Diagnosis and TroubleshootingElectrical System and Electronics Tail Lights Not Working But Brake Lights Are: What To Do Now?

Tail Lights Not Working But Brake Lights Are: What To Do Now?

by Jordan Harris
Tail Lights Not Working But Brake Lights Are

Car problems are something that we all have to deal with at some time in our lives. Sometimes they are small issues, but other times they might cost you a lot of money. As a result, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on any problems your vehicle is having before they get too serious. It’s not normal if your car tail lights not working but brake lights are. What to do in that scenario? Let’s find out!

You should pay attention to the headlights and taillights in your car. To be safe while you’re out on the road, you must have working tail lights. They allow other drivers to see you in the dark or if the weather is bad. The lights usually turn on when the headlights activate, and some newer versions turn them on automatically whenever the computer senses increased darkness.

The tail lights, like every other vehicle component, might fail, but what happens if they fail whereas the brake lights stay operational.

Many of you may be wondering why the tail lights not working but brake lights are. If you are one of them, then this is the article for you. You can identify why you are experiencing these problems, as well as potential low-cost solutions.

How Do Brake Lights And Tail Lights Work?

Cars have different lights that serve different purposes. Whether it’s on the dashboard or the exterior of the car, knowing about their functions can always come in handy. So it’s only fair to understand the workings of brake lights and tail lights.

Numerous automobiles have a basic wiring arrangement for the brake and tail lights. When the driver presses the brake, he comes to a halt or slows down the car while also activating a switch that illuminates the brake light. In addition to the brake light, the tail light is also illuminated.

What to Do If Car Tail Lights Not Working But Brake Lights Are?

It’s critical that the lighting gear is always completely working since the person behind you would not be able to determine if you’re driving or not. A vehicle with a damaged tail light could be tough to see on street at night or in precipitation, fog, or snowfall. This can lead to accidents.

Difference Between Brake Lights And Tail Lights

The tail lights and brake lights on your car are critical safety features not just for you but also for other vehicles on the road. These lights help your car to be seen in the dark or other hard-to-see circumstances. They help notify other drivers that you’re decelerating, so it’s critical to check them before driving.

The key distinction between tail lights and brake lights is that the former flashes as soon as the headlights are switched on, whilst the latter only activates when the brake pedal is pressed. Although both lights are red when they flash, brake lights generate a brighter red glow.

The tail lights and brake lights on so many cars use the same bulb. One filament within the bulb serves as the tail light, while the other serves as the brake light. Some cars feature a different bulb for each circuit.

Testing The Lights

With a helper pressing the brake pedal and observing which bulb glows inside the tail light circuit, you can tell for certain if the brake lights and tail lights have the same bulb.

Turn on the headlights to see whether your tail lights are functional. When the tail lights are turned on, they should flash red. Then, get somebody to stand behind the car and inspect the brake lights. When you press on the brakes, they should be brighter than the tail lights.

There are several reasons why the tail lights not working but the brake lights are. There is no need to be panicked if you notice something like this the next time you take your car out for a spin. First, you need to pinpoint the issue and then work on solving it.

So let’s explore some possible reasons for tail lights not but brake lights are in your car.

Tail Lights Not Working: It Might Be The Connection

Brake lights serve a basic but vital purpose- they alert cars trailing you when you are slowing down. If you have ever gotten caught behind a vehicle with broken brake lights, then you know what that is like.  When you’re attempting to estimate when that vehicle is going to halt or turn because its lights aren’t working, your irritation level might skyrocket.

Or maybe his brake lights remain on endlessly, and you have to keep a few vehicle widths behind because you have no clue what move that driver would pull next. Without working brake lights, the number of rear-end incidents would almost definitely be substantially greater.

If one of the brake lights burns out, fortunately, the first indication isn’t a policeman pulling your car over to inform you. If one of them fails, you should be able to repair it yourself considering you are familiar with brake light wiring. The system is powered by the vehicle’s battery.

Most automobiles’ brake light wiring systems are not too complicated. The lights themselves are at one side, with bulbs in sockets attached to a wire harness. The brake switch is at the opposite end of the circuit, in which the pedal pushes down and makes contact, completing the circuit.

Tail Lights Not Working: Faulty Tail Light Bulb

Your car’s taillights feature light bulbs that function similarly to the lamps found in your house. As a result, much like regular household lamps, even car tail lights might burn out. Furthermore, the car’s brake lights and tail lights use separate bulbs.

As a result, the taillight bulb might burn out while the brake lights do not. And for that, your brake lights might operate but the tail lights will not. Therefore, if the tail lights aren’t working, you should inspect the bulb.

One of the most common reasons why the tail lights not working but brake lights are is because the bulbs in the tail lights are defective. You should do some tests to determine whether or not the bulbs are the key problem, which would need the removal of the tail light cover.

This would be an easy mission ahead of you. You must ensure that the filament in the bulb is operational. If you see the light that means it’s running, and something else is wrong. And if it doesn’t, then you have the answer to the problem at hand.

So, replace the bulbs. If you don’t know how to do it, there are plenty of simple tutorials and videos accessible. The majority of them will assist you in achieving your goal. If the tail lights still don’t function, you should check into alternative possibilities.

Tail Lights Not Working: Relay Issues

Relays are electrical or electro-mechanical switches that open and close circuits. They operate a single electrical circuit by closing or opening connections in another. A relay regulates the flow of electricity via a system. Automated relays simplify this process, which controls whether power flows are on or off at specific periods.  The relay will transmit electricity from the battery to the taillights in this scenario.

However, if it fails, the connection is not established. This might happen if the relay is not properly insulated. Excessive charge in the systems can be caused by an incorrectly grounded wire, resulting in a short circuit.

There might be a problem with the relay system’s cables. To solve this, you may need to get the schematic in order to visually check the system.

With fractures in the insulation, the wiring towards the tail lights might well be damaged or destroyed. The ground wire should not just be damaged or cut since this will prevent energy from reaching the sockets where the bulb is installed.

Tail Lights Not Working: Problems With The Fuse Box

Every electronic piece of equipment in a car is powered by cables that pass through a fuse box. Modern automobiles feature two or more fuse boxes. There is usually one situated just below the dashboard and one right under the hood.

You must consult the vehicle’s owner’s handbook to determine the position of your brake light fuse. There is a high possibility that the brake light fuse has blown thanks to an electrical surge. Find the right fuse and replace it with one that is comparable.

To inspect the fuse box, you need to find it first. Meanwhile, when inspecting the fuse box, turn off the automobile.

Making sure the car’s ignition is turned off may save you from being electrocuted. The use of a flashlight would make it easier in locating the tail light fuse. After determining the correct fuse, you must remove and check it. The fuse is safe if the metal discovered inside it is undamaged.

Tail Lights Not Working But Brake Lights Are

A broken wire, on the other hand, shows that the wick is defective. In such a case, changing the fuse can resolve your tail light issue.

Since the voltage of fuses varies, you must ensure that you are using the correct fuse. In most situations, a fuse is blown for a reason. If the fuse has blown, confirm that there is no short circuit in the wiring or the connector to the brake light.

But, they might blow since they are aged in some situations. Try to inspect the fuse box for any wet tracks, which can produce circuit shorts in the fuse box and blow a fuse.

Tail Lights Not Working: Electrical Ground

If the taillights and brake lights are not working, another of the things you can possibly check for an issue is the electrical ground. This might be a problem, particularly if the brake light switch is operational

Check for faulty electrical ground, which might be caused by corroded or broken cables. If the brake light illuminates while the light switch is linked to a commendable ground whereas the brake pedal is down, the ground connection is faulty.

Defective grounds are prone to create all kinds of weird situations, so it only stands to reason to search for a broken strap if your car brake lights and tail lights seem to be working funny.

Check to see whether the electrical ground to which the brake lights are attached is free of rust or is not loose and fragile. Since the taillights and brake lights do not use the same circuit, ruling out ground as a possible reason is a simple process.

Furthermore, repairing the ground connection is a piece of cake. Simply detach the engine ground, clean the connections, wires, and frame, and then reinstall the ground securely. It’s as straightforward as it gets. If the cause of the tail light not working is only due to a faulty electrical ground, it is a relatively simple remedy that should suffice.

Tail Lights Not Working: Worn Wiring

Any electrical obstacle, like damaged or worn-out cables, will disrupt the entire system. Although a wiring diagram and a visual check of the tail light section are always options, a specialist may be able to more precisely diagnose the problem.

If the light bulb, fuse box, plus electric ground are all operational, you can check for any signs of wear and tear in the wiring.

Examine the wiring from the fuse panel towards the brake light switch. Then check the wiring from the switch all the way to the bulb sockets. The connections might be faulty, or the bulb housing could be rusted. If you discover any issues with these parts, make sure they are replaced.

In rare situations, a damaged wire may also be present. This can be difficult to locate since the wire from the brake light system may go from the front of the vehicle to the back.

As you press the brake pedal, a nice place to test the voltage is at the taillight, and you may do that at the brake pedal switch. If there is no voltage on any of the wires leading to the brake light switch, there is indeed a power supply issue, such as a blown fuse or a damaged wire.

Tail Lights Not Working: Failure In The Control Switch

The control switch is another one of the possible reasons why your car tail light may not be working even if the brake lights are.

When you wish to turn on the headlights or taillights, you must press a switch.  It transmits the signal, and the lights begin to illuminate. There would have been no signal if somehow the switches became faulty.

You may not have been able to find it out on your own, but if you’ve explored all other possibilities, the control switch could be the source of all your problems. To determine whether this is the case, you must remove it from the dashboard and conduct certain tests.

If you are unsure, you can always consult someone with more expertise or take it to a workshop to ensure everything works well.

Tail Lights Not Working: Ambient Light Sensor

On the dashboard of many modern vehicles, there is an ambient light sensor. This enables the vehicle’s software to automatically switch on and off the headlights and taillights based on how dark or light it is on the outside.

Some people also switch off the daytime driving lights on modern automobiles. This is most likely the cause if the parking lights and headlights do not turn on but your brake lights do.

If this sensor fails or becomes too filthy, it cannot distinguish how light or dark it actually is outside. That would lead the sensor to not be able to turn on the lights.

However, this would impact both the head and tail lights and could be readily checked by manually flipping the head light switch to the on the setting.

Fixing A Tail Light

Tail lights require maintenance from time to time. They occasionally burn out and need a new bulb, or they simply stop working. Anyone attempting to figure out the problem might feel frustrated. Fortunately, there are a few typical issues that may be quickly resolved if you know exactly what to look for.

The methods listed below will help you troubleshoot the non-working tail lights and get them up and running again. Thankfully, any replacements required for the concerns listed below are readily available, and they do not need a large investment.

Battery Issues

The first thing you should do is ensure that energy is pouring from the battery. This may sound apparent, yet it is one of the most prevalent issues when dealing with broken tail lights. You may test the flow of electricity by blowing your horn.

The horn should be honked. If it produces noise, it means that the battery isn’t the issue. Once you have eliminated one possible source of the problem, you could go on to the next one.

Replace The Lightbulbs

Burned-out bulbs are among the most frequent and easiest problems to repair. These bulbs are definitely in need of replacement. New bulbs are available at any automotive retailer. Simply make sure you get the appropriate size and make for your car. Buying a bulb that would not suit the sort of car you have results in the lights either not working at all or working briefly before burning out.

Remove the lens cover by loosening it with a screwdriver and then pulling it off. Remember to put the cover carefully and aside from the area you’re working on. When you’re finished, use the very same screws to connect the cover.

Once the bulb is revealed, take it and spin it counterclockwise until you feel the bulb loosened. Then you can remove it.

Insert the replacement bulb into the region and spin it clockwise until it is firmly in place. Apply the brakes and check to see whether the tail lights are functional with the new bulb in place. You may change the tail light covers if they are functional. If the problem persists, a new fuse may be the solution. This is discussed further down.

Fuse Replacement

Inside the car, look for the control panel. This is where you’ll find all of the essential fuses. Locate the one labeled “tail lights” and move it from its location. You can obtain a replacement fuse from any repair shop, just make sure you get the appropriate type for your car. Install the replacement fuse until you can hear a click.

Check the brake lights one more time. Let’s hope, with the troubleshooting procedures outlined above, your car’s tail lights are now operational.

Driving With No Tail Lights

Will the police pull you over for not having working tail lights? The answer is yes. If the tail lights are not working in your car, you will indeed be stopped by the police. If you are spotted the first time, you might be lucky enough to just get off with a warning. But if you are caught again, you will be handed a ticket and a fine.

Keep in mind that various countries and states have varying laws regarding driving without tail lights or brake lights. Since fines differ, you should double-check the lights before driving.

If your car’s tail lights aren’t working, you should fix them immediately. If you are unable to troubleshoot, get assistance from a local auto repair facility. Burned-out bulbs, broken wiring, electrical difficulties, and blown fuses can all cause malfunctioning lights. Make sure you order authentic components from reputable retailers if you have to replace a particular part or equipment.

Problems with tail and brake lights should never be overlooked. Regular automobile maintenance may help avoid most issues, including difficulties with tail lights and brake lights, so keep this in mind too.

Car Lights: Facts on What to Check if Tail Lights Are Not Working but Brake Lights Are

  • Both brake lights and tail lights are essential for road safety, and malfunctioning lights can cause serious accidents.
  • If your car’s tail lights are not working but the brake lights are, the problem may be a damaged fuse, which protects the car’s electrical system.
  • The fuse controlling the taillight can be located in the vehicle’s cockpit panel or main fuse box under the hood, and it is essential to use the same size and number of amps for a replacement fuse.
  • Double filament bulbs power the brake lights and tail lights, and a damaged filament may cause the tail lights not to work.
  • To check the bulb’s filament, you need to remove the tail lampshade, loosen the lens cap, and replace the bulb if the filament is damaged.
  • A faulty control switch may also be responsible for the tail lights not working, and a multimeter can be used to verify its condition.
  • Damaged or broken wiring can cause taillights not to work, but brake lights can still function, and checking the wiring diagram can help identify broken insulation or wires.
  • Corroded or damaged sockets and plugs can also cause taillights not to work, and a wire brush and WD-40 can be used to clean the socket.
  • A bad or dirty ambient daylight sensor may also cause the problem, but it mostly affects headlights and taillights.
  • Regular checks on your car can help ensure that the lights are working properly, and tracing taillight failures can be relatively easy since they run on isolated circuits.


There might be other reasons why tail lights not working but brake lights are in your car. It’s possible that the socket that holds the bulb has failed. There are conductive layers that allow electricity to flow through.

It’s irritating to try to figure out why tail lights aren’t working yet brake lights are. However, because the taillights operate on an independent circuit, it should be possible to trace out the problems. Furthermore, you are good since the brake lights are attached to the pedal as well as another circuit. As a result, when you use the brakes, the brake lights will illuminate.

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