Brake Indicator Light

I drive a 2000 VW Golf with 148K miles on it. One Saturday this summer my brake indicator light started lighting and beeping intermittently as I was driving. My brakes were operating fine so I did not read my owners manual until I reached my home. It indicated that I needed to have a qualified mechanic check it immediately but as it was almost 4 o’clock in the afternoon I couldn’t find a mechanic in any gas station or garage. As I had a 200 mile drive to do the next day, I purchased brake fluid and carefully followed all of the directions for checking and filling my brake fluid. However, when I took the cap off of the reservoir, the reservoir really looked fine and I was only able to add about a teaspoon max of brake fluid. However, when I tried driving the car, it seemed that the problem was solved as the brake indicator light did not come on again. Approximately 3 months later now the brake indicator light is intermittently going on again: about every other day. It goes on and then shortly after it goes off and then it doesn’t come on again for a day or two.

Inasmuch as I added such a small amount of brake fluid last time I’m really not sure that the problem is actually with the fluid. I wondered if perhaps it was more of a vacuum problem or that by opening the reservoir some air escaped or something of that nature. I also wonder if possibly there’s a component that’s giving a false reading. At any rate, I’m a little white-haired old lady and there’s a limit to what I can do on my car myself and I’m also a target whenever I go into a shop to get the most expensive diagnosis and fix. I’d like to go in to a shop with good information so that it doesn’t become an expensive fishing expedition. Any idea what could be causing this? Thanks!!!

On the side of the brake reservoir are two line labeled Min and Max. The Max line should be near the top of the reservoir and the Min line about half way down. If the fluid level is only at the Min line, the light will come on. There is a point at the min line where the float switch built into the cap will be just barley touching. As you go down the road, the float will move up and down a tiny bit from bumps in the road etc. causing the light to flicker or blink.

The other thing that turns on the light is the parking brake. If it is not fully released, it will cause the light to come on. If the switch for the parking brake is a little bit loose, it could also flicker or blink.

If the brake fluid is up to the Max line, you will need a mechanic to check out the system. If at any time, the fluid was near the Min line, you should be prepared to have the front brake pads replaced. You will probably also need new rotors and you should get a brake fluid flush. If you have disc brakes in the rear, you may need all this for the rear as well. You will be looking at $300-500 depending on whether you need front only or all four wheels.

If you have had the brakes done in the not to distant past, you may only need a tightening of the parking brake switch, which could cost $60-100 depending on how much disassembly it take to get to the switch and the labor rates in your area.

Wow Keith - thanks for the detailed answer!

I’m not sure if the '00 model has the same lighting as the '01, but on our Jetta (I’m pretty sure), it can also indicate it thinks there’s a problem with the ABS system.

If you have daytime running lights, see if they are also flashing off/on when that light on the dash is. Pulling the handbrake shuts off the DRL’s on ours.

I recently (around June) replaced all the rotors, pads and fluid for the system on ours. As I did it myself, and bought the parts (except fluid) at the dealer, I ended up paying about $400 for everything. I probably could have gotten it cheaper, but oh, well.

Good luck,