Escort E-Brake light on during acceleration

I’ve looked everywhere for this, but haven’t found any answer.

I drive a 1999 Ford Escort, manual transmission, and I’ve started seeing my e-brake light come on during acceleration. It started in my parking garage, where I have to stop on a steep incline to open the door and accelerate hard to get started, and every time I accelerated hard up the incline my parking brake light would come on. I took it to the shop for another problem and asked them to check it out. They tightened the e-brake, but it didn’t solve the problem. In fact it’s gotten worse. Now it’s at the point where any time I accelerate beyond the gentlest startup (which is very difficult to achieve as I live in the city) the light comes on.

It usually goes off once I let up on the gas or when I shift into second gear, but lately it lingers longer and if I start up fast enough it stays on for a few minutes and seems to go off randomly. The only connection I can find is that it gets worse as it gets colder (though it still exists in hot weather). The mechanic can’t figure it out, and I don’t want to pay $85 an hour to have them not be able to figure it out.

Have you checked your brake fluid level? When the brake light on my 98 Windstar started coming on during turns, it turned out the brake fluid was a touch low.


I agree that your brake fluid is likely to be low. Incidentally, as your brake pads wear, the level of fluid in your master cylinder drops accordingly. So, in addition to adding brake fluid (Check your Owner’s Manual for the correct type!!), you should have the condition of your brake pads checked.

Got to be low brake fluid. Weird that a “mechanic” wouldn’t know.

I concur that it is low brake fluid. The light you describe is not an “e-brake” light but a warning light for your brake system. As a safety precaution it lights up when the e-brake is on so you don’t drive off with the e-brake engaged. Anytime the brake light goes on and the e-brake is off it means some sort of trouble in the brake system. More often than not the problem is low brake fluid. As the car accelerates the fluid moves to the back of the master cylinder and away from the sensor and the light comes on. Top off the fluid and have your brakes checked for wear.

Well, I checked my brake fluid, and it’s not low. I mean, it’s not at max but it’s pretty well above min. I bought some, though, and I might top it off later tonight. Could it be worn brake pads?

My concern is that I got it inspected for MD state inspection (which is very thorough, compared to VA, where I used to live), and the guys who inspected it said that my brakes are fine. They squeal in the hot weather sometimes, especially when i use them alot, but the guys said that’s just cause they’re hot. ???

The float in teh reservoir could be sticking or the switch that’s activated by the E-brake to energize the light could need adjustment. The switch is what’s called a “normally on” pushbutton, which means that when NOT compressed it allows current to the light. If it’s not adjusted properly then it could be intermittantly going on even with the brake level down.

But I’m really betting that topping off the brake fluid will solve the problem.

you know, i was totally skeptical (“why would that little tiny bit of brake fluid cause such a big problem??”) but last night i poured a wee little bit of brake fluid into the resevoir (careful not to get anything in it), and this morning i had NO problems with the brake light! Now I know where to go the next time i have a car mystery. thanks!!

You’re welcome. It’s good to hear it’s solved.

Its good that the light came off, but to be on the safe side i would really make sure that your brake system is not leaking any fluid. Ive seen the same problem on a Mercury Cugar (similar to an escort) with rear drum brakes. It turns out that the rear wheel brake cylinders were leaking. You cant tell unless the rear drums are taken off AND the ruber seals are pulled back to reveal any brake fluid. It is an easy thing to do at a shop that does a complete brake inspection, but I have never heard of the state safety inspection requiring anything but a fluid level check & the ability of the vehicle to stop at a required distance.