CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

One brake light work when car is in park then goes out and the other works when the car is in gear

I have kind of a strange problem with my 1992 Honda Civic. When I have my car in park with the headlights on my left brake light doesn’t light up but my right does. When I put the car in gear or parked witht he headlights off, the right brake light no longer lights up but the left does. Anybody have any advice on what I should do? Hopefully there’s a cheap fix because my car’s not worth a whole lot.

Thanks a bunch.

Do your turn signals work correctly? Test them and post back with the results.

Yes. The turn signals and reverse lights work fine. The only problem I’ve been having is with the brake lights.

Since the headlights being on is related to the problem, there may be a dual filament bulb, either the parking lights which go on with the headlights, or in the brake lights if the brake light/tail lights share the same dual filament bulb. One filament may be touching the other filament. Try turning on your emergency blinkers and see if they work properly. Try this with the headlights on and the headlights off. If things don’t work right when you turn on the headlights, then check the lightbulbs for the parking lights (which go on with the headlights) by replacing each bulb and see if the problem goes away.

I’ll give all that a shot. Thanks for your help.

Does this car use a standard “bayonet” style bulb for the brake/tail lights? The kind with two buttons on the bottom? If a bulb was recently changed and the wrong bulb was installed–one with one button on the bottom-- it can short across the contacts meant for a bulb that has two connections on the bottom and cause some really strange effects.