Pontiac 2000 brake light problem

I sought “son of the year” award when I bought a used 2000 Pontiac Grand Prix for my mom to use for summers Vermont. I need a guitar and banjo to tell the beginning of this wonderful tale. It involves an FBI agent, lost titles, anti-terrorism relocation and a clandesine exchange in the remote pine barrens of NJ. But, I digress…

Problem: The brake lights stopped working. It is not the bulbs. Dealership has suggested that it is the “multi-function switch” somewhere on the steering column and informed me it would cost $700 to repair! Yikes! I don’t expect TARP funding for car repairs.

I live in Colorado. The car is at my sister’s place in Pa, and she talked with the dealership…long distance makes this problem harder to handle. Grand Prix has 98K miles, automatic.

Questions: (1) Does the dealer diagnostic sound right - they also gave my sister a wonderful list of other things that include things that clearly do not need to be done. (2) Is there any thing else to check? (my niece’s husband is pretty good on mechanical stuff,is 20 minutes away and will look at the car the first warm day) (3) If this really is a multi-function switch problem, could a reliable non-dealer mechanic do the job? The dealership price seems outrageous!

Hard to get excited about buying an American car if switches cost $700 to replace a switch. [in this family, all of our other cars came from Acura, Honda and Mazda]


It could be the multifunction switch IF the turn signals and brake light use the same bulb. If the turn signals use a separate bulb, I’m calling BS on the dealer. Have the niece’s husband check the fuses first, then to the brake switch under the dash that should be actuated by a plate on the brake pedal lever. Alternately, some cars use a pressure switch bolted to the master cylinder under the hood.

P.S. You could replace the multifunction switch, but would have to remove the steering wheel first. The airbag system makes this a potentially dangerous job, and I’d prefer you leave it to professionals.

Are All Three Brake Lights Inoperative?

Have any bulbs actually been replaced with new ones?

I would try some bulbs, if that hasn’t been tried. What about the brake light switch? What does “Dealership has suggested that it is the “multi-function switch” …” and “The car is at my sister’s place in Pa, and she talked with the dealership … long distance makes this problem harder to handle.”, mean?

It sounds like you are drawing some wild conclusions. This car needs to have a proper diagnosis and can possible be repaired for a fraction of the cost by a competent mechanic, elsewhere.

By the way, a $700 parts and labor estimate to replace a faulty combination switch, if that is really necessary, doesn’t have a lot to do with this being an American car. I guess it is fashionable to bash American cars for some people. This just dishonestly contributes to problems with our economy. I’m not convinced that your Acura, Honda, and Mazda are immuned from ever needing repairs and I’m not sure that the repairs will be inexpensive.

P.S. Since you bought this car used, and I don’t know if the car’s history came with it, and assuming it is the combo switch, someone may have tampered with the switch, broken it right off by accident and improperly replaced it, the car may have been stolen, abused, or who knows what.

It’s hard to get excited about helping somebody that doesn’t know what he’s necessarily talking about (You state that the part is, “somewhere on the steering column”), being so sure it’s poor American car quality. But, that’s what I do.

America, What A Country!

I don’t like the multi-function switch diagnosis. If all the other lights are working the switch is fine.

How do you know the bulbs are good if the lights don’t work?

I’d check the brake light fuse(s) and the brake light switch, which is under the dashboard and contacts the brake pedal. If the switch is bad or mis-adjusted the brake lights won’t work.

Your mother certainly doesn’t need to take the car to a dealer. There are plenty of good independent mechanics in PA.

John, How Does That Sound? Do You Have Any Answers So That We Can Try To Help?

I believe everyone is right, but I like MC’s most direct answer best. I would only add that even if it is the multifunction switch it likely can be replaced for a lot less than the dealer is suggesting by an independent mechanic. At the same time talk to that mechanic about the list of things the dealer felt should also be done. It is very possible that some are regular maintenance items and they should be done as they will result in a safer and/or better running and less expensive to own car in the long run.

my guess is the 700 dollar figure includes the switch repair and the wonderful list of things that include things that clearly do not need to be done.i would like to echo common sense answers thought on american cars and say that last time i went by a toyota dealer they had a service department, i guess to work on american cars

Thanks for the comments. The $700 is just to replace the multi function switch. Labor is $77 per hour. The other dealer recommendations would entail extra charges. One of the added items was new front brakes - which were done 6 months and 4K miles ago. This car was formerly owned by an FBI agent who had regular dealer maintenance. It is in very good condition and has been well maintained by me.

Although my reliable and honest Co Springs mechanic is not going to see this car because its on the east coast. While he obviously can’t confirm the diagnosis, he said his computer bill guidelines suggest this is a 1.5 to 2 hour job. He thought the switch was $400 - I don’t know if that is a dealer price or NAPA. He thought $700 was way too high, but had never done this repair on a Pontiac.

I can’t provide more info as the niece’s husband won’t get to see the car until after the new year. He is going confirm if any other lights are not working. He will then look at bulbs, fuses, and brake pedal switch. My sister said the first look by her local mechanic (prior to the dealer) included replacing both brake bulbs. That is why I suggested it was not the bulbs. No info on fuses or the pedal switch.

My sister didn’t fall off a turnip truck yesterday, but has no auto/machine background that would help her with the auto dealership. She volunteered to try and solve the problem.

I have not seen this car since last July and won’t be back on the east coast until next summer…which makes this a messy problem. My mother is in her mid 80s and gets to take it easy in Florida - she won’t be handling any of this.

The First GM Online Store I Hit Had The Switch At $341.

Personally, I would go with a used one on a car that is 9 model years old, but this is not always workable for people with busy schedules and who don’t work on cars.

I’m just wondering if that diagnosis was correct. A brake light switch runs 20 bucks.

Thanks for getting back.
Good Luck!

It would really help if you had the service manual to give you the connectors to check. What he should do is turn the hazards on and see if all of the lights flash. Then try the turn signals right and left and check if front and back both work. If they all work, then you are talking about the brake light switch or and open in the wiring. If either some of the hazards work or some of the turn signals work, then it would most likely be the multifunction switch. That’s according to my Olds factory manual anyway. Also don’t discount the cost of Acura parts. They are all high priced and most GM’s don’t require a $500 timing belt change periodically.

make sure both bulbs are not blown.next check the fuses.if not any of theses it sounds like the stop light switch behind the brake pedle.just a few dollars and kinda easy to replace.

This is a known problem in this particular car. I have one. I checked the brake light switch. I took it out and ohmed it. It is fine, the light bulbs are fine. Everything is fine except for the multi-switch. One of the tell-tale signs of a faulty multi-switch is that when you try to depress the hazard switch, it won’t go in. This is the case in my car. I looked all over the internet to find the switch in question and the lowest price for a brand new switch is $230.00 (plus shipping).

I generally do not like to buy used parts to replace moving parts, but I found an entire steering column on Ebay for $57. I asked if the switch was good, the seller said yes, and I took a chance on it. $57 (shipping included) sounded like a worth while gamble to me. I have the steering column and I had hoped to get some insight into the replacement of said switch when I came upon this forum. I will let you know how the procedure turns out. Hopefully in about 2 hours.

Follow Precautions For Air Bags. They Give Mean UpperCuts.

Does the high center brake light work? If so, then the problem could be with the multi-function switch. The circuit for the high center brake light doesn’t pass through the multi-function switch. But the two rear brake light circuits do pass through the multi-function switch. If the high center brake light doesn’t work also, then it’s not the multi-function switch. But instead with the 15 amp stop fuse or the brake light switch above the brake pedal.


I have just one word to say to DIY: repair manual. http://www.autozone.com/autozone/repairinfo/repairguide/repairGuideContent.jsp?fromSearchPage=true&pageId=0900c152802180be&partName=Stop+Lamp+Switch&partId=0900c152802180be