Rear Brake Light Toyota Camry 1996

Hi All,

I’m sure this question is a no brainer for all of you in CarTalk land but I’m a bit of a newbie. Anyways, I have a Toyota Camry 1996, and the right rear brake light works ONLY when my head lights are off. As soon as I turn on the head lights the right rear brake light stops working. Any ideas why this would happen? The right rear brake light has a new bulb and the connection looks good with exception of alittle rust, which I cleaned with Deoxit. Any help is appreciated.



are you absolutely sure you installed to correct bulb?

sometimes it can be the simplest things that give the most trouble.

Ah, so you’re suggesting that the bulb might not be rated for the power difference between (brakes with no head lights) and (brakes with headlights on). Is this a large difference? I imagine it wouldn’t lose much power running the headlights in conjunction with the rear brake lights.

I guess I’m alittle confused since the brake lights WORK unless I turn on the head lights. But just to be sure I will double check by swaping for the bulb in the left rear brake light since that does work.

Any other ideas. Thanks by the way.

some bulbs have the double prong, with side by side points, others have the prongs slightly off set, some can be inserted the wrong way to make strange things happen. sometimes they fit in, enough to connect, but it is not correct.

you don’t say, but was this happening with the old bulb? or was it just burnt out?

So I tried a bulb from the working left rear light and I have the same problem. While I took the left rear bulb out I compared it to the one I’m using and they are the exact same.

When I first noticed the problem it wasn’t until after I changed the dead bulb. I guess this means I don’t know if it was happening before the old one went out. This is very bizzare!


You have two elements in this bulb, one for brakes and one for the taillights. If you have the lens cover off, you will see that both filaments light up when you use the brakes, but neither light up when the headlights or parking lights are on. With the lights off, current is flowing from the brake light switch thru both elements and to the lighting circuit in the dash and ultimately to ground.

When you turn on the headlights, you applying 12 volts to both elements, but in your case no current flows because it can’t find a ground. That corrosion you cleaned up was probably blocking the ground path, and though you tried to remove it, you still haven’t established a path to ground for current flow. You may have to remove the socket, clean it with scotch bright and clean around the mounting area also. Then reattach the socket.

Your socket may have a third wire dedicated to provide ground for the socket. If thats the case, trace that wire and make sure it has a good connection at its ground point. The ground point is where there is a terminal that is screwed into a metal part of the body of the vehicle. It could also be that you need to clean out the socket some more, you could be loosing the connection inside the socket, especially if water or moisture got into the taillight assembly. Use a pencil eraser to clean up the contacts inside the socket and if its a metal bodied socket, use scotch bright rolled up to clean out the inside surface of the socket body.

Wondering if anyone has solved this problem? I am having the exact same issue with a 96 Camry (left brake light does not work when the headlights are on). We tried cleaning out the socket and changing the bulb, but to no avail. We don’t know how to check the ground wire. Any help with the ground wire issue or other thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks in advance!