While there are many causes of premature pad wear (see our previous articles here), stoplight switch adjustment can be a common one. In fact, it is common enough to have been included in various TSB’s over the years. This article will go into how to deal with this problem specifically.

Potential Spotlight Switch Problems

Incorrect stoplight switch adjustment can prevent the brake pedal from returning to a point that allows the cup seals in the master cylinder to open the vent ports as shown in the image below.

Vent Port diagram

The Vent ports allow for fluid expansion when the brakes get hot. If they are not open a residual pressure will be created due to the expanding fluid. The residual pressure will cause the calipers to apply the brake pads slightly and will result in premature pad wear.

Adjustable Stoplight Switche

Vehicles with adjustable stoplight switches will use one of two varieties, adjustable body type or self-ratcheting plunger type. Each is covered below:

Adjustable Body Type Stoplight Switch

  1. Verify complaint – if there is drag on both front wheels (or all four wheels on 4-wheel disc brake systems) start by loosening the master cylinder away from the vacuum booster by at least. “This step checks for anything in front of the master cylinder that would be preventing the master cylinder piston from fully releasing.
  2. If the wheels release the stoplight switch adjustment should be checked. Either follow the manufacturer’s procedures or continue with the next step.
  3. Deuplicate the wheel drag and then loosen the locknut on the stoplight switch.
Locknut style

4. Back the locknuts off to move the stoplight switch away from the brake pedal. Check the brake drag. If wheels released then stop light switch was source of problem. If wheels did not release see page 96 for more information.

5. Adjust the switch by using the locknuts to position it to a point where the plunger is depressed (verify by checking if brake lights are off) making sure pressure is not being applied to brake pedal that would prevent release.

Stoplight switch

Ratcheting Plunger Type (Image Below)

Ratchet Style

1. Verify complaint – if there is drag on both front wheels (or all four wheels on 4-wheel disc brake systems) start by loosening the master cylinder away from the vacuum booster by at least. This step checks for anything in front of the master cylinder that would be preventing the master cylinder pistons from fully releasing.

2. If the wheels release, the stoplight switch adjustment should be checked. Either follow the manufacturer’s procedures or continue with the next step.

3. Remove stoplight switch from mounting bracket. This usually involves rotating it 90 degrees in one direction or the other.

4. Pull the plunger out to its full length. (See below)

Ratchet style extended plunger

5. Insert the stoplight switch back into its bracket while holding the brake pedal in the full released position.

6. Verify proper operation of brake lights.

NOTE: There are other variations of switch adjustments used so it may be necessary to consult the service manual. Always verify proper brake light operation.

NOTE: Cruise control switches can also be the source of the same problem on certain vehicles.

More Tips and Tricks

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