brake light problems


Asked by asil Sep 17, 2010 at 12:51 AM about the 2001 Chevrolet Express

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

I have a 2001 chevy express van.  When you turn on the headlights the brake lights won't work.  Does anyone know what would cause this

15 Answers


Hi there Asil My name is Shandro from Bonaire in the Caribean . I had the same problem with my chevy express 3500 year 2001. After i did search and use my meter i find out that the problem was in the socket from the bulb and the ground or (-negative) was not working properly or better yet it wasn`t passing - negative to the bulb. After i did replace the socket for a good one the problem when away and the braking lights are working perfect now. Maybe you can have the same problem. what i found was that the socket had a burn sign at the side and when i by pass it with a wire from the side of the bulb to the chassi it work perfect so the problem was in the socket. So you can check your socket for this problem. Thanks and hope to be helpfull please reply and let me know if problem has been resolve.

11 out of 11 people think this is helpful.

Hi Shandro, Thank you for your information. I had a guy look at my bulb sockets and that was the problem. There was a short in the sockets. He fixed them and my lights work like they should. Thank you very much for your suggestion. I'm sorry it has taken me so long to let you know it worked. He repaired them over the Thanksgiving holiday. Thank you again, Asil

4 out of 4 people think this is helpful.

@ Chevy7121 Thanks a million! That is exactly what my problem was. Suggestion to anyone with the same issue with Chevy Express try this first. I cut off an 8 inch piece of wire stripped both ends leaving an inch of bare wire on each side. Wrap one end around the bottom bolt where the tail light housing bolts on and screw the nut on tight to ensure good connection. Pull the bulb out and put the other end of the wire between the bulb and socket and twist the bulb to lock it in place. The wire should be tightly secured between the brass at the bottom of bulb and socket. Have your buddy hit the brake and if you get the bright filament lit, you are good and of course test with head lights on as well. Solution is to purchase new Tail Light Harness.Thanks again.

5 out of 5 people think this is helpful.

The problem is dissimilar metal corrosion where the socket ring connector stem (which is made of steel) connects to the ground wire. You can fix the bulb socket by removing a small amount of plastic from the socket housing 1/2" to 3/4" back from where the ground wire enters the socket. Then, using silver solder & silver solder flux, you can silver braze the wire to the socket ring. It takes some patience as the plastic is quite tough to cut away. Take your time so you want damage the wire and socket ring stem inside. It will be obvious once you've remove just enough of the plastic housing. Scrape away any corrosion as best you can. Drip on the flux, fire up your HOT soldering tool (I use a butane), make a good shiny joint. Your fixed for good.

3 out of 3 people think this is helpful.

I was able to take the ground wire out of my wire harness at the bulb socket, clean it up, and reinstall it and have the lights work properly. The ground wires for both sides had gotten dirty/corroded and failed.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

I just had to replace both brake light bulb sockets for the same problem. For a safety issue like this, you would think Chevrolet would be required to do a recall. $35 per bulb at the local auto-parts store.

3 out of 3 people think this is helpful.
Fernando Martinez

I have a 2002 chevy express 3500 the middle (top) brake light goes on but my sides wont work, also when i turn on my front ligths the lower ligths come on but when i push my brakes the lower back ligths go off and still my brake ligts wont come on i check my positives and they have power something is wrong witTh my ground, can i bipassed atatching a cable from a screw to the socke? Is there a better solution?

15 out of 15 people think this is helpful.

I have a 2001 GMC Savana 2500 cargo van that had the same problem. With the headlights on, the brake lights don't function properly. I took the brakelight assembly out and looked at the bulbs. They were rusted in the sockets, which made any repair impossible, except to cut the wires to each socket and replace them. The parts store said the new sockets were $32.99 each, plus bulbs. But at AutoZone, they had a universal taillight socket for $15.99, and $5.99 per bulb. So it cost me $88 to fix the problem. After installing the new sockets, my brake lights function properly. No more headaches wondering when I was gonna get pulled over for not having all three brake lights operational. The ticket for that probably isn't cheap, compared to $88 for new brake light sockets. No more worries!

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

I followed hobbyaire's instructions and both side brake lights work great now. Don't spend the $35 per side for new sockets. Just cut away the plastic on the ground side of the socket housing until you see the ground connector on the wire and the socket connector. Solder them together and you shouldn't have any more problems. I used a weller soldering gun with the plastic cutting tip to melt away the plastic and expose the wire and socket connector, then soldered the connection (with the soldering tip). I sealed it all up with glue from a hot glue gun.

2 out of 2 people think this is helpful.

Found this thread which helped me correct the same problem on my 2002 Chevy Express 1500 LS Van. However, there's a faster, perhaps cheaper, and more permanent fix than replacing the sockets one at a time, or cutting away the plastic connector housing, soldering, and then hot gluing or caulking the repair back up. Assuming that my light issue was this same problem, I searched out replacement sockets on ebay. I also found replacement HARNESSES for this common problem - the same part is used on each side. The GM part number is 16530144 and the Dorman part number is 923-015. You can buy one for $15-20 and both for 25-30. For me that was the best way to go. I fixed the left side today with a NOS GM harness 16530144, and another GM one is on the way to fix the right side. Total expense for both sides = $23.


Oh, I forgot to mention, the short replacement harness comes with all 3 sockets and the regular connector that plugs into the harness inside the van. I found some corrosion in that connector when working on my problem, so part of my issue may have been there too.


Hi all I had my brake light go out on my 01 chevy 3500 van when I turned on my running lights, And when running lights where off brake light was dimm or would not work at all. I found this thread and read all your solutions about replaceing harness or soldering. well I did something a little easier I unwrapped the black electrical tape around the tan brake harness where wires enter harness. I pulled the black ground wire only out off harness and could see the courosian inside. I took a metal pick and scraped the inside clean and reinserted the wire and presto I had working brakes. If I moved the wire out the light would dim. or go out. so I pulled the black ground wire out again and put a small piece of wire inside the harness where wire makes contact to beef up contact point with ground wire. It takes a little finessing to slide the ground wire back into the harness because of xtra wire I inserted. Worked perfectly wrapped it back with electrical tape. Didn't cost me a penny. Keep in mind some harnesses may be more corroded than others mine had moderate corrosian. Hope this helps. p.s I got pulled over 4 this brake issue and promptly recieved a ticket. Just dont want the same thing to happen to someone else.


Thank you so much for your help. I was ready to go to an Electrical Repair shop and get screwed. Since you told me what was wrong, I went to Napa Auto Parts and they had an aftermarket part that fit exactly-even the wire colors matched! I stripped the ends and crimped butt connectors in and it works perfectly. Look for Pico part #5413PT "GM 90 degree Double Contact".


Forgot to add that the Pico part #5413PT is only $7.99!


I just cleaned the bulb sockets and all was back on. :-). Robert. Thanks

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