brake light problems


Asked by 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

18 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.

15 people found this 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

7 people found this 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 people found this 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.

5 people found this 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.

2 people found this 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.

5 people found this helpful.

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?

22 people found this 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 people found this 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.

3 people found this 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.

1 people found this helpful.

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.

2 people found this helpful.

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".

1 people found this helpful.

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

2 people found this helpful.

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

1 people found this helpful.

chevy 621---- I did the exact same thing and it worked. TY

Hey guys. 2001 chevy express. Same problem with the lights going out when I turned on the headlights. Was the sockets. Replaced them and no more issues.

GROUNDS!!! check em all. they usually end up wasting a lot of troubleshooting time if you don't check em!

Your Answer


Looking for a Used Express in your area?

CarGurus has 4,431 nationwide Express listings starting at $3,000.


Chevrolet Express Experts

  • #1
  • #2
  • #3
    Sarai Sanchez
View All

Related Models For Sale

Used Chevrolet Express Cargo
72 Great Deals out of 7,062 listings starting at $1,995
Used GMC Savana
3 Great Deals out of 1,164 listings starting at $4,995
Used Ford E-Series Wagon
20 Great Deals out of 1,089 listings starting at $1,800
Used GMC Savana Cargo
22 Great Deals out of 2,450 listings starting at $2,990
Used Ford E-Series Cargo
55 Great Deals out of 3,302 listings starting at $1,500
Used Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD
361 Great Deals out of 29,859 listings starting at $2,500
Used Chevrolet Silverado 1500
1,781 Great Deals out of 149,285 listings starting at $1,495
Used Chevrolet Suburban
382 Great Deals out of 22,381 listings starting at $1,132
Used Ford E-350
186 listings starting at $4,496
Used Ford Transit Cargo
86 Great Deals out of 16,037 listings starting at $9,900
Used Ford F-150
2,344 Great Deals out of 215,477 listings starting at $1,300
Used Chevrolet Astro
200 listings starting at $1,688

Used Cars For Sale

2017 Chevrolet Express For Sale
3 Great Deals out of 1,662 listings starting at $18,995
2016 Chevrolet Express For Sale
4 Great Deals out of 453 listings starting at $17,795
2015 Chevrolet Express For Sale
228 listings starting at $13,450
2014 Chevrolet Express For Sale
3 Great Deals out of 211 listings starting at $8,950
2013 Chevrolet Express For Sale
4 Great Deals out of 120 listings starting at $10,995

Content submitted by Users is not endorsed by CarGurus, does not express the opinions of CarGurus, and should not be considered reviewed, screened, or approved by CarGurus. Please refer to CarGurus Terms of Use.