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Brake Lights barely visible - without engaging brake pedal?

Discussion in 'Stock 1995 - 2001 Explorers' started by DeepEmissions, July 4, 2013.

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    1. DeepEmissions

      DeepEmissions Member

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      Please check out my video I just posted. I just noticed it tonight and the LED's have been in the truck since Saturday.
      Although the Duralast Gold 850CCA battery has been out sitting on the trickle charger as I was working on other items like this and that. So that could explain why I never really noticed it.
      I'm wondering if anyone had ever experienced this before by just replacing your incandescent bulbs with LED's, or could I have knocked something when I was diagnosing my Ford Vehicle Security System issue?

      FYI: I did go by Advanced to do a battery/charging system stress test.
      according to their very elaborate battery tester, my battery was just fine, but it was a little low on power and wouldn't complete the test until the battery was fully charged.
      Charging system on the truck is near perfect 13.95v under load (Lights, A/C on high, etc...)
      Starting components showed no drag and tested fine.

      I felt this test was necessary because when I started to tear down my truck for the Lower Thermostat Housing upgrade mod, I disconnected my battery and placed it on trickle charge as I always do. When I did though, I noticed the charge was only at 85%, could've been the battery but I wanted to be sure before I buy a new one.
      Tonight, battery still connected, after I seen my brake lights were visible, I decided that leaving on trickle charge isn't a bad idea, I would like to get to work in the AM and I couldn't be certain when this issue first started.
      Tonight (at the posted video) the battery charger only read 75% charge.
       
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    3. DjDom

      DjDom Moderator Emeritus

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      By brake lights, do you mean the standard tail lights, the ones that turn on via the switch, and not the brake pedal/brake lights.

      If that's the case, then you have the wrong LEDs.
      The rear tail light is a bulb with 2 filaments. 1 is a dimmer filament which is for tail lights. One is a brighter filament for the brake lights.
      They operate together.
      You may have gotten LEDs that act as 1 filament, therefore, they aren't going to work the same way.
       
    4. firepop5

      firepop5 Active Member

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      Have you checked the switch on the brake pedal? There should be no power to the brake lights if the pedal is not depressed. This may have been happening with the old bulbs as well.
       
    5. DeepEmissions

      DeepEmissions Member

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      Brake Lights, as in they do not light up without the pedal depressed.
      I'm certain it's the brake lights because of the third brake light being on and flickering with the Driver's and Passenger's Brake light.


      Well, in comparison to my turn signal LED's, the blade of the LED that snaps into the Brake light socket has four contact points. The Turn signals only have 2 contact points. I've had someone stand behind my truck and verify my running lights and Brake lights come on properly.
      That was one of the first things I looked at.


      I have not checked the switch on the brake pedal, worst part is... I've been meaning to change it. Most of the time, a very light tap (as if to come out of Cruise Control) on the brake pedal will not activate my brake lights.
      Other instances would be someone telling me that I should stop throwing my truck in neutral at stop lights otherwise I'll be buying a new trans. I asked them what they meant and they said that I would 'Let-Off' the brake when I hit stop lights. I don't do that. Even the amount of pressure applied to the pedal to keep the truck from moving at a stoplight isn't enough to keep my brake lights on.
      It is possible the incandescent bulbs were able to waste the very small amount of voltage without actually lighting up. Meanwhile the LED's use way less energy to light, so even just a couple hundred milliwatts is enough to make them activate, although very dim.

      Keep in mind also, The video may show the tail lights lighting up about as bright as my running lights/parking lights. But they are nowhere near that bright! Maybe about 10-15% as luminous as the LED's on running lights.

      Google+ DeepEmissions Ford Explorer Build Album

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    6. DeepEmissions

      DeepEmissions Member

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      Update!

      Hey Guys,
      Just wanted to update...
      I am as confused as ever.
      As seen in the Original Video my brake lights appear to be coming on and "strobing", although very dim.
      Now, I had stopped at a point where I thought this issue may have been figured out, but I am mistaken. I figured it must be the brake light switch on the brake foot control. I have confirmed that it is not that.
      Even with the controller unplugged, my lights are still doing this.
      I am at a loss, I'm almost certain it is my brakes because my 3rd brake light is doing the same thing.
       
    7. DeepEmissions

      DeepEmissions Member

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      Update

      Hope everyone is having a good evening, I'm digging my old thread out because I'm FINALLY able to start working on my truck some more.
      Today, I spent 3-4 hours pulling every single blade fuse out if my Explorer manual said it was related to anything about brakes.
      Each blade fuse, both Mini and even the Maxi's under the hood, were removed, one at a time, and the taillights were rechecked by walking to the back of the truck and seeing the "strobing" action of the taillights and 3rd brake light.
      I removed every single fuse, kept them out, but yet these lights were still flickering.
      Now clearly this explains my thought of a 'possible' small electrical drain I've always thought the truck had.
      But I removed every single fuse for brakes! How is this possible???
      Maybe Parking Lights are the culprit; Okay but my 3rd brake light shouldn't be flickering with the taillights if it's the parking lights. One solution I haven't tried is swapping bulbs from front to back (if they're the same bulb, I didn't look) and then see if my front blinkers do the same oddball thing.

      I'm really worried this will constitute ripping my dash and firewall apart to pull out my main harness to rectify this situation, at that point I almost feel like I should just give a call to Painless! for a new wiring harness... IF they made one.

      Does ANYONE have any other thoughts on this????
      I'm just about stumped!
       
    8. DeepEmissions

      DeepEmissions Member

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      I agree completely on this! But I believe in this situation I have a +12v issue, based on what I found today in the above post.
       
    9. DeepEmissions

      DeepEmissions Member

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      Dusk Video

      Video at dusk showing flicker of the lights.
      Made the video a while ago, forgot to add it here.

       
    10. DeepEmissions

      DeepEmissions Member

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    11. mic98xlt

      mic98xlt Elite Explorer

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      About a year ago i had a similar situation on my 98X. I brought new Silver Star rear brake lights to go with my new Smoked after market tail lights. I somehow figured the more expensive Silver Star tail lights were better for rear visibility. They lite up fine and I was happy. About 8 months latter someone mentioned my upper third brake light (LED) was on and rear faint plus strobing. I couldn't see it during the day without covering the light and it was indeed there. At night it was clearly visible.

      Since I had changed the brake light combo bulbs with the new Silver Stars less than a year, I assumed they still were good. I too started over thinking what could be wrong and did all kind of testing including the brake pedal switch being defective. To make a long story short, it was simply my two new Silver Star combo brake lights had burnt out almost at the exact same time (both went bad almost simultaneously). With the two lower brake light burnt out, it left a open circuit in the brake light system that manifested itself to the upper third brake being on ever so faintly and the same strobing effect I observed in your video. In your video all three brake lights strobe but mine's was only the third brake light.

      I believe if you are using the LED tail lights they are acting like a "open circuit" which will cause the brake circuit to "freak out" and cause that strobe and faint effect. In a regular brake light circuit, the brake bulb filament is actually a load (resistance or resistor type voltage device). If you don't have a Load resistor on the rear brake lights, this could be your culprit. Maybe I'm wrong but I know how long it took me to figure out what was wrong with my third brake light staying on, and how it ended up being an easy fix once I simply replaced both Silver Star bulbs which only had the brake light filaments burnt out. The second filament circuit were fine and still good.

      Hope this helps a little. Good luck.
       
    12. DeepEmissions

      DeepEmissions Member

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      To test this theory, I swapped the two LED's from the rear and two filament bulbs from the front left, the faint strobing effect stopped.

      Now, here's my problem with this; this further proves something is wrong.
      If an electrical circuit is Open, that means the (+) and the (-) are not completing their round with a load in the middle.
      Without the load, only means I shouldn't see this effect, and removing the LED's still causes the 3rd brake light to flicker, telling me that there is slight power leaking into the brake light circuit.
      Now, if I were to ONLY see this flicker with the LED's plugged in (completing the circuit) and the faint strobing would stop if I removed one of the LED's, then it would kinda make sense.
      Also, to see if the front would do the same, I removed ALL bulbs for the parking and turn signals and only set 1 LED in, mimicking an open circuit with an LED load, nothing. I tried various configurations of the 2 rear LED's up front and never duplicated what I see in the rear.

      My 2005 Dodge Dakota wouldn't accept LED's without load resistors, this including my trailer LED's when it was plugged in. The Dakota had a circuit board behind the rear light assembly. The LED was causing the circuit board to think that the brake light was out, because their wasn't a load (or just a much smaller load) and the computer would activate a light on the gauge cluster letting me know a light was out.

      If a load resistor would solve my problems, then so be it! But I'd love for someone else, anyone, to duplicate what I have... This can't be right.

      I'd love for MustangP51 to chime in, he seems to be the LED GOD around here! lol
       
    13. mic98xlt

      mic98xlt Elite Explorer

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      If you were to take out both rear tail lights brake bulbs, you will definitely get the upper third brake light to come on faintly and strobe. The third brake light is a LED type bulb (98-'01) and works in the same parallel circuit as the brake lights. The other exterior lights from the factory are filament type and do not have similar mixed hybrid exterior lights as the rear brake lights.

      All I know for sure is that if the rear brake lights do not have the normal load from the two brake filaments, they will cause electrical gremlins that can be seen in the third brake light which freaks out and faintly comes on and strobes.

      I also don't know exactly which LEDs you have in your brake lights, but they may technically be part of a closed circuit (small load), but their internal load (resistance) may be interpreted as being an open circuit. IMHO
       
      Last edited: November 10, 2013
    14. MustangP51

      MustangP51 Well-Known Member

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      It sounds like its just stray voltage. Since LEDs require very small amounts of current to run its likely that there is a component in the circuit that allows a small amount of current past in its open state. When the incandescent bulbs were in the circuit they created enough load to eat the extra current, but not enough current to run the filaments. If you say that you didn't have the flickering in the 3rd brake light when you put the bulbs back in then I would say there is no problem, add some load resistors, or keep the incandescent bulbs (my recommendation, that way if anyone rear-ends you, they have no legal leg to stand on for not being at fault)

      That being said, to put your mind at ease.
      Put a meter on one of the bulb sockets and keep the LED in the other socket. A digital meter might show some unstable low voltage readings. Pull the LED out of the other socket and replace it with a bulb, my guess is the meter will flat line at zero with the bulb in the circuit. This would confirm its just stray voltage

      Note: when you test with the LED in the socket and if you also get a reading of zero volts there is also no problem, the readings can vary depending on what meter you use. The meter itself could create enough load/resistance to eat the voltage in the circuit, or the meter may not be sensitive enough to pick up the voltage.

      Hope it helps
       
    15. DeepEmissions

      DeepEmissions Member

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      Yeah, second day in a row I have forgotten my meter at the office, I'll test it quick when I get to work and see what comes up. It really is weird to me to have something like this happen, usually when I have a leak in power it's something you can't see, not something everyone sees lol.
      Thanks to everyone who gave their two cents, hopefully I get this figured out soon.

      I guess load resistors is a fix, but it kinda feels like bubblegum holding together a CV axle to me, somethings bound to break.
      Anyways, I'll report back my findings. Thanks.
       

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