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Go Back   Bimmerfest - BMW Forums > BMW Model Discussions > 3 Series / 4 Series > E36 (1991 - 1999)

E36 (1991 - 1999)
The E36 chassis 3-Series BMW was a huge hit among driving enthusiasts from the first moment the car hit the pavement. The E36 won numerous awards over the years it was produced and is still a favorite of many BMW enthusiasts to this day! -- View the E36 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 03-21-2005, 10:29 PM
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SmootheEar SmootheEar is offline
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Mein Auto: 97 328i
e36 328i '1 Brake Light Failure' - intermittent

I have been intermittently getting a '1 brake light failure' message on my center console computer display. Here's a short history of how I approached the problem:

- First, I replaced bulb after intermittent messages.
- Same message appears a few weeks later with new bulb installed.
- Figure its a circuit prob, so I live with intermittent message for about 3 months.
- Cop pulls me over, I get ticket. Cops pulls me over again after I pull away, rips up ticket because light works after I restart car. (long story short)
- Now failure message is contantly on, new bulbs dont work anymore.

The light failure is the left brake light. I have searched the boards and found one such case posted, but no solution was provided. I assume this is a known problem with the car...

I am 19 and looking for a DIY solution, small amounts of soldering doesnt scare me.
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  #2  
Old 03-21-2005, 11:21 PM
Bmwcat Bmwcat is offline
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Light at the End of the Tunnel

Probably some corrosion on those bulb-holder contacts. Try some filing or sanding. You may need to bend them up gently with a needle-nose pliers. I went through the drill last summer, no messages since then...
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  #3  
Old 03-22-2005, 12:40 AM
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SmootheEar SmootheEar is offline
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I did what you said, but know i guess there's a bigger problem. There is a hole in the contact on the car where the contact on the bulb holder rests. Here are some pics.



And by the way, i had to pry the contact on the bulb holder out of the plastic. Apparently the contact had nearly fused with the plastic under it. You can also see how the metal on the bulb holder contact is thin and corroded. The other contacts on the car and the bulb are perfectly fine.

Does BMW sell the contact piece is on the car?

How much does a new bulb holder cost?

Why did this happen in the first place?
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Last edited by SmootheEar; 03-22-2005 at 12:48 AM.
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  #4  
Old 03-24-2005, 03:56 AM
my3rdbimmer my3rdbimmer is offline
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it happend cuz where ever a contact is made there tends to be a little coroson... usually because of a poor ground on the tail light ground chassis(the part in your picture) check all the grounding points (where ever they touch the frame or check the ground wire conection if theat is how it is set up)..and see if they are coroded too clean them up and reinstall your tail light see if that helps... the hole is no big deal.. the reason it got hot right there is that is where the resistance point is and resistance = heat try that and let me know how it works.. if it doesn't i have another trick that will... i haven't had this roblem yet on this my car but i did on my 535is
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  #5  
Old 03-24-2005, 02:22 PM
Bmwcat Bmwcat is offline
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Lights Out

Sounds like you're on the right track, Smoothie. Keep working on it. If you feel new bulb-holders are needed go for it. That small hole isnt a big deal. Some anti-corrosion spray will help, too. Good Luck!
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  #6  
Old 03-29-2005, 10:18 AM
cdnR328i cdnR328i is offline
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problem

I have had the exact same issue too. Will empty out trunk to have a look.

Usually, I've been switching bulbs from left to right but the message usually comes back on. Sometimes....it's over 3-5months before it comes up!!

Thanks! Is this common to E36's?

cdn328i
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  #7  
Old 03-29-2005, 04:26 PM
ImperialDuckM3 ImperialDuckM3 is offline
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Its an easy repair, you just need to replace the Brake Light switch. Here's a link on how to do it

http://www.geocities.com/karlkarlb/brakeswitch.html
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  #8  
Old 03-31-2005, 07:12 PM
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GREAT LINK!!

This is exactly the solution to the problem. Can't wait to get that part!

Because this is a common problem to most e36 cars, maybe someone should include a note of the fix and link in the sticky for e36 maintenance....
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  #9  
Old 03-31-2005, 08:30 PM
Bmwcat Bmwcat is offline
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Gimme a brake!

This is a common E36 problem. Usually the bulb holder makes a poor electrical contact, and that's trips the alarm. I havent had an alarm in 10 months after clean-up. Didnt have to replace the brake light switch, luckily!!
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  #10  
Old 04-01-2005, 08:37 AM
patelpk patelpk is offline
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cruise associated issue

so if the switch is what is bad, then in the link i noticed a picture of the cruise switch which is seperate. that means if my cruise is not disengaging as well as i don't get brake lights to come on, it is more then just the brake light.

does anyone know if they are associated and trigger off the brake light switch?

brakes work fine and cruise disengaged if i press down on the clutch.
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  #11  
Old 04-01-2005, 09:04 AM
Paul Frey Paul Frey is offline
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Thumbs up Brake light Switch replacement

I was having the same brake circuit failure notice on my display panel of my 1994 325ic. It was also intermittent and I quickly figured out that turning the car off and then restarting would reset the error message. When I was getting the message one time, I wanted to check to see if the brake lights still worked and they did. However, I did not feel confident that they were working when I noticed the message while driving. So, I saw your thread discussions and figured I'd try replacing the switch. This seemed like the logical start as the error message reset when the car was turned off and then on again.

I went to the dealership, but did not trust that the part was only around $10. The dealer did have it and I was one of the unlucky ones. The dealer had it for $37.88 plus tax. I purchased it and installed it this morning. All appears to be working well so far. However, due to the intermittent nature, I will likely have to drive it for a while to make sure that was actually the fix. If not, I'll try the bulb seats and clean them up.

Anyhow, replacing the switch was fairly easy. I printed off the instructions from the link within this thread and referrenced my trusty Haynes Manual as well. Between the two, it was pretty easy going. Hardest part is trying to get a good view up under the dash. Each instruction individually is a bit esoteric, but the pictures represent well what I ran across. The hardest part was getting the old switch out. I struggled for a bit trying to reach it easily. Good lighting makes a big difference. Also, I would not recommend breaking off the red/white plunger sleeve and knob. I started doing that and it seemed like I may bend the bracket. I found that it easily popped out when you depress the brake pedal hard/all the way and hold it in. Then pull out the red plunger sleeve. Next, simply depress one side of the retaining clips (look at the new part to get a good idea) and then simply wiggled the old switch out. You must keep the brake pedal depressed while doing this so that the red plunger sleeve does not get pushed back in to lock the switch in place. That is the hardest part.

Now the easy part. When you put the new switch in, again, depress the brake pedal all the way in and hold it. Snap the new switch in place. Install it in the same position as the old one (e.g. note the position of the old switch before popping it out). Mine had the rounded part of the connector assembly on the bottom/down side. If not replaced in the same position, you may just have to twist the wire connectors around, if they have enough slack to do so. Do not release the brake pedal until the switch is in place. Once the switch is snapped in, you must slowly release the brake pedal. This automatically adjusts the brake light switch. You will hear clicking sounds. If the pedal is released too quickly, the switch will be incorrectly adjusted. Once done, just reconnect the wiring harness and put back the dash cover. By the way, my dash cover had two wiring harnesses connected to the alarm speaker (Alarm to indicate lights on or keys in ignition). They easily snapped off and reconnected. Just an FYI. Good luck.
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  #12  
Old 03-01-2006, 08:52 PM
k1jin k1jin is offline
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dude, I am having an exactly same problem with my 96 328i. '1 break light failure'. It's
the driver's side break light not working. I took a look to see what's going on, and the metal contact part looked corroded exactly like the picture posted. Tomorrow I am going to grab a solder and attach a small plate that'll extend the metal contact part. Hope it'll solve the problem....
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  #13  
Old 03-01-2006, 09:26 PM
alphine325IS alphine325IS is offline
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I just ignore this message. It generally comes on after running my car hard for whatever reason. I figure if my break lights are working for now and the message doesn't stay on all the time it's all good.
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  #14  
Old 03-02-2006, 02:24 AM
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The corrosion occurs because you're getting moisture in the tail light assembly. Inspect it for cracks or openings. Don't forget that water runoff from the trunk lid flows down through that area.
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  #15  
Old 03-02-2006, 07:26 AM
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I am curently having the same issue.

The odd part is a friend alerted me to the fact that my brake lights were acting up. And at the time he told me I was not getting a warning on the OBC.

So I am concerned. Ill have a look this weekend. I don thtink it is the main switch as it would affect all the lights not just one.

Is there a way to determine if the switch is indeed the problem?
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  #16  
Old 03-03-2006, 07:33 PM
Bmwcat Bmwcat is offline
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I brake for _______. (fill in)

I got the dreaded brake light warning today after nearly two years of trouble-free driving. Indeed my left brake light was blown. After a quick trip to Kragen's I still had to clean some corrosion off the lamp contacts. All is well now.
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  #17  
Old 03-03-2006, 08:01 PM
Good Over Evil Good Over Evil is offline
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Doesn't seem to be the break switch in the threadstarter's case, anti corrosion spray would prolly do the trick, you'd probably have to buy a whole new light assembly if you wanted new contact metal..bastards!
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  #18  
Old 03-04-2006, 01:33 AM
JME36 JME36 is offline
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Whole new light assembly/lens is what finally fixed it for me -- after trying all of the above.
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  #19  
Old 09-12-2006, 08:13 AM
ddurbin ddurbin is offline
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break lights

the break light switch was my problem too, even tho i need to go to the chiropractor now from using my head and neck to depress the pedal, at least my break lights are working now!! =)
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  #20  
Old 07-12-2007, 12:12 AM
vull vull is offline
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i bought a new bulb holder from the scrapyard (it looked like new) and that fixed it for me..
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  #21  
Old 07-12-2007, 01:36 AM
xxvr6corradoxx xxvr6corradoxx is offline
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this is wat i did and it works fine. you see in those pictures up there that u posted. well see that 1 picture with that little metal piece that u circled.... take a flat head screw driver and list it not 2 much but lift it do it to both sides. and then check if it works. if it doesnt then buy the plastic piece that holds the bulb in place.
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  #22  
Old 07-12-2007, 04:37 AM
vull vull is offline
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PS: i recently had another tail light failure and this time it was the left-side tail-light, which was full of water
the water probably came in while i was washing my car - the bootlid cable-rubber or smth wasn't in place, so it left a nice big hole in the trunk
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  #23  
Old 07-12-2007, 05:58 AM
guitarliketom guitarliketom is offline
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same thing happened to me...i need to fix the sensor on the inside or whatever.

my story is different however.
cop didnt rip up the ticket

lame.
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  #24  
Old 07-12-2007, 06:16 AM
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PJBIMMER PJBIMMER is offline
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If you have brake light failure: replace the switch, its near the brake petal heres the DYI for it: http://www.geocities.com/karlkarlb/brakeswitch.html

If you get water in your tail light due to washing, there is an inner seal where this tail light presses against the body, you need to seal it with silicone.

Pete
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  #25  
Old 04-17-2008, 04:05 PM
rbmrroni rbmrroni is offline
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You guys are great. I've had the "1 Brake Light" for a week now. I've replaced bulbs and sockets and finally, I just filed the contact plate with a nail file and...PROBLEM SOLVED! You've taught this lady a lesson. THANX.
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