Simple, low-cost brake check device can result in big savings

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Self-checking brake light device
Brake Light Buddy brake light tester model BLB-002 works on most semis with floor-mounted brake pedal assemblies. Two other models are available to accommodate additional trucks.
Brake Light Buddy

Last year’s Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA) International Roadcheck took over 2,000 trucks off the road because of light issues.

Brake lamp failures, a common problem that’s easy for troopers to catch, are not always easy to spot ahead of time because testing can often involve two people: one to press the brakes and another to watch from behind to ensure the lights work.

Brake Light Buddy for pickupsSimple enough. The author didn't have to chase anyone down to test the brakes in his 2014 Toyota Tundra. Brake Light Buddy model BLB-003 shown here is designed for pickups and will also work on most cars. Just don't use it to bleed the brakes. The warning sticker states that the device is intended for testing a brake light switch only.Commercial Carrier JournalSome drivers have been known to back up to a building, hit the brakes and check their mirrors to see if they can catch a red glow reflecting off the structure.

Unless an automated pre-trip light inspection actually checks the functionality of a brake light switch, there’s still risk for failure and a costly out-of-service violation.

Brake Light Buddy gets around all that with simple leverage. The device, which resembles a sledgehammer, hooks onto a brake pedal while weight at the end of the lever causes the pedal to drop down and engage the brake light switch.

My first test? A 2015 Toyota Prius that my daughter uses as her daily driver. After repairing the top center brake light, my next step was to check the light but as is fairly typical around the Quimby household there was no one around to press the pedal.

Since I had the Brake Light Buddy version for ½- and ¾-ton pickups I wasn’t so sure that it would work on the wee little Prius. Thankfully it did and my daughter was delighted to see that Dad had fixed the light. The dents are another story.

[Related: Highway patrol offers Roadcheck tips from inspection pit]

Next up was the 2014 Toyota Tundra. Same result. No problem. Brake Light Buddy hooked onto the pedal in a second or two, pushed it down and lit up the lights. Done.

Brake Light Buddy sales manager Gus Stewart told me that the company offers three models: one for semis with floor-mounted brake pedals, one for semis and heavy-duty pickups with a hanging pedal and one for ½- and ¾-ton pickups which, as I found out, will also work on cars.

Just don’t use Brake Light Buddy to bleed the brakes. The device is intended to exert enough pressure to activate the brake switch, not purge air from hydraulic brake lines.

The patented Brake Light Buddy is made in the U.S. with American steel and comes with a lifetime warranty. A powder-coated finish helps keep the device looking good. The BLB-003 model I tested weighed in at roughly 7 pounds and stored nicely under the seat.

“We feel that anyone that owns a trailer that it’s a good idea to check your brake lights and this is just a quick, easy simple way to do it,” Stewart said.

Stewart cautions against relying solely on automated pre-trip light tests available in newer model trucks. While it may be fine for testing the functionality of the bulb itself, it’s the brake pedal switch that he says can go unnoticed with such tests.

“The bulb is usually the most common failure but the switch is still a failure point and the only way to test it properly is to mechanically depress the brake pedal,” he said. 

Brake Light Buddy provides some extra insurance at a price well under a $100. Light failures may always rank in CVSA’s top 5 for out-of-service violations but having a tool on board to prevent those costly violations can certainly improve the odds.