How to Replace a Brake Light Switch on a 1997 Ford Escort Station Wagon

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You can easily replace the brake-light switch on the Escort Station Wagon right at home in 30 minutes or less. The brake-light switch does many jobs for the vehicle besides illuminating the brake lights when the pedal is depressed. Damage to the switch can cause problems with the car’s cruise-control system. A faulty brake-light switch on an automatic transmission won’t release the safety lock that allows you to shift the car into gear. Replacing the brake-light switch only requires a few simple tools. To locate the switch, follow the brake pedal’s metal shaft to the top of its connecting point under the dashboard. The brake-light switch mounts directly behind the brake-pedal shaft.

Things You'll Need

  • Socket wrench set
  • Black electrical tape
  • Black fine-tip permanent marker
  • Needle-nosed pliers
  • Replacement brake-light switch
  • 3/4-inch putty knife

Removal

  • Raise the hood on the station wagon and locate the car battery. Disconnect the negative cable from its post with a socket wrench. Wrap the metal terminal end of the cable completely with electrical tape. Lay the cable down and away from any other metal, including the engine. The negative cable on the battery has a minus symbol next to its post on top of the battery case.

  • Open the driver-side door and position yourself so that you can see under the dashboard. Locate the brake-light switch at the top of the brake pedal’s shaft bar. Disconnect the wiring harness from the back of the brake-light switch.

  • Draw a line on the threads of the brake-light switch at the base of its lock nut with a fine-tip black permanent marker. Don’t draw the line behind the lock nut; instead draw it on the pedal’s shaft-bar side of the brake-light switch. Allow the marking line to dry for a few minutes.

  • Remove the locking nut from the brake-light switch with a pair of needle-nosed pliers. After the locking nuts is loosened, completely removing it by hand may prove easier. With the lock nut removed, slide the brake-light switch out of its mounting position and out of the Escort.

Installation

  • Compare both old and new brake-light switches to assure they’re the same part. Make sure the wiring-harness plugs match as well. Place both brake-light switches side by side against a flat, level surface. Draw a line on the new switch’s threads in the exact spot as the old brake-light switch. If you have to count the threads do so, but the lines must match exactly.

  • Place the new brake-light switch back into it mounting position under the dashboard. Return the locking nut to secure the switch. Tighten the lock nut until the line on the switch meets the base of the lock nut on the pedal’s shaft-bar side.

  • Check the brake-light switch for proper clearance from the brake pedal’s shaft bar. Slide a 3/4-inch putty knife blade between the brake pedal’s shaft bar and the brake-light switch’s contact. The putty knife should fit between the two freely without force.

  • Plug the brake-light switch’s wiring harness back up. Remove the tape from the negative battery cable and secure it back to its post on the battery. Check the brake-light switch to assure it is functioning correctly.

Tips & Warnings

  • Over-tightening the lock nut for the brake-light switch will cause the brake lights to stay on constantly. Not tightening the lock nut enough may cause a delay before the brake lights come on and may cause a serious car accident. The putty knife makes this replacement procedure fail-safe.

References

  • "Chilton's Ford Escort/Tracer 1991-00 rRpair Manual"; Alan Ahlstrand; 2009
  • "Today's Technician: Automotive Brake Systems"; Clifton E. Owen; 2003
  • "Chilton Brake Specifications and Service 1990-2000"; Chilton; 2000
  • "Automotive Wiring and Electrical Systems Workbench Series"; Tony Candela; 2009
  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images
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