Question about 1996 Ford Contour

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96 Ford Contour - The Classic Rear Brake lights don't work...

I've got a '96 Ford Contour with rear brake lights that don't light when the brake pedal is depressed. The middle brake light does work properly so I'm pretty sure the brake pedal switch, and brake light fuse is fine.

The following is probably more than you want to know:

0) The turn signals (left or right) cease to work when the brake pedal is depressed. That is to say the dash indicator light quits flashing but stays on/lit when the pedal is depressed.

1) When the brake pedal is "not" depressed, The interior instrument/dash turn signal indicators and exterior "front" signal lights work properly, but no matter which signal (right or left) is turned on, the rear left and middle brake lights flash at least until the brake pedal is applied and as mentioned the flashing ceases.

2) Originally the problem was with the right rear brake light not working (left rear and middle rear lights worked when the brake pedal is depressed).

Swapping the tail light bulbs did not move the problem, the right rear brake light would still not light, left rear brake light still worked fine with the swapped bulbs. I "ohmed" out the filaments of each bulb, there were no opens. I also tried new bulbs, but the problem remained.

3) Both rear tail lights work when headlights are turned on.

For those who don't know, a single "tail-light" bulb (for my Contour) has two filaments, one for the parking light, and one for the brake light. The socket for the bulb has three wires, 1) power to the parking light, 2) power to the brake light, and 3) a common (shared) ground path for both the parking light and brake light.

Since the parking lights work, we can assume the ground wire/connection for the brake light is good, because of the sharing of the ground path just mentioned.

4) With the brake pedal depressed, I measured about 12 Volts across the right rear brake light socket contact and the socket's ground contact (no bulb installed), but the voltage dropped to near 0 Volts when the brake light bulb is connected to the right rear socket contacts. I tried the same experiment by connecting my meter directly to the wires (vs. socket contacts), hoping I had a bad connection between wires and the right rear socket, but indications are the wire connections to the socket are not the problem.
The 12 Volts with no bulb, dropping to 0 Volts when the bulb is connected could indicate a high resistive connection some where in the path of the power (12V) to the right rear brake light, such as a corroded connector.

4) About this time you're saying it's got to be the multifunction switch. I opened up the switch and cleaned all the contacts, and also bought a new switch, but the problems/symptoms stayed the same no matter which switch I used.

5) I Downloaded the exterior light schematic which may not be accurate, because it shows the sole power supply to the brake lights is routed through the multifunction switch. Yet I can remove the multifunction switch completely, and the left rear and middle brake lights will light when I depress the brake pedal!! There could be a "sneak" path to those lights via the wiring that controls the (automatic transmission) gear shift lock. See next item #6.

6) This car is designed so that you must depress the brake pedal to shift out of Park. Sometimes when the turn signal is on, with the brake pedal "not" depressed, a clicking sound comes from the gear shift consol. The clicking sound is in sync with the flashing of the turn signal. The sound is coming from the mechanism that controls the shift lock and the clicking sound is probably an indication of a brake light wire connection problem withing the shift consol... but who knows.

7) NEXT ON THE AGENDA: I will attempt to follow the power wire for the right rear brake light to see if there is an obvious corroded connector/connection. If not found I'll dig into the shift console to see if there is a connection issue there. Any other ideas?? -Besides dumping the car! :)

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  • Master
  • 414 Answers

No disrespect but....
Check the book and make sure you are using the proper bulbs on all sides. (3957 looks just like 3956 but wont work right)

Posted on Jun 23, 2009


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Posted on Jan 02, 2017

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SOURCE: engine ceased VW 2004 PAssat

Let them see the car.

Did you check to see if the vehicle actually had oil in it? Sometimes small shops forget to put oil in or forget to put the oil plug back on.

It may be less expensive to go to your local corner garage at first, but now look at what it is going to cost you.

You may be able to find this engine in the scrap or junkyard. Look for a car that has rear end damage. This indicates that the engine is still good and none of the seals have been shifted because of the damage. Front end damage may cause seals to shift and have an oil leak

Posted on Jul 08, 2009

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