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im afraid the owners manual wouldn't be much help to you other than confirm what fuse is for brakes , no what u need is service manual , more to the point a wire diagram , but the switch you refer too is there clung right to the steel arm that comes down to your brake pedal , its got three wires to it and a plug to disconnect it , Me id use a five dollar auto test light avail from any auto parts store to go thru circuit one device at a time , fuse, switch, lights etc.
Sounds like the previous owner patched a hot wire to the rear lights instead of fixing the problem. Someone will need to get the factory wiring diagrams and start backtracking from the lights to the dash to find out what is wrong. You may need a shop manual to get the diagrams you will need. Most repair books do not go into wiring that deep for the DIY.
your power starts at the brake light fuse,check with a test light,then proceed to stop light switch on brake pedal under dash,one wire will be hot when when you check it with your test light, the other won't be until you press down the brake pedal then the power flows through to the second wire,if no power to second wire replace switch,if you have power remove tail light bulbs and check for power in side socket.
more than likely it will be a faulted brake light switch...located on your brake pedal itself.....closer towards the firewall.. easiest to buy a chiltons manual...or possibly ask your neighborhood auto repair shop for the wiring schematic for your brake light switch.....hope I helped!!!
You'll have to read through your owners manual. For some time Auto makers have been putting your taillights on the same fuse as your dash lights as an automatic indicator that they are out. I would read through your owners manual and decided where and what fuse will supply power to the taillights and dash lights. If indeed all fuses in connection with the dash lights are good I would suspect the automatic starter.