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I can almost 100% guaranty the turn signal switch is the problem. Power for the brake lights starts at the brake switch. power then splits from there and the third brake light gets power directly from the brake switch. Since the turn signal and the brake lights are on the same bulb power for the brake lights is routed through the turn signal switch. the switch depending on what position it is in will allow brake power or turn signal power to there respective left or right brake/turn bulbs.
If you hold your foot on the brake pedal and wiggle the turn signal and or play with the hazard switch the brake lights will almost always intermittently start to work. this will confirm a bad turn signal switch which is pretty common on GM vehicle with this style setup.
Sounds like a turn signal switch. Earlier models would use the same bulb for the brake and turn signal. The turn signal switch will interrupt power to the brake light and route the signal to either the left or right bulb depending on with way you where turning. Usually you can wiggle the turn signal switch and get the brake light to work momentarily when this is the problem.
Newer vehicles use a lighting module that looks for inputs from the turn signal switch and brake pedal switch and then decides where to send power. This module is also know to go bad.
I had the same problem! I used a piece of wood to keep the break pedal depressed and then started to remove one of the break lamps and to my surprise it came on! Same thing on the other side. So I did not seat (bottom out) the lamps in their sockets and both break light are now working properly. I had a similar issue last spring but that time only one light was out. I put in a new bulb and it still did not work so I messed around with it a little more and it started working. Never did figure it out until now. Hope this helps!
The brake light in the rear window and the main brake lights are on a different circuit. After the signal leaves the activating switch on the brake pedal arm, it splits. One circuit goes straight to the high mount brake light, the other goes into the turn signal switch. If the rear turn signals work but the brake lights don't, suspect the turn signal switch, not the bulbs and wires. Better to check this before removing and checking bulbs, wires and fuses.
It is a common problem with the W-body cars like Lumina, Monte Carlo, Buick Regal, Olds Cutlass and Pontiac Grand Prix. (Approx 94-99 models). Part number is GM 190005031 (w/o radio accessory control) or 19005032 (with radio controls)