Do LED Brake Lights Need Resistors: The Beginner’s Guide

Do LED Brake Lights Need Resistors


LED lights are an absolute blessing in disguise.  While they may not seem like a big deal, they’re efficient and overall environment friendly. Thus using them on brake lights may seem like a great idea.

However, questions like “Do LED brake lights need resistors”, may bother you.

Yes, LED brake lights do need resistors. This is because the electrical system of your car is designed for the original high power brake lights. When you take those out and replace them with much more energy-efficient LED lights, it can overheat or the fuse may melt. To avoid such possibilities, a resistor is used to maintain the flow of current.

That was just a small glimpse of what we have in store for you. If that piqued your interest, you’ll love what we have in store for you. So let’s see what the fuss is all about. 

Do LED lights need resistors?

Let’s combat the simple questions first. You may wonder if regular LED lights need resistors too, or if the mechanism is different when it comes to brake lights.

For this, let’s take you back to a mini science class. LED or light-emitting diode lights flash up when it receives an electric current. 

Now the most basic setup it takes to create a flow of current, requires a power source, led light, and a resistor. 

If you understand the use of a resistor in this simple setup, it gets pretty easy to gauge whether you’d need one in a brake light.

What does a resistor do?

In short, a resistor decreases or controls the flow of electric currents in a given circuit. In other words, a resistor provides a sort of resistance, just like a dam controls the flow of water.

What would happen if there was no dam in the first place? Well, there would be no regulation in the flow of the river water. 

The same concept applies here.

Without a resistor, the current may overflow and cause a short circuit.  

Do LED brake lights need resistors?

By now, you probably have a slight idea about the role of resistors in a circuit. 

But if you’re still unclear on how this concept applies to your brake lights, we’ve got you covered. 

Why do you need resistors with LED brake lights?

When you give a thought to it, you’ll find that LED Brake lights are not all that different from the everyday LED lights you see. 

In the end, both of them are based on a flow of current. 

Now a car already comes with OEM (original equipment manufacturer ) brake lights. So the inbuilt electrical system of the vehicle is designed for this.

When you want to replace the lights with LED, you may face a few turns down the road. How you ask?

In case you remember, LED lights are pretty energy efficient. That is of course a benefit, but your car circuit isn’t designed for such a low power device.

So as to avoid the LED light from getting burnt out, we need to install a resistor, which decreases the flow of current and stabilizes it for the LED bulb. 

Without the resistor, the LED light will not only burn out but may also cause hyper flashing issues. In other words, you’ll have a flashing super bright light, which may get you into trouble with authorities.

Should you install LED lights with resistors?

We get it; installing LED lights on your car seems pretty cool, and makes you stand out from the crowd.

That by itself sounds lucrative enough. But is replacing your original light equipment a wise idea? Here are some pointers to help you make up your mind. 

1. Non-compatible electrical system

You may already know by now, but a car’s electrical system is not meant for low power LED light.

Now a new car’s system is overlooked by professionals, down to every last detail. Unless you’re an expert, tampering with any bit could lead to disastrous results. 

Since you can’t directly just replace the lights with LED ones, you must make some alterations, which may not be the best decision in the long run. 

2. Issues with your warranty

Since you tampered with the vehicle, this could also lead to a partial or complete loss of your warranty. 

Even when you go for car servicing, you may be turned down by a few experts, since they won’t want to deal with any repercussions. 

3.Resistors can catch fire

Here again, you’ll need the proper know-how, when you want to install resistors correctly.

Or else, an incorrectly sized resistor could have huge potential risk.

Due to overheating, the resistor could even catch fire by melting the insulation and burning up your whole vehicle!

All hope isn’t lost, this doesn’t mean that you can’t put LED lights on your vehicle. Just keep in mind that these could be the hazards you could face, and act accordingly.

The ball is in your court!


Question: Can I connect a LED directly to a battery?

Answer: Yes you can. For instance, a 5 volt LED can be easily connected to a nine-volt battery. However, you will need a resistor here too. This is because a resistor will drop down the 9 volts of the battery to 5 volts so that the LED light can be compatible.  

Question: Do resistors go on positive or negative side of LEDs?

Answer: The placement of the resistor doesn’t matter much in this case. Since the resistor is used to only limit the flow of current and protect the LED, it could be placed on either the positive or negative side of the LED.


That’s all from us folks. We hope you found your answer.

If you have any residual doubts about whether LED brake lights need resistors, don’t forget to ask in the comments.

Until then, stay safe and happy!

Alex Dantas

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