Brake Light and License Plate Light Problem - Subaru Outback - Subaru Outback Forums

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Old 12-10-2008, 09:11 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Unhappy Brake Light and License Plate Light Problem

I have a 2001 Outback Limited Wagon 2.5l (I've had it since it was new, it's still going strong at 200,000+miles).

There is no history of any electrical problems, until now.

My license plate lights and the tail lights in the liftgate have stopped working.

I've studied the wiring diagrams for this car and here's what I've determined:

Fuse No. 5 feeds the circuit that sends power to (1) the tail lights/parking lights in the rear quarterpanels of the body (I will call these the "Outside Taillights"), (2) the taillight wire on the trailer connector, (3) the tail lights on the liftgate (I will call these the "Inside Taillights") and (4) the license plate lights. When the lights are turned on, there is power at the Outside Taillights and the trailer connection, but none at the Inside Taillights or the license plate lights. All other electrical items in the liftgate (brakelights, backup lights, windshield wiper) work properly.

I've identified the wire that brings the taillight power to the liftgate--it is the red-black wire in the group of wires that comes into the liftgate at the upper right (when looking at the car from the back). This wire (and the group of wires it's in) goes down the right side of the liftgate and then goes across the middle of the liftgate towards the left, and the red-black taillight wire goes along this route in the bunch of wires and about 2/3 of the way across to the left side it splits into 4 (one wire going to each of the left and right Inside Taillights and one to each of the license plate lights). This junction is not broken, i.e. the incoming taillight wire and the outgoing wires are all properly connected. There is no power at this point when the lights are on.

Obviously, somewhere between Fuse No. 5 and all of the taillights there is a split in the wire where power is split between the wire(s) that go to the Outside Taillights and the trailer connector (which are on the body of the car) and the wire that goes to the Inside Taillights and the license plate lights (which are on the liftgate), and I need to find where that is.

My Haynes manual shows a "generic" wiring diagram of the "typical" 2000-2004 Subaru and it shows that there is a 20-pin connector between Fuse No. 5 and the taillights, and that may be the source of the problem (or it may be where the split occurs).

Does anyone know where the split in the taillight wire is and/or where the 20-pin connector on the taillight circuit is located, and does anyone have any other thoughts regarding the problem I'm having?

Thanks much.
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Old 12-27-2008, 01:03 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Cool Problem Identified and Solved--Advice for Others to Avoid Same

Well, after examining things very thoroughly I found my problem and was able to repair it.

I removed both ends of the rubber "sleeve" that protects the wire harness as it passes from the roof to the liftgate (located on the right side of the car). I found that the red-black wire (which is the one that powers the taillights and the license plate lights) had been severed near where it came out of the roof. I also saw that the red-blue wire (which my wiring diagram indicates powers the rear window defogger) had been frayed and would probably end up being severed as well. The problem was caused by the fact that as the wiring leaves the roof and passes through the hole in the roof that is there for that purpose, the protective electrical tape that is around the wire harness ends BEFORE the wiring comes out of the roof. As a result, as the liftgate is lifted and closed thousands of times, the wires coming out of the roof, without any protection, are rubbing against the edge of the protective sleeve or the roof.

I put some tape around the red-blue wire, then used a butt connector (with the plastic coating removed) to reconnect the red-black wire and put electrical tape around that, and then put electrical tape around the entire wire harness in the area where it appeared vulnerable to the friction that had most likely caused the break in the red-black wire; I will be monitoring this; I highly recommend that you examine the wiring as it comes out of the roof on your car and if the protective electrical tape does not extend to the hole in the roof, that you add some electrical tape to cover the wire harness to a point after it comes out of the roof.
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Old 12-01-2010, 12:21 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Since this is a similar topic...here's my issue. 2001 OB Wagon Base AT 4cyl, 142K miles.

When headlights are on, rear corner red lights are on, rear red(brake?) lights are on - so far so good.

Depress the brake, the corner lights are on, but the left red brake light goes off. Right one and center(on the glass) is on. I know the bulb is not bad as it was just on when brake was not pressed. So what's happening here? I can drive as corner lights still act as brake lights (and the middle one on the glass works too).

But it is puzzling...What's happening here?
Thanks
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Old 12-01-2010, 12:31 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I had the same issue in my legacy. In my case a hand truck put in the trunk with the sharp blade sticking up cut the bundle of wires to the hatch. My guess is that over the miles and use you have broken a couple of wires that run into the lift gate.
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Old 12-01-2010, 12:34 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Thanks. I am assuming those wires in accordeon rubber sleeve? I will check those - how do you remove the sleeve? Also, at what point were your wires cut - I do not see any wires anywhere in cargo area, so how could they be cut?
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Old 12-01-2010, 12:42 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chilanzar View Post
Thanks. I am assuming those wires in accordeon rubber sleeve? I will check those - how do you remove the sleeve? Also, at what point were your wires cut - I do not see any wires anywhere in cargo area, so how could they be cut?
All the hatch vehicle's I own or have owned had a wire bundle at the top of the hatch yes in plastic shielding. Logic would say that the wire bundle will eventually experience a break where the wires are moved around or bent back and forth the most. You can open up the shielding and do a visual check and even use a probe to see if your getting power at that point. If not your issue is between that and the fuse box - if your getting power ie then the wire issue is between that point and the bulb.

For me the break was easy to spot the hand truck had severed all of them and the shield right where it ran between the car and the trunk lid. I simply cleaned up the wires and used good quality crimp style wire connectors to fix it. Worked fine for another 6yrs before we sold the car.
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Old 12-01-2010, 02:54 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
When headlights are on, rear corner red lights are on, rear red(brake?) lights are on - so far so good.

Depress the brake, the corner lights are on, but the left red brake light goes off. Right one and center(on the glass) is on.
When the headlight switch is on, the rear tail lights should be on, but the brake lights should not.

Check the bulbs. There could be a broken filament in one of them that is shorting the tail light circuit to the brake light circuit.
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Old 12-01-2010, 03:29 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Thanks, although I have replaced all the bulbs with new ones just couple of weeks ago, I will recheck which lights are on/off when and post later the exact situation. Do these bulbs have double filaments (meaning that although it seems to be lit, it's the other filament that's supposed to light up when brake is pressed which may be broken?)
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Old 12-01-2010, 04:44 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Yes, the tail and brake (stop) lights in the outside rear corners (combination light) are dual filament bulbs; one filament acts as the tail light and the other the brake.
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Old 02-22-2011, 12:37 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Hello, I have a 2001 Outback that now has no running or break lights... can you help?
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