Looks like the truck won’t wait any longer

Thanks to everyone who responded to my request for advice about my truck’s electrical problems.  There seems to be a consensus about the brake light switch and its rotary actuator, a potential ground problem, and the multifunction switch.  I’ll have the local service people replace all necessary parts as a first attempt at solving the problem.

Unfortunately, tonight the brake lights won’t go off at all, despite multiple restarts, kicking the pedal, and votive offerings to the automotive gods (or demons – at this point I’m not sure which!).  I guess the battery will be drained by morning.  I suppose I’d better arrange to jump-start it tomorrow, drive it down to the workshop, and leave it there for them to start work on Tuesday morning.  I’ll rent something small and cheap for a few days to give me wheels.

I may yet consider buying a really low-cost commuter set of wheels to run around in, reserving the truck for longer trips and those occasions one really needs to carry a load.  If I can’t find a cheap used banger, I note that the Smart ForTwo can be leased for $99 a month, which is a phenomenal deal – I might even be able to write it off against my book income if I apply advertising logos to it.  I’d prefer something a bit larger, even though they’re more expensive to lease;  but if the lease can be a tax write-off, that might still be cost-effective.

I’ll let you know what the mechanic finds.



  1. Perhaps you should disconnect the battery to save the trouble of the jumpstart.

    Hope the problem gets solved.

    Best Regards

  2. +1 anon – disconnect one of the battery cables. Pulling the fuse might work, but if there's a short or crossed wires somewhere it might not. Disconnecting the battery is 100% sure

  3. For whatever it's worth, MrsZ and I just picked up a 10-year-old Toyota Camry for about $4500 after paying taxes. Big enough and comfortable enough, gets low-to-mid-30s with the cruise set. It's no beauty queen but I don't have to look at the outside. 🙂

  4. It's raining hard outside. I have forbidden Calmer Half from working with the truck's electrics in the rain, because I would rather have a dead battery than a dead husband.

    Jus' saying.

  5. Thanks to everyone who suggested disconnecting the battery, but it's peeing with rain outside right now – in fact, we're under a flash flood warning. I don't think I want to fiddle with electrics in a downpour like this. If it dries out before we go to bed, sure; otherwise, I'll jump it in the morning.

  6. It's probably too late, but I would still recommend disconnecting the batt. Allowing it to fully discharge substantially shortens its lifespan.

  7. If you intend keeping the truck, sure, disconnect the battery, not by removing one of the cables, but install an isolator switch in the cabin, – simple as that.

  8. My Ford Merkur had a wierd problem for a while. Every now and then when momma hit the brakes the car would shut down/off. Not good.
    Long story short, turned out that water had gotten into the tail light fixture and occasionally would short the whole system to ground when the brakes were hit at the proper speed to cause the water to slosh onto the hot wire.
    The reason for this somewhat long post is to suggest checking out the brake circuit front to back. Disconnect the bulb at the rear and have Momma hold the meter on it while you start wiggling wires and such. You will probably find an intermittant ground there someplace.

  9. Had a similar problem with my 1998 Corolla, 207k miles. The brake switch presses against a plastic pad and said pad breaks off predictably at around 200k. The pad is mounted in a hole that conveniently large enough for the switch actuator to pass through. Cost? $2.64 with tax.

  10. Peter:

    DO NOT LEASE A CAR! ! ! ! !

    There is no possible benefit to you. The tax benefits are largely imaginary and difficult to capture where they do exist. The low monthly lease payments will bite you HARD in the rear when the term is up. The dealer makes 2-4 times as much on a leased car as one they sell. There is a reason for this.

    You will have many more opportunities in life to make mistakes and learn hard lessons from them. Please take a word or two of advice from someone who once sold cars for a living and DO NOT EVER LEASE A CAR! ! ! !

    FormerFlyer, who is the VP in charge of purchasing for a $10M/yr company that owns 50+ cars, none of which are leased.

  11. @FormerFlyer: OK, thanks for the advice. If the truck can't be economically repaired, I'll see about finding a lower-cost used car. If my books continue to sell well, in a year or two I'll be able to save enough to consider something newer.

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