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How Does the RAM ProMaster Not Have a Third Brake Light?

I’ve recently made a surprising discovery: The RAM ProMaster, a van that’s designed to carry around virtually anything that has ever been made, including some of your larger highway bridges, does not have a third brake light. It has two brake lights on the back, like everything else, but it doesn’t have a third brake light. I’m serious. It doesn’t exist. See the RAM ProMaster models for sale near you

If you take a look at the photos I’ve included above, you’ll probably think I’m lying. After all, in these photos you can clearly see the two brake lights on both sides, and you can also clearly see the strip of red lights above the doors. One of those must be a brake light, right? But they aren’t. Those lights are mandated by the government for tall vehicles, and the ProMaster is certainly that; they turn on when the headlights turn on to warn — I don’t know, maybe birds? — that a tall vehicle is coming.

Those lights do not light up when you push the brakes. Indeed, not even the little one on that black piece that sticks out directly in the middle. That piece simply includes the backup camera, which is now (or soon to be) federally mandated; the light mounted on the piece doesn’t do anything except light up when the headlights are on like the rest of ’em. You may not believe me, but take a long look the next time you see a ProMaster. Not a ProMaster City, the smaller version, which does have a third brake light — but an actual ProMaster. Watch it brake and you’ll agree: there’s no third brake light. This is in spite of the fact that I even found press images of ProMasters with third brake lights — but on the road, they don’t have them.

This concerns me, as a citizen of our great nation, because in the 1980s it was mandated that all vehicles must have three brake lights: Two fixed lights on either side of the rear, and one third brake light, then called the “CHMSL,” for “Center High-Mounted Stop Light.” The ProMaster flies in the face of this rule, and I will not stand for this. Actually, I almost certainly will stand for it, but I’ll also write an article about it.

Now, for a while I figured the ProMaster was exempt from this third brake light regulation because it’s a cargo van, and maybe commercial vehicles don’t need the extra light. But then I saw a few Chevy Express and GMC Savana cargo vans, and they have third brake lights — and those are probably the finest examples of cost-cutting on the market today. If General Motors could’ve ditched the third brake light in those vans, they would’ve. So why does the ProMaster get away with it? Maybe because it’s taller? Maybe the dozen ProMasters I’ve seen simply have a burnt-out third brake light? Maybe no one ever bothered to check?

If any of you know the answer, I’m eager to find out. Otherwise, we have a true automotive mystery on our hands. One which we will all forget about in a few hours. Find a RAM ProMaster for sale

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Doug Demuro
Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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  1. No third brake light “CHMSL”? Hell let”s address the fact that the brake light lens is small and incandescent bulbs are not even bright enough! Let alone no LED in 2019? But that’s ok because I’m sure FCA will cover my rear end collision deductible. 

  2. Va state inspector here. As far as the rules go in VA any vehicle built after 1993 needs a third brake light unless it is over 10000 lbs or 80 inches wide. The official width of these cargo vans is listed as 80.7 inches. So they just barely make the exception. 

  3. In Australia they’re not required for commercial vehicles – this includes pickup trucks and vans. They were required from 1989 for passenger cars, and 1996 for SUVs. However, with that said, almost all trucks and vans now have them fitted, however, even as recently as 10 years ago, this wasn’t the case.

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