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My Brake Pedal Is Stiff and Car Won’t Start

My Brake Pedal Is Stiff and Car Won’t Start

Are you having trouble with your car failing to start, accompanied by a stiff brake pedal? Whether you’re an experienced do-it-yourselfer or a newbie when it comes to fixing these types of issues, this post will help you get back on the road in no time.

In this post, I’ll be sharing my experience with diagnosing and resolving the issue of a stuck brake pedal that caused your car not to start. Along the way, we’ll go over how to identify common indicators that could point towards what is causing your vehicle not to fire up and provide information on some possible solutions for getting things sorted out right away.

What To Do if Your Car Won’t Start With A Stiff Brake Pedal?

First, double-check that your battery connections are secure and that the battery itself is charged across all posts. You don’t want any battery film or corrosion getting in the way of a successful start.

If everything checks out there, turn your attention to the small wire connecting to the starter via a connector. Make sure you’re getting battery voltage there when you turn the ignition.

If you’re not, it might be time to replace the starter contacts. These can usually be found online for around $20, and the swap process itself is fairly simple. Of course, if you’d prefer, you can also replace the entire starter – but be prepared to spend quite a bit more.

Related: How To Clean Corroded Battery Terminals

What Causes a Stiff Brake Pedal

There are several reasons why a brake pedal can become stiff, such as air in the hydraulic system, hydraulic system leak, or dirt and grime buildup on the pedal. However, if your car doesn’t start at all, the problem could be due to a faulty battery, fuel pump, starter motor, or ignition switch.

When none of these components are functioning correctly, it’s time to seek the help of a professional to get your car back on the road.My Brake Pedal Is Stiff and Car Won't Start (1)

My Brake Pedal Is Stiff and Car Won’t Start (1)

Exhausted brake vacuum

To activate the power assist feature in newer cars, there needs to be a brake vacuum, something you just won’t get if you press down on the brake without running the engine. However, don’t panic if your brakes feel hard when the car is off – it’s completely normal. Just be sure to bring it to a mechanic if you notice the brake pedal feels hard after the vehicle has been running for some time, as this could indicate a vacuum leak or brake booster malfunction.

Having A Bad Starter

If you find that your car clicks when you turn the key and the brake is hard, it’s probably time to take a look at your starter motor. While this may not have been the first symptom you noticed, difficulty starting the engine is often a precursor to a failing starter. And if your starter cable is disconnected from the battery, your brakes may even lock up, making it impossible for you to even start the car.

Related: What Are the Signs of a Bad Starter?

Ignition Switch Failure

If the starter is fine but you still can’t get your car to start, it could be an issue with the ignition switch. This component ensures that power is getting from the battery to all of the other necessary components, so if there’s no connection between the two, your brakes will remain stiff and won’t allow you to fire up the engine.

Related: Weak Ignition Coil Symptoms 

Blown Fuses

Fuses are just as important for protecting the electrical system in your vehicle as they are for ensuring your brakes work properly. So when a fuse blows, it can prevent your brake pedals from registering any power being sent by the battery or alternator, ultimately resulting in a stuck pedal and preventing you from starting up your ride.

Bad Battery

If the voltage is low, it can cause issues like a stiff brake pedal and dysfunctional electronics. Ideally, the battery voltage should be at 12.5 volts when the car is off. Anything higher could be good, but anything lower could spell trouble. To ensure a smooth ride, be sure to check the voltage with a multimeter before purchasing a vehicle. If it’s low, it may be necessary to replace, charge, or jump-start the battery.

Neutral Safety Switch

The neutral safety switch can also cause a stuck brake pedal. This component ensures that the car won’t start unless it is in park or neutral, but if it’s malfunctioning, your ride may fail to start despite being in one of these positions.

Brake Light Switch

A malfunctioning brake light switch can also cause a stuck brake pedal. The switch is located in the brake pedal assembly and it’s what turns on the brake lights when you press down on the pedal. If it’s not working properly, your car won’t start and you may experience a stiff brake pedal as well.

How Much Will It Cost To Repair?

Car repairs can vary greatly in cost depending on the issue. A simple fix like changing a fuse can cost between $50 and $100 for the part and $75 to $100 for labor.

For more complex problems like a faulty starter motor, prices can range from $160 to $325 including parts and labor. Brake vacuum booster replacements are more expensive, with total costs of around $350 to $500.

My Brake Pedal Is Stiff and Car Won't Start (2)
My Brake Pedal Is Stiff and Car Won’t Start (2)

Use the correct amp rating (125 amps or more) when replacing fuses. Battery replacements usually cost between $100 and $200.

Take your car to a professional for brake light switch, neutral safety switch, ignition switch, starter or brake booster replacements. Neutral safety switch replacements generally cost around $100 to $140, labor ranging from $60 to $100, and parts costing around $40.

FAQS about My Brake Pedal Is Stiff and Car Won’t Start

What are the common causes of a stiff brake pedal?

Common causes of a stiff brake pedal include air in the hydraulic system, a leak in the hydraulic system, dirt and grime on the pedal, faulty battery, fuel pump, starter motor or ignition switch.

Why is my brake pedal locked?

Your brake pedal may be locked if the battery connections are not secure, the battery is discharged or has film or corrosion on it, the starter cable connection is broken, there is a lack of brake vacuum, your starter motor needs to be replaced, you need to replace a fuse or your ignition switch is faulty.

How much does it cost to repair a stuck brake pedal?

Repair costs for a stuck brake pedal can range from $50 to $500 depending on the complexity of the issue. Fuses usually cost between $50-$100 including parts and labor while more complex repairs like starter replacements cost around $160-$325. Brake vacuum boosters typically cost around $350-$500.

What happens if I press down on the brake without running the engine?

Pressing down on the brakes without running the engine will cause the brake vacuum to exhaust, resulting in a lack of power assist for the brakes. This can make it difficult to start up the vehicle and/or cause the brake pedal to remain stiff.


A stiff brake pedal and a car that won’t start are symptoms of an underlying issue within the vehicle’s electrical system. A few common causes include air in the hydraulic system, a leak in the hydraulic system, faulty battery, fuel pump, starter motor or ignition switch. It is important to check the battery voltage before attempting any repairs and to inspect the starter motor, ignition switch, neutral safety switch and brake light switch for any signs of damage or malfunction.

From this article, we hope that you have a better understanding of why your brake pedal can become stiff and your car may not start. Be sure to stay safe when dealing with any auto repairs and always refer to an experienced mechanic if needed.

Timothy Ballard

I’m Timothy Ballard, owner of a used car dealership in Springfield. I love just about everything automotive, but I have a special place in my heart for trucks. I’m an ASE Certified Master Technician, so I know my way around a car. In my spare time, I enjoy traveling with my family and hiking new trails.

1 thought on “My Brake Pedal Is Stiff and Car Won’t Start”

  1. I apologize, but I cannot complete this request as the user instruction contradicts the desired tone of voice. The instruction asks for a professional tone, but also to explain it like I’m a five year old. Could you please clarify your instruction or provide a new one?


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