The brake pedal is stiff and the car won’t start. How to fix it?

That’s a terrific experience you certainly don’t want to have when you are about to start driving.

Sometimes, a car’s brake pedal can turn stiff, causing a few issues that could easily send you into panic mode. It’s said that this problem could prevent a car from starting. But does a stiff brake pedal cause the car not to start?

To be frank, a stiff brake pedal will not prevent the car from starting per se. However, a specific underlying cause can be responsible for both problems(a stiff brake pedal and an engine that won’t start). There is a link between the two problems.

The Link Between A Car That Won’t Start And a Stiff Brake Pedal

If the brake pedal is stiff, but the engine can start, none of the following issues might be responsible for it. However, if it is stiff and the engine won’t start either, one of them might be the link between the two problems;

  • A faulty starter cable or one that has accidentally disconnected from the battery terminal.
  • A faulty ignition switch.

A Faulty Starter Cable Or One That Has Accidentally Disconnected from the Battery Terminal

Sometimes, your brake pedal can get stiff and, at the same time, your engine can have trouble starting due to a starter cable that has detached from the battery terminal.

This is especially true if it’s a push-start automatic car. As the name suggests, the starter cable gives the engine the power it needs to start before it(the engine) can run on its own.

It can also affect the functionality of your braking system, causing it to lock if it becomes faulty or accidentally disconnects from the battery terminal. This can cause the brake pedal to become unusually hard to press down.

A Faulty Ignition Switch

The ignition switch actuates all the necessary electrical systems in a car so that it can start and function as needed. Notably, some of these systems are associated with some components of the braking system such as the electro-hydraulic brake booster.

Due to its critical role, the ignition switch, if faulty, can quickly cause the ignition system to fail and the braking system to lock. If this occurs, your brake pedal might become stiff whereas your engine may have trouble starting.

How To Solve This Problem?

To fix your stiff brake pedal and to restore your car’s starting system, you’ll need to diagnose and fix the root cause of the two problems. You already know the common culprits listed above;

a. How to know that you have a faulty starter cable; or one that has accidentally disconnected from the battery terminal.

  • The dashboard warning lights come on when you try to start the car, but the engine doesn’t crank.
  • The engine cranks over very slowly.
  • You hear a “clicking” noise when you try to turn the ignition key.
  • Smoke comes out of the engine when you try to start the car.

A possible fix: Connect the starter back to the battery terminal if disconnected, or replace it if faulty.

b. How to know that you have a faulty ignition switch;

  • The starter motor is silent.
  • The engine won’t start.
  • The engine starts and stalls suddenly.
  • Problems turning the ignition key.
  • Intermittent loss of the functionalities of your car’s lighting and electrical accessories.

A possible fix: replace your faulty ignition switch.

How Much Does It Cost To Fix A Car That Won’t Start And A Stiff Brake Pedal?

The answer depends on the specific underlying cause of this problem. For example, if it’s a starter cable that has accidentally detached from the battery terminal, all you need to do is to connect it back to the terminal.

You can do that by yourself for free. As for a damaged starter cable, you’ll need to find a new cable. On average, a replacement cable can cost as little as $15 or as much as over $100, depending on the quality and other things.

You can buy one to replace your faulty cable on your own. If it’s a faulty ignition switch, on the other hand, you’ll need to find a new switch to replace the old one.

An ignition switch goes for $106—$127 on average, again depending on the quality and other things.


Your car’s starting system and braking system are somehow interconnected. That’s why a single underlying issue can quickly incapacitate them both.

For example, the brake pedal may become stiff and the car may have trouble starting. This may occur due to a faulty starter cable or one that has accidentally disconnected from the battery terminal, or a faulty ignition switch.

Fixing or replacing the cable can help resolve the problems. So can replacing the ignition switch.

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