[SOLVED] Brake Locked Car Won’t Start

You get into your car, ready to take it out for a spin, but the handbrake is locked. Now your car won’t start. Why would the handbrake be locked? What could cause such a thing to happen? 

You might have also realized that your brakes are locked in the process of driving. You slammed down on the brakes and now they are locked — leaving you essentially stranded. 

Even though this problem seems strange, it is actually more common than you think and can be easily explained by a couple of factors. If you’re currently stranded, you should probably call AAA: but we have a whole article ready for you that’s going to get into the details of all the things that could’ve gone wrong and how to solve it!

Why is my brake locked and the car not starting? 

Here are a couple of reasons why your brake is locked and the car is not starting: 

  • Extreme cold weather conditions
  • Rust or Corrosion
  • Too much force
  • Long rest period

Maybe you aren’t struggling with your handbrake locked, but the regular brakes are making a grinding noise. In that case, we recommend you check out this article

Top 4 Reasons Why Brake Locked Car Won’t Start

We know it can be very frustrating, but it’s important to calmly work on identifying the issue so that you can work on the solution aspect of it. It’s much more common that your brake is stuck on the ON position rather than being frozen in the OFF position, but our reasons and solutions will target both of these options. 

Brake Locked Car Won’t Start

Follow the reasons and solutions that we provide in this article in the exact order that they’re listed in — since they have easy fixes and you can eliminate them as causes for the issue before you spend money on a consultation, replacement on repair. 

We will also let you know about a few precautionary measures you can take to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. 

Reason #1: Extreme Cold Weather Conditions

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but your handbrake can get locked due to extreme cold weather conditions. This also tends to be the case if you’ve left your car alone for a while, since leaving a car switched off means that it doesn’t get a chance to warm up consistently and can collect snow or ice. 

Car in cold weather

It’s also important that you don’t rule out this option even if you live somewhere where there is no snow or ice. That’s because regular winters have the power to jam up your handbrake as well. It’s a good idea to see this point through as a precautionary measure just so that you can ensure this is really not the problem at hand. Sometimes a little heat can make the world of a difference to your hand brake and get your car back in working order. 

So how do you try to fix a locked handbrake that is jammed due to cold weather conditions? 

Solution: The first thing to do is to switch on your engine. Invariably, you will have to let the car idle for a bit (since you obviously cannot start the car due to the locked handbrake). In some cases, just letting the car idle will produce enough heat inside the car to be able to loosen the handbrake.

If this doesn’t work, you can try to heat it up even further by revving your engine for short periods of time while also trying to disengage the handbrake with your hand. It’s important not to rev your engine for too long since that can be harmful to the engine. Just a little bit in short bursts can help any lingering ice or snow to melt and loosen up the handbrake. 

Reason #2: Rusted or Corroded Handbrake

Yes, you face your old enemy again: rust. Rust and corrosion tend to be the killer of just about any part in your car, but there’s no need to panic. It’s still quite unlikely for rust to get inside the handbrake unless it’s been left alone for a significant amount of time.

Rusted and broked handbrake

We have to caution you, however. Most of the time, if rust is to blame for a handbrake getting locked: then this means that there’s quite a bit of rust and corrosion in place and it might be wise to simply replace the entire part. 

Solution: It’s not impossible to try and remove the extra bit of rust. You can try to wiggle around the handbrake by engaging and disengaging to see if it’s moving even a little bit. You can also try to open up the handbrake by looking underneath the upholstery for any signs of rust or corrosion. Depending on the severity, it might be possible to clean the rust with some WD40 spray or even some powerful penetrating oil.

Solution: It’s not impossible to try and remove the extra bit of rust. You can try to wiggle around the handbrake by engaging and disengaging to see if it’s moving even a little bit. You can also try to open up the handbrake by looking underneath the upholstery for any signs of rust or corrosion. Depending on the severity, it might be possible to clean the rust with some WD40 spray or even some powerful penetrating oil. 

Servicing your car on a regular basis can help prevent unlikely parts, such as the handbrake, from catching rust. 

Reason #3: Too Much Force

We’re not calling you Hulk, but we also sort of are. Did you take out all your frustration on that handbrake recently? Too much brute force is an unlikely but still possible reason for why your handbrake got locked up and won’t budge. What you must have done is engaged the handbrake with too much force and effort. 

This can cause damage in another part of the car, such as the wheel pads. If the wheel pads have been damaged then this can cause the handbrake to stop working and seize up. Another part of the car that can have an influence on the handbrake is, of course, the brake cable. The brake cable is an integral part to the correct functioning of the handbrake itself. If the brake cable has snapped, the handbrake won’t work as its supposed to. This one is much more common of an explanation when the handbrake is locked up in the engaged position rather than the disengaged position. 

Solution: Unfortunately, it’s not advisable to simply replace the brake cables or wheel pads. You will have to replace the entire handbrake system in your car and it’s best to get this done by a professional. Try to be a little more gentle next time.

Reason #4: Long rest period

The handbrake can also simply get jammed if you’ve left your car unattended for a long time, switched off. Part of the reason why this happens is because of cold weather or rust, but it has also known to be possible when neither of the two is found underneath the handbrake. 

If you know that you’re going to be leaving your vehicle for more than a few months in a garage, consider jacking it up or suspending it so that you don’t have to engage the handbrake. This can prevent the handbrake from getting locked up. 

Conclusion 

All the problems which we’ve mentioned, extreme cold weather, rust, rest period or brute force are all easily rectified solutions. The only case where you might have to replace your handbrake system is if there is too much rust or you’ve managed to break the brake cable with too much force. Even then, this is still a relatively inexpensive part to replace, so we doubt this should cause you too much worry or trouble. 

Good luck!

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