Nissan Altima Not Starting Brake Pedal Stiff: 14 Reasons Why

The engine not starting pedals is commonplace in many car models, but it seems Nissan Altima suffers from it more often than most.

By the time of my writing, the brand still has not yet given a proper guideline on how to address Nissan Altima not starting brake pedal stiff.

But no worry, you have my team by your side; keep scrolling to learn the likely culprits of this headache-inducing dilemma.

Why Is Nissan Altima Not Starting Brake Pedal Stiff? 

2018 nissan altima won't start brake locked

Nissan Altima won’t start brake locked due to faulty starters, ignition switch problems, worn or lost vacuum, cracked vacuum hoses, blown fuses, dead batteries, bad neutral safety switches, or seized calipers.

Check out my full list here:

Dead Starter Motors

The Nissan clicking with hardened brakes indicates that you should begin your troubleshooting process with its bad starter motor.

And the louder the noises, the worse your situation has turned into.

Check whether the starter cables are properly connected to the batteries. Fix the lackluster wires if there are any, then try starting your car again.

Ignition Switch Problems

Ignition switches are another potential cause you should keep an eye out for, often manifesting in:

  • Serious car stalls
  • Hard brake buttons
  • Flickering panel lights
  • Slow engine cranking
  • Malfunctioning emergency brake lights

Though the problem is more common in older Nissan Altima models, modern drivers still should not rule it out completely.

Worn-Out Brake Vacuum

Broken brake vacuum boosters or vacuum leaks also give Altima users quite a headache.

To clarify, strong brake vacuums are often spotted when you push the brakes with the engine turned off, causing the brakes to go hard; that is normal and nothing to worry about.

But gas pedals that feel stiff despite your attempts to start the engine are another story altogether.

In that case, I suggest contacting a mechanic to identify vacuum leaks and check the brake boosters.

Cracked Vacuum Hoses

Brake boosters are connected to your engine bay via the vacuum hoses, through which a vacuum is created using passed airflow.

Hence, when that vacuum is lost (leading to stiff brake actions), broken hoses are often to blame, stemming from cracks and dry rots at the rubber’s connecting points.

Listen closely, and you might hear some hissing noises while the brakes are being applied, likely because of the leakage hole on the vacuum hose.

Fortunately, when my brake pedal is stiff and car won’t start Nissan due to cracked hoses, their fixes are neither complicated nor expensive (labor costs counted).

I only needed to seek hose replacement services.

Blown Fuses

Have you spotted a blown or missing spark? No wonder your Nissan Altima won’t start brake hard; anything wrong with the wiring will stop the power from getting to the engine and car starter.

  • Ensure your Nissan fuse box contains all the fuses, none missing
  • Check whether there are bad fuses that cannot connect well

Replace/fix the bad fuses, tighten the battery-terminal connections, and get your Altima car started again.

Switching for For Safety Mode in Neutral

push to start brake locked

On automatic transmission models, the designated purpose of a safety neutral switch is to inform the computer of your shifter’s location.

From there, it makes sure your car starts in neutral or park only. So when this switch breaks down, your vehicle obviously cannot spring to life! 

To confirm that the switch truly malfunctions, try starting your Nissan Altima while relocating the shifters to numerous places (ex: “Low,” “Reverse,” or “Dry.”)

If your car does rev up in one of those positions rather than the usual “Park” or “Neutral,” the neutral switch needs instant replacement.

Dead Batteries

Inspect the chargers next; they are also a very likely source of your problems.

When turned off, a car must still have at least 12.5V in the battery; any number lower than that renders the car dead on the spot despite all your vain attempts!

Symptoms of dead battery issues are rather obvious: while the dashboard lights and other add-ons still operate, you will find it impossible to activate door locks, radios, or electrical components.

So what to do now?

Check battery voltages with power probes or voltmeters. If the power is indeed below the manufacturer’s recommended number, you can:

  • Charge the battery (the obvious solution)
  • Replace it 
  • Jump-start the vehicle (if you have no chargers around)

Faulty Brake Light Switches

Brake light switches flick on the car’s brake lights while also sending signals to inform your computer whether the pedals are being pushed.

So observe how the brake lamp goes. If it fails to illuminate after you press the pedal, press harder. Still doesn’t work? Then the chances of the light switch going bad are high.

Seized Calipers

It is not exaggerating to crown brake calipers as the most critical components in the braking system; they push the braking pads against rotors whenever you try to start or stop the Nissan Altima.

However, excessive usage sometimes causes their connection screws to get stuck, keeping you from proper pad engagement and positioning.

Stiff, hard brake pedals are only to be expected under those circumstances.

Unstucking the calipers yourself requires more expertise and keen observation than other tasks. It would be safer to trust professionals or repair shops for the job.

Sludges In The Brake Lines

Have you checked the brake boosters and can confirm 100% it is not the reason behind the rigid brake pedals?

Then brace yourself for the sludges in the braking lines; that is the only logical explanation left.

Brake fluids naturally absorb moisturizers that enter the system from air exposure. Over long periods of driving, excessive water builds up sludges, limiting most fluid movements.

That explains why all the usual braking flexes have been stripped off, giving you an uncomfortable, stiff feel.

Faulty Check Valves

Each brake booster arrives with check valves to protect brake lines from air bubbles that might otherwise dampen your braking endeavors.

Over time, the valves break down due to overheating or too much driving, paving the way for intruding atmospheric pressure.

As a result, your brake boosters cannot maintain the required functional vacuum for operation and delivers less hydraulic pressure into the wheel cylinder and brake caliper.

The same happened to me once; that is why my 2018 Nissan Altima won’t start brake locked!

Wrong Brake Pedal Ratios

“Brake pedal ratios” refer to the connection between the pedal’s length and pivot points.

Improper distribution severely reduces the efficiency of the master cylinder and brake booster combinations, decreasing your brake pressure.

With such a serious disruption, hard brakes are inevitable.

Bad Master Cylinders

Thanks to the master cylinders, brake pressure produced by your pedal can be driven properly to the rear and front wheel, passing through hydraulic fluid in the brake lines with little to no drama.

So once the master cylinders deteriorate or are near their lifespans, brakes will get locked up whenever you attempt to start the car.

Wrong Distance For The Rear Drum Brake

Like most braking compartments, the rear brakes also worsen over time, causing the gap between them and the shoe to become uncalibrated.

There is no way to apply proper pressures to your brake without correct calibrations, hence the hard pedals.

What If The Nissan Altima Brakes Were Hard Then Suddenly Went Spongy?

push to start car won't start brake locked nissan

It is hard to pinpoint the exact source of the problems. You might experience at least one of the following:

  • Brake line leaks (you can hear squeaking noises, too).
  • Pressure loss inside the master cylinders
  • Failed master cylinder sealing
  • Too much air exposure into the system

Patch the brake leaking holes or bleed the brake to remove all excess air. Use your foot to push to start brake locked in case they go hard again.


The Nissan Altima not starting brake pedal stiff could result from numerous reasons – but mostly issues within the braking system.

Follow the brake tricks I have discussed above to push to start car won’t start brake locked Nissan.

Even if you manage to start the car later on without fixing anything, it would be better to address your hard pedal problems down to their roots.

Imagine what would happen if these brake locks return a couple of months later on highways or mid-driving!

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