Brake Stuck - Can't Move Forward

I was sick for a while so my car was just lying in the driveway for about a month and a half. Today, I tried to drive my car for the first time. It looks like the brake is stuck. :frowning: I put the car in Drive, Neutral, and Reverse. The car initially wouldn’t move at all.

After reading some suggestions online, I tried switching between Drive and Reverse multiple times. Finally, I was able to move the car in Reverse. (I didn’t realize that brakes will stop a specific direction.) The car will also move slowly in Neutral as my driveway has a slight slant.

If I put the car in Drive, I can get the car to inch forward if I press the gas pedal sufficiently enough. But, there is a sound coming from the rear.

I don’t know much about cars but it seems like the brake is stuck from the lack of use. Is there a way to unstuck the brake?

Thanks for any help!

6 weeks should not seize most rotors. You could jack up 1 wheel will it spin?

if the car will move in neutral, than this may not be a brake issue. How easily will it move in neutral? which way will it roll in neutral? Check all your underhood fluids, specifically the transmission fluid.

when you park, do you apply your parking brake?

I suspect it was left with the parking brake on which is the rear brakes. Crawl under and try pulling on the brake cable to free it up. Otherwise you’ll need to get it to a shop.


Hey, Eddo!

The car is on a driveway that’s slanted backward, so when I put it in Neutral, the car slowly moves backward. It moves smoothly, so it doesn’t feel like anything is hindering the car at all.

When I parked, I didn’t apply my parking brake.

When I was trying to “unstuck” the brakes, I pressed the parking brake on and off a few times. I also pressed the brake pedal a few times when I started my car to see if that would help. Neither seems to make a difference.

I’ll try to get my kid to jack up the car. (I had surgery so I can’t do it myself.) And, I’ll see if the wheel will spin.

If the vehicle has rear drum brakes, the leading brake shoe (front) is the self generating brake shoe.


That means when the shoe comes in contact with the brake drum, it applies the brake shoe tighter to the brake drum.

And that’s why the vehicle won’t move forward

If it has drum brakes, try backing off the shoes so the drum can be removed.


Thanks for the help.

How do I back off the shoes? Do you mean simply drive the car in reverse for a short distance?

I had a work truck and a truck I was selling. The work truck the brakes would rust and lock after a couple of days, gave it a lot of gas and did not care if anything broke. My truck enough oomph and it would go. I think driving forward is fine. My trucks brakes unlocked after enough oomph but had a pulsing pedal due to rust on the rotor or drums I think, not sure if rear on an 03 ranger was drum or disc, and not sure if it was front or rear causing the issue. I drove it maybe 30 miles and it healed itself with many hard stops along the way. Hope all works out for you as it did for me.

How to adjust rear brake shoes to drum on many Toyota vehicles - YouTube

What model year is your Highlander? Does it have disc brakes on all four wheels, or configured as front disc, rear drums? You need that basic info before any diy attempts to make any adjustments or repair. If you don’t have that information, best to let a shop handle this problem for you. I expect the shop fee for this problem will be pretty reasonable.

My guess, your truck is equipped w/rear shoes, and the shoes have formed a rust-bond to the drums. When that happens it’s usually best to remove the drums for a look-see, to verify there aren’t any serious or unsafe problems lurking in the rear brakes. Removing the drums in this situation can be a very difficult job for a diy’er, but shops know how, do this all the time. Even though you didn’t apply the parking brake, there could be a problem w/that too. If so, removing the drums will help w/that inspection too. Drum parking brakes tend to stop better in the forward direction than reverse, probably for the reason Tester posted above. I discovered this issue in an embarrassing manner at a drive-in movie years ago.


Your post really helped me. Thanks. Money is tight for me so I was hoping that I could fix the issue myself, but I ended up towing it to the shop after reading your post.

I wanted to let everyone know what happened. I ended taking my car to my mechanic. He found that the rear-wheel calipers were stuck and needed to be replaced. Unfortunately, the replacement ended being $725.

Thanks again for everyone’s help!


Hopefully this serve as a lesson that flushing your brake fluid every 3 years–even if you haven’t put very many miles on your vehicle–is a wise thing to do.

You should always use the parking brake, especially on a slanted surface. The transmission is not meant to hold the vehicle in place. This has nothing to do with your current issue, but is a good practice. In some places, like Maryland, it is illegal to park without using the parking brake.


It may be, but I’ve been in the Md, VA area for over 40yrs and never heard of anyone getting a ticket for that. Just like the no self-service laws in NJ, more of a joke than a law.


Only calipers were changed? Old pads? Old rotors?

Yep. The brake pads and the flex hose were also changed. I don’t know about the rotors.

New calipers look new? Can you see them thru wheel spokes?
I’m betting flex hoses were issue all along.

I think it’s for when an unoccupied car strikes another. If the one that moves did not have the parking brake applied, it’s a violation. Easier to apportion blame that way.

What do they mean by “self service”? Only applies to pumping gasoline? Or are you not allowed to change your own oil and filter?

Parking customs vary a lot by country. In Thailand you are allowed to double park provided you leave your car in neutral and don’t apply the parking brake enough to prevent someone from pushing your car out of the way. It’s a very common thing to see people pushing other people’s cars. Here in the USA if somebody pushed another person’s car … OMG, wouldn’t even want to think about what would happen… loll …