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Tricky key start dependent on foot brake position

Eventually car will start after multiple attempts but after finding magic position of foot on brake. Harder on first start of the day. Where will I be when it eventually “not start”. Worried that it is not a straight forward fix and something more esoteric.

Have someone check your brake lights. Are they out when the car refuses to start? If so, the switch at the top of the brake pedal needs to be adjusted or replaced.

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What year is this vehicle? Does it have push button start/Smart key?

this is a 2005 standard regular key. My husband took it in to a repair place today. haven’t heard from them yet. I have been obviously been getting by and putting off taking it somewhere. so I guess I’m in for their verdict now. was hoping it was a common problem everyone knew about with an easy, not costly fix.

I don’t see any correlation between the brake pedal and starting the engine on that vehicle.

The starter solenoid contacts may be worn, do you hear a click from the engine compartment when turning the key to the start position?

no click, after repeated trys and applying the brake it just eventually
starts seemingly on the cusp of my foot movement.
later in the day it might not start on first turn but starts with fewer

Took it in. They called back and say they want to replace the starter for $600. They give no credence to my report that for over a year, early on it didn’t start simply with key turn but did for a few months right off when my foot was on the brake. Till eventually it takes multiple attempts with some fancy foot and brake action. Worried I’m just getting the modern, replace the whole durn thing treatment. With no consideration for repairing or fixing.

There is no way that stepping on the brake had anything to do with the car starting. Your starter needed replaced.

hmmm … this is a tough one. As posted above, seems unlikely that pushing on the brake pedal would affect the start operation. Usually balky no-crank problems are caused by the transmission neutral safety switch (assuming you have an automatic, right?) or the starter motor itself. The neutral safety switch interlock is where you can’t start the engine unless the transmission is in P or N. There is another safety interlock between the brake pedal and the transmission in some cars, probably yours too, where you can’t shift out of Park unless you are pressing your foot on the brake pedal. So I’m thinking there may be some kind of weird interaction going on between the brake pedal interlock and the neutral safety switch interlock.

If replacing the starter doesn’t fix the problem, that’s where I’d look next. If it starats happening again, besides pressing on the brake pedal, also try slightly repositioning the gear shift lever as you try to crank the engine, sometimes that will work when the neutral safety switch is going out. Or try starting in N rather than P.

Hopefully the new starter will fix the problem and you’ll be left with a working car and a minor mystery.

George thank you so much for your careful detailed response. And giving credence to my report of over a year, since I am the person who has been starting it all this time.
Your comment made me search to find a recall notice I got and ignored.
RepairPal Expert Overview on September 26, 2013
The Shift Interlock System May Fail
It is possible the shift lever could be moved out of the Park position without depressing the brake pedal.
Toyota will notify owners beginning in late October…

dont know if this could quirkily be tied in any way. When folks speak in absolutes I have trouble listening.

“There is no way that stepping on the brake had anything to do with the car starting.”

On my 2004 Camry you can start the engine (with transmission selector in P or N) without stepping on the brake pedal. However, you cannot shift out of P without stepping on the brake. MAYBE in the OP’s case there is some interaction through that linkage withe the Neutral/Park safety switch.

(In my car, if you start it in neutral you CAN shift into gear w/o stepping on the brake. Hmm.)

The first thing I’d try would be to put the car in neutral, foot off the brake, and try to start it. If it starts, bingo! You are on the trail of the problem, as some here have suggested. If it does not start, and you hear a click, then chances are pretty good there’s another problem, and the brake pedal thing is a false lead.

There was a time when Toyota starters had a pattern of failure that showed as a click but no turning from the starter motor. Apparently the starter motor developed “dead spots” and only repeated efforts would somehow cause it to move just enough that it would suddenly work just fine. I replaced the starter on my daughter’s 98 Tacoma because of this. It was entirely unpredictable, but did get worse and worse over time, until frustration and fury made her deal with it. The replacement starter has been fine, and she just passed 200,000 on this otherwise very durable truck.

My experience has me agreeing with this.

thanks all. i’ve given them the go ahead to replace the starter. So let
hope I get a call soon saying that it now starts with the turn of the key.
and we have a happily ever after story for many more miles to go.