why does my car get stuck in park

There are a number of reasons why a car will not move from park to drive. They can range from the shifter being locked to a broken shifter cable. Here are a few of most common conditions that will keep your car stuck in park. Locked shifter : A shifter will sometimes get locked in park. This is one problem that you can usually fix yourself because automakers have put in a quick and easy way to manually release a shifter:
Put the emergency brake on. Find the shifter lock override slot, which is usually located on the shifter console close to the shift lever. The slot will be plugged with a plastic cap. Remove the cap and push down on the button with a nail file or other pointed object. As you are pushing the button down, step on the brake pedal, move the shifter into neutral, and start the car. Note that releasing the shifter will only bypass the problem, if the problem was a locked shifter. There will be other issues to take care of, but this will at least get the car to move, which can be important if your car is not currently located in a place where it can stay until a mechanic comes out to inspect the underlying issue. Failed brake light switch : In order to shift a vehicle out of park, you must step on the brake. If you have a faulty brake light switch, the shifter is not going to move. It is also possible that the fuse that controls the brake light switch and shift lock has blown. This is pretty easy to diagnose: have someone stand behind your car while you step on the brake. If the brake lights do not illuminate, a bad switch is the likely culprit. A professional mechanic can quickly and easily change out the switch or fuse. Bad shift interlock solenoid or wiring : The shift interlock solenoid is a safety feature that has been added to all modern automatic-transmission cars. It prevents the driver from shifting out of park without a foot on the brake, working in conjunction with the brake light switch. If the solenoid or its wiring is damaged, you will not be able to shift out of park. Broken transmission shift cable : A cable connects the shifter handle to the transmission, and if that is broken, the shifter will be inoperable.


The cable will usually fail due to stretching, or if the keeper at the end of the cable has failed. Shifting too quickly or slamming the car into gear can exacerbate the stretching problem. As the cable stretches, you may find it hard to put the car in park, or even to turn the ignition off and remove your key. When the cable finally snaps, the shifter will move to any position, but the transmission will stay in park or the last shift position. One way to test for this is to release the parking brake and push the car forward a few feet (note: only perform this test on flat ground). If the car moves, the issue is most likely with the shift cable, as the car is clearly not in park. Ignition key tumbler is worn out : The ignition switch not only starts your car, but it also locks the steering wheel when the key is taken out. In cars with automatic transmissions, a shift interlock solenoid is also part of the ignition system, and it locks the transmission so it cannot be shifted out of park (as described above). A worn-out ignition will prevent you from turning the switch, which means your car is not going to shift properly, or at all. Broken shifter mechanism : It is also possible that the shifter itself is broken. If there is a lot of play in the shifter, or it doesnБt seem connected to anything, there is a good chance the shifter is broken. A mechanic will remove the boot to examine the actual shifter mechanism. If they find any broken or loose parts, they are likely the cause of the problem. In some cases, itБs possible to replace the broken parts, but itБs often necessary to replace the entire shifter. Image Courtesy of Pixabay So you start your vehicle, prepare to drive, and realize your automatic transmission is stuck in Park. What now? While this is very alarming and can mean expensive repairs and diagnostics, depending on the vehicle, there may be something you can do about it right now. How the Automatic Transmission Works. Automatic transmissions use park to prevent the drive wheels, those that receive power from the transmission, from rotating when stationary.


This is accomplished by locking the transmission with a park mechanism. The park mechanism is normally called the parking pawl, and when the vehicle is placed in park, the parking pawl will move into contact with the transmission output shaft, locking between teeth on the output shaft, and preventing the transmission from moving in any meaningful way. When the transmission is locked, the parking pawl may allow the vehicle to roll a couple of inches, but once the parking pawl engages the teeth on the output shaft, the weight of the vehicle will rest heavily on the parking pawl, preventing output shaft and wheel rotation. Additionally, there is a shift-interlock system which typically includes a solenoid which unlocks the shift lever when signaled by the brake light switch on the brake pedal lever. What Might be Wrong? When the shift lever feels stuck, the first thing to consider is whether the parking brake was set before the service brake was released, or afterward. The parking brake will hold the vehicles weight while allowing the parking pawl and output shaft to remain idle as a backup in case the brake fails. If the parking brake fails or was not used before the vehicle was placed in park, the parking pawl and output shaft may bind under the weight of the vehicle, and be difficult to impossible to release, even though they are designed for this action. Another component that may affect this situation, is if the shift interlock mechanism. There are a few types, but all serve the same function, to lock the vehicle in park if the brake is not pressed, or, in some models, the security system has detected unauthorized use. The interlock relies on the brake light switch, mounted to the brake pedal, to send a signal that it is safe to shift from park, requiring the brake switch to be in good operating condition as well. There could be a wiring issue, security malfunction, or the solenoid also may have become stuck with grime from spilled drinks, humidity, and dirt, or another contaminant.


What Can I Do? If this seems to be the case that the weight of the vehicle is preventing the parking pawl from releasing, the transmission gear selector can be pulled with a little extra vigor in an attempt to release the trapped parking pawl. If this is the case, be prepared for a loud pop from the rear of the transmission, and the vehicle will move slightly. The brakes should be fully engaged while releasing the transmission. Look at the brake lights while the pedal is pressed. If the brake lights are not working, check the fuses, and see if the brake light fuse has failed. If the fuse is good, a quick test of the brake light switch will allow you to understand if it has caused the shift-interlock solenoid to continue locking the shift lever. If the security system has disabled the shift lever, try the spare key. If that does not work, you can turn everything off, lock the door with the remote, and open it with the key. This may disarm the alarm on some models, but will not work on others. This depends on the security protocol (programing) that is included with the vehicle, and most will disable the engine instead of the shift lever. If the shift-interlock or brake light switch has failed, the cover for the shifter can be removed, and most times the shift interlock solenoid can be moved manually. Also, check your owners manual for information on a manual release for the shifter. Many times there is a small cover near the gear selector, which can be pried up, and exposes a manual gear selector release. Note: this is only a temporary fix, and should not be relied on as the sole means of disengaging park. If the above attempts do not solve the issue, the vehicle will need diagnostic testing in order to discover the cause, and guarantee a repair. Since the vehicle cannot be driven from park, a towing service can place the vehicle on rollers to safely move the vehicle from any position, but the service may cost a little extra. that will help you get your car unstuck.

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