Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Car won’t shift out of park

What does it mean if my car won’t shift out of park

If your car won’t shift out of park don’t panic–this is a safety feature. Are you sure your foot is on the brake pedal? If so, read on to find a way to get the car started and then diagnose the problem. Car makers are required to install a shift interlock mechanism to prevent your from starting your car unless your foot is on the brake pedal. This is a safety measure similar to the park/neutral switches used to prevent you from starting the engine if the transmission is in gear.

The shift interlock system uses a shift interlock solenoid, spring, car won't shift out of park, shift interlock solenoidand input from the brake pedal position switch. When the engine is off and the car is in park, the spring on the solenoid pushes a pin into place to prevent the shifter from moving out of park. When you step on the brake pedal, the solenoid energizes and pulls the pin out of place, allowing you to shift.


shift interlock solenoid, car won't shift out of parkIf the solenoid or brake pedal or the wiring between the two ever fail, you’ll have a condition where the car won’t shift out of park. What does it mean if car won’t shift out of park? Well, before you panic, the car makers have made provisions for this. Open the glove box and pull out your owner’s manual and read how to manually override the shift interlock feature.


In many cases you’ll find a plastic snap in panel that allows you to manually pull the shift interlock pin out of place and shift the shifter out of park. In other vehicles, you insert your car key into a special slot near the shifter and the key pushes the locking mechanism open.

Of course, that doesn’t fix the underlying problem. You still have to fix the part that caused the car won’t shift out of park situation. You’ll need isolate the problem to the brake pedal position switch, wiring harness, or the shift interlock solenoid. And you’ll need a multimeter.

Remove the connector from the shift interlock solenoid and depress the brake pedal. Check for battery voltage voltage on one of the two wire in the shift interlock connector. If you get power, use your test light to check for ground on the second wire. If you get both ground and power, but the solenoid doesn’t move when you press the brake, it’s bad and must be replaced. If the solenoid does move then you’ll have to get an online subscription to eautorepair.net and check for technical service bulletins related to this problem (there are lots of bulletins regarding this problem). Some bulletins discuss re-adjusting the solenoid or the locking device, while others require replacing some locking components with updated designs.

It’s supposed to be a simple system. Apparently the engineers can’t seem to get it right sometimes.

©, 2015 Rick Muscoplat

Posted on by Rick Muscoplat


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