The Car won't move out of its Park (Causes and What to Do)

You expect to get behind the wheel and drive your car when you turn the key. So, what do you do when the car won’t shift out of Park? While this condition can seem troubling, it doesn’t always mean that something major is wrong.

Because of the high pressure from steep hills, it might be impossible to change from Park. It’s also caused by a malfunctioning shifter interlock or failure of the brake switch, both of which can be easily repaired.  

In this article, we discuss the top three reasons that the car won’t shift from Park. This article will also explain what you should do in such a situation.

Índice de Contenido
  1. Reasons Car Won’t Shift Out of Park
    1. 1. Spent Pawl Pressure Increased
    2. 2. Malfunctioning Shifter Interlock
    3. 3. Breathing Problem with Brake Switch
    4. 4. Transmission failure
  2. How does an Automatic Transmission set the Park Setting?
  3. What to Do When Car Won’t Shift Out of Park
    1. 1. Set the weight
    2. 2. Brake Lights
    3. 3. Solenoid for Override Shift Interlock Solenoid
    4. 4. Talk to a mechanic

Reasons Car Won’t Shift Out of Park

1. Spent Pawl Pressure Increased

Car In Steep Hill

Parking your car on an inclined surface can cause the vehicle to experience more pressure. The pressure causes the car to wedge itself in the gear. This car can become difficult to shift out of Park because of its weight.

You can only relieve the pressure by moving the vehicle. You might be able, with the assistance of another person to move the car enough to free it from Park. To relieve the pressure, you might need to tow your vehicle. 

To avoid this happening again, you can set your parking brake before stopping at a steep slope. Instead of putting all the weight on your brakes, put the parking brake on first before you place the transmission into Park. 

2. Malfunctioning Shifter Interlock

Car Shifter

Modern vehicles are equipped with an interlocking shifter system. This feature keeps the vehicle from being accidentally shifted into Drive or Reverse when it’s not appropriate. You must normally step on your brake pedal to deactivate the shifter lock. 

When the system fails, you won’t be able to shift the car out of Park. Some manufacturers have a release for the shift lock, which can be used in an emergency. This release allows you to bypass the interlock, and change into gear.

It is possible to also bypass the system by moving the key to accessory and setting the shifter to Neutral. From here, it’s possible to start the vehicle. With a flathead screwdriver, you can access the manual shifting lock override. However, the location of this override is different in each vehicle, requiring that you look at your owner’s manual. 

3. Breathing Problem with Brake Switch

Brake Light Switch

Functional brake pedal is essential for shifter interlock functionality. By activating the brake switch, it detects whether the brake pedal is being applied. This allows the system release the shifter.

The interlock function might stop functioning if the switch is damaged. It will continue to operate as if you aren’t stepping on the brake pedal. 

A friend can help diagnose a faulty brake switch by watching the lights when you push the pedal. If the lights don’t come on, it’s possible that the switch is bad, although, you will need a multimeter for a complete diagnosis. 

The task of replacing the brake pedal is simple. You won’t need any advanced experience to complete the job.

4. Transmission failure

Engine With Transmission

Sometimes, there may be damage to the transmission which is making it not shift into Park. It is necessary to have the right diagnostic tools in order to properly check it.

These issues can be replaced with a shifter solenoid or the transmission oil pan, in many cases. However, sometimes the entire transmission must be removed.

How does an Automatic Transmission set the Park Setting?

A Park mode is available on the automatic transmission to improve safety. When a vehicle is placed in the Park (P) setting, it isn’t supposed to move anywhere.

This transmission includes a parking pawl that helps to maintain the vehicle's position when it is directed. To maintain the vehicle's location, the lever-type device connects to its parking gear. Once you move the shifter out of the ‘P’ location, the parking pawl disengages and allows the transmission into the appropriate gear. 

What to Do When Car Won’t Shift Out of Park

1. Set the weight

The parking pawl might need to be released if your car is too heavy for you to shift out of Park. Keep your foot on the pedal and push it down before you try to force the shifter to Park. 

It is possible to hear the transmission make a loud hum when you have succeeded with this operation. To help with some weight release, you might consider asking a friend to assist.

2. Brake Lights

If this problem isn’t caused by the pressure, have someone look at the brake lights when you push down on the pedal. When the lights aren’t working, you can start by checking the fuses. 

If everything looks good, it’s time to troubleshoot other reasons why the switch wouldn’t be working. You might have to turn off the security system if your car is equipped with one. The brake light can fail if it has two circuits.

3. Solenoid for Override Shift Interlock Solenoid

Some vehicles allow you to bypass the shift lock solenoid. To check if the release is present, look under your shifter cover. If you don’t see one there, you want to check the owner’s manual for the appropriate location. 

This will not fix the problem permanently. You will still want to have the fault repaired, especially if the brake lights aren’t working correctly.

4. Talk to a mechanic

If these remedies fail to fix the problem you should call a technician. Because you can’t drive the vehicle, you will also need to have the car towed, which adds to your repair bill. However, once the problem is repaired, you shouldn’t have any more issues shifting out of Park.

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