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Car Won’t Shift Out of Drive: Everything You Need to Know!

Car Won't Shift Out of Park

Car won’t shift out of drive without any warning can be pretty terrifying if you don’t know how and why it happened. Car won’t shift out of drive problems can happen anywhere and anytime. It can be frustrating and can even compromise your safety.

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If your car won’t shift out of drive and you don’t know what causes it or how to fix it, then you’ve come to the right place! Here’s everything you need to know about why it happens and what to do about it.

Car Won’t Shift Out of Drive What causes gear shift to stuck in drive?


It is already known that the transmission of a car is as important as an engine. It is the one that transmits power from the engine to the wheels. Now, in an automatic transmission, “drive” gear covers all forward gears. It means that if the drive gear is activated, the car moves forward. 


If your car won’t shift out of drive, imagine what could happen if you are not careful! It will be a disaster! 


If you are driving a car with an automatic transmission and suddenly you realize that your car won’t shift out of drive, it could possibly mean that you have a problem with your transmission or its components and you need to correct it as soon as possible. Here are some of the causes why your car won’t shift out of drive. 

  • You have a stuck transmission solenoid. 


Transmission solenoids are the ones that facilitate gear changes. Solenoids control one or more gears and they control the transmission fluid’s flow by opening or closing based on electric signals. It allows your vehicle to change gears when it closes or opens since it changes the pressure within the transmission. 


Cars with automatic transmissions have speed sensors that always monitor your car’s speed while traveling and your engine’s RPM. If it senses that changing gear is needed, it sends an electrical signal that enables the solenoid in the transmission, opens it and allows transmission fluid to flow through it. This gives pressure to the bands that are needed to shift your car into the requested gear.


Solenoids are vital in these gear changes. If you can’t switch gears or your car won’t shift out of drive, it might be because of a stuck transmission solenoid. When it is stuck open, know that you cant shift away from a certain gear and when it is stuck closed, you won’t be able to shift into your requested gear. 

  • Bad transmission fluid.


Bad or dirty transmission fluid can cause a lot of problems in your transmission. It is always recommended and encouraged to have a regular maintenance schedule for your vehicle. This includes checking and changing your transmission fluid since metal bits, dirt, and debris can enter into it over time. 


Bad transmission fluid is the most common cause of a stuck transmission solenoid. If a bad and contaminated transmission fluid is used and gets pushed through the solenoid, the bits of metal and other dirt can get stuck on it preventing it from closing. When this happens, you won’t be able to shift your gear or your car won’t shift out of drive until the problem is fixed. 


A bad transmission fluid means that the oil is already thinning out and this can also cause your car to struggle in changing gears. Rough shifts and needing multiple attempts to reverse or go into drive can also be experienced because of bad transmission fluid. 


To make sure that your gear works perfectly and your car won’t shift out of drive, you better take your car maintenance schedule seriously to keep your transmission fluid clean and healthy. 

  • Malfunctioning shift interlock.


A modern car has been designed and equipped with features that ensure the safety of its driver and passengers. The same can be said for transmissions, too. The shift interlock feature of a modern automatic transmission is made to prevent the driver from accidentally shifting out of drive while your car is running or moving. Or maybe at times when your car is out of park without a driver present and somebody accidentally put your car in gear. 


The shift interlock is part of the safety mechanism of a car but there are times where it can get stuck that can cause it to not disengage properly. If this happens and you won’t be able to change your gear, you can try the shift lock release.  


If you don’t know where your shift lock release is located, you can check your owner’s manual to help you find it. You can usually find the shift lock release switch located near the shifter. Sometimes you can see it hidden under a small trim piece or a plastic cap that you will have to remove. 


Once you find it, you need to insert a screwdriver or a key into the slot, push it down and hold it. Then press the brake pedal, while depressing the override and shift the gears. 


  • Faulty shifter cable. 


Automatic transmission vehicles are equipped with one cable that connects the transmission to the shifter. This shifter cable tends to wear down, gets broken or gets stretched depending on how you drive. If you drive slamming gears and constantly change your gears while driving on speed, it could take a toll on your shifter cable and damage it. This can cause your gears to get stuck or your car won’t shift out of drive. 

  • Limp mode has been activated.


It was already mentioned that your vehicle has sensors that monitor your car’s speed and determine if you need to change your gears and when to switch gears.


Now, if your car’s computer can’t read the sensors or if they think that the data they’re receiving doesn’t make sense or are inaccurate, it will trigger a limp mode. It is a fail-safe mode that ensures that the problem won’t cause any internal damage to the transmission and the engine. 


Driving a car in a limp mode with it stuck in gear can be dangerous. You won’t be able to merge into oncoming high-speed traffic safely. It is advised that you don’t attempt to drive your car anymore and have someone pick you up or tow your car. It will be the safest option. 

  • Extreme weather.


It is known that extreme weather can cause many problems with our vehicles. If your car won’t shift out of drive, it could be because of the cold weather. Below freezing temperatures can cause failure on the system that leads to gear problems. 


The shift lock solenoid can also get frozen that causes the gearshift to be stuck. You can fix this issue by heating up your garage. 

  • Misaligned gear set.


Gears are made and designed to fit together smoothly in different combinations. Misaligned, damaged, or stripped-out gear sets can prevent gears from engaging smoothly. This happens when its parts are worn out or failing like its gears, bearings, or internal seal. One of its symptoms is a grinding sound that you can hear clearly.

  • Low transmission fluid.


Low transmission fluid can also cause some problems. It can prevent your gears from shifting smoothly. When the fluid is low, there won’t be enough hydraulic pressure to start the gear change.


You need to check your transmission fluid level by using its dipstick. You can add some fluid if it is low. You can also check for leaks and for other possible reasons why your car has a low transmission fluid

Car Won’t Shift Out of Drive – Signs That My Car is Not Shifting Properly


You don’t want to wait until your car won’t shift out of drive to know that your shifting has problems. There are some early signs and symptoms you can look out for to help you fix the shifting issues immediately before it gets to the point where your car won’t shift out of drive.

  • Gear just shifts on its own.


An indication that you have a shifting problem is when your automatic transmission car slides into neutral by itself.

  • Transmission fluid is leaking.


If you notice a puddle of liquid under your vehicle, it could be because of leaking transmission fluid. This can cause difficulty in shifting gears. 

  • Transmission warning light.


While a warning indicator does not really say that you have a shifting problem, it is always a good idea to have your car checked if this happens. A warning light along with one of the symptoms listed above can indicate an issue and it is better to know what triggered it. 


Car Won’t Shift Out of Drive – Bottomline


If your car won’t shift out of drive, don’t try to drive it anymore and have it fixed immediately. Your car won’t be able to protect you and it could cause internal damages in your vehicle that are expensive to repair. 


If your car is already in bad shape and no amount of repairs can help restore it to its former glory, selling it might be a better option. Sell your car to us! Cash Cars Buyer buys used cars and offers free removal and more! Check out our homepage for further details!

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