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Car Won’t Shift Out of Park: 5 Causes and Solutions

Car Won’t Shift Out of Park: 5 Causes and Solutions

If your car won’t shift out of Park, then you're dealing with a problem with one of the following components:

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  1. The transmission
  2. The Parking pawl
  3. The ignition switch
  4. The brake switch
  5. The shifter interlock

Some car problems can be very frustrating. Many of these problems might prevent you from driving your vehicle at all! Unfortunately, these problems are expected to happen, and learning one or two things about them can help you get out of the problem without waiting for experts' help.

One of the common situations you might encounter is when your car won't shift out of Park. This is an extremely annoying situation. If you don't have previous experience, you might get stuck in nowhere waiting for someone to help you and paying a lot of money on unnecessary services.

In this article, we will walk you through the five main causes for your car won't shift out of Park. We will also provide you with recommended solutions that you can try. However, remember that some of these solutions might be pricey, and it's up to you to evaluate the situation carefully before spending any penny trying to fix your vehicle.

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What's the difference between manual and automatic car Parking?

Before we dive into the details about your car won't shift out of Park, we must understand that there are two systems when it comes to the Parking component of your vehicle: manual and automatic Parking.

1.    Manual Park

In vehicles equipped with a manual system that allows a user input to switch to power, you should have a better understanding and determine what exactly is happening because it will all depend on your input.

For example, if you decide to switch to the 4th year, you can do it manually. You can follow the typical recommendations of how to press on the clutch and then switch the gears. Similarly, if you would like to move to the Park position, you can do so without any major inputs from the vehicle. In other words, when you're driving a vehicle equipped with a manual transmission, it's all in your hands, and you're the one who's deciding what years to switch to and how to do so.

2.    Out automatic Park

On the other hand, if you were driving a vehicle equipped with an automatic transmission, things get a little bit more complicated. This is because you will leave everything to the vehicle's computer and the vehicles out automatic transmission to do the job.

That's why if you try to switch your vehicle to the Park position, the car will utilize what's known as the Parking pawl to do the job. So every time you are ready to Park your vehicle, and you're asking the car to switch to Park, that's when the Parking pawl takes over and engages with the internal components of your transition to ask the engine to stop and cause the vehicle to Park.

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Car won't shift out of Park: five causes

Unfortunately, your vehicle's transmission and the ability to Park the car are not problem free. In other words, at some point, you will deal with those problems where your vehicle might get stuck into the Park position, and you cannot do anything about it.

Luckily, automotive experts have been monitoring the situation closely and identified five potential causes that your car won't shift out of the Park. Let's take a look at some of these causes:

1.    The transmission

The biggest problem that could cause your whole transition process to fail is when you have a general problem in the transmission itself. Unfortunately, if you get to this point, you're in a serious situation where you're dealing with thousands of dollars on repair.

That's why you will be asked to replace your transmission with a used, rebuilt, or brand new one. Unfortunately, even if you decide to use transmission, costs will pile up, and they will be extremely high.

You must consider previous symptoms that could indicate early signs of transmission failure. You don't want to get to this point where you cannot get your vehicle out of Park just because you didn't pay attention to minor symptoms like the weird smells coming out of transition and other issues where you could have detected the problem earlier and allowed your mechanics to perform cheaper repairs.

Typically, automotive experts recommend that if you can detect problems early, chances are that you can fix the problem without needing to insult major components and at a very lower price.

2.    The Parking pawl

If you are not dealing with major transmission problems, you might have better luck. That's all you're dealing with is just a problem with the Park pawl pressure. However, if you have a simple problem in the Parking pawl, your vehicle won't be able to move out of neutral because it's not detecting that component and won't simply switch to the Park position.

This component can get damaged and failed because of a variety of reasons. For example, one of the common reasons that could damage the Parking pole is when you continuously try to Park on a hill where you're continuously adding more forces externally to the Parking pawl.

That's why if you live in areas where you need to Park on steep hills or slopes, you must engage the Parking brake as a supporting component to the Parking pawl so you don't damage it.

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3.    The ignition switch

Sometimes all that you're dealing with is completely outside of the transmission. In other words, you might be dealing with an issue related to the ignition switch directly linked to the transmission and will impact how your transmission works.

In other words, you might be dealing with a problem in the ignition switch that is not transferred to the rest of the vehicle, and your car is just thinking that you didn't start the vehicle yet. That's why it will not allow you to switch to the other positions and will continuously stay on the Park position.

You can reach out to your mechanic and have him perform an inspection of the ignition switch and confirm whether it's in bad condition or not. Once your mechanic confirms the issue, you'll have to replace it immediately.

4.    The brake switch

If you don't have a problem with the ignition switch, you might want to check the brake switch. The brake systems are also connected somehow to the transmission, and if the braking system has some problems, you can easily feel that these problems are translated to how your transition works.

Even if it's not translated to the way your transmission works, you must take any broken problem seriously because it has to do with your safety. For example, if your braking system is not functioning properly, you won't be able to slow down your vehicle or stop it when necessary.

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5.    The shifter interlocks

Finally, one of the very common problems that could cause your vehicle not to shift out of Park is when you're having an issue with the shifter interlock. This component is responsible for preventing your vehicle from going to drive or reverse as a safety component.

If this shifter gets confused, it will not allow you to switch gears properly and will not give you the flexibility to get your vehicle out of the Park.

Therefore, if you feel that your car won't shift out of Park, you need to check the shifter interlock and have your mechanic see if there's anything wrong with it. If he confirms that your shifter interlock has a problem, you must place it immediately before dealing with other complications that could cost you lots of money.

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How to solve problems when your car doesn't shift out of Park?

Say you're dealing with a situation where your car won't shift out of Park; what would you do? Luckily, there are some recommendations you can follow that could hopefully get you out of the problem unless you're dealing with a severe issue beyond fixes.

Let's think well, so look at what automotive experts recommend:

  • Confirm that your vehicle is not running, and make sure to turn it off completely
  • Engage the Parking brake to make sure that your vehicle stays in position and has some support
  • Turn on the ignition by putting your vehicle in the farm position or the on position
  • Find your vehicle shift interlock override slot. Typically, this slot is a small component capped off a plastic piece. You should find it somewhere towards the upper left component of your transmission
  • Engage the override slot by pressing it down using a screwdriver or pushing it yourself
  • Engage the brake pedal the same way you typically engage it
  • Switch from Park to the neutral position
  • Get your engine started. This points you can remove your finger or the screwdriver off the slot and allow your vehicle to start
  • Reach out to your mechanic if things are not resolved

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How to avoid situations where the car shifts out of the Park?

As we mentioned earlier, the situation where your car won't shift out of Park is very common. Still, the good news is that there are some recommendations where you can eliminate or avoid the problem as much as possible.

Typically, automotive experts recommend never to force the shifter when it's loose. Instead, you should consult your mechanic and see what's going on in the shifter if it's not behaving as it should.

Also, don't forget to press the brake button whenever you want to switch gears to break or neutral. Many people might forget about this, which could lead to significant problems in the transmission that might result in very high repair costs.

Finally, if you're continuously Parking uphill, remember to engage the Parking brake because it will provide additional support to your transmission and prevent its premature damage. Many people forget about this tip, but you must learn one or two things about keeping your transition safe and preventing its damages that you can easily avoid with simple steps.

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Final thoughts

Dealing with transmission problems can be very scary, especially if you can't switch important gears. Unfortunately, it is not rare to deal with situations where your car won't shift out of Park.

This article highlighted five common causes of this problem, and we highly encourage you to go through the details about each cause to narrow down the list of potential culprits. You need to check with your mechanic and have him perform an inspection to confirm what's going on in the transmission.

Sometimes your mechanic might ask for parts replacement, but if you're asked for very expensive repairs, you might want to step back and evaluate whether you should sell your vehicle instead of wasting your time and efforts.

If you're looking for someone to buy your vehicle, considering the massive problems in the transmission, you can always reach out to Cash Cars Buyer!

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  • Describe your car's type and condition
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