Why is My Car Stuck in Park?

Man inside car that is stuck in park


Why is my car stuck in park?

The main reasons why a car can get stuck in park is because of a blown-out brake light fuse, a faulty brake light switch or a malfunctioning shifter interlock.

  • Blown-out brake light fuse
  • Faulty brake light switch
  • Malfunctioning shifter interlock
  • Incline induced pawl pressure


Blown-out brake light fuse

Check the brake light to see if its fuse has blown out. Have a replacement done if needed.


Faulty brake light switch

Inspect the brake light switch to determine if it’s functioning as desired. If not, get a new one fitted in its place.


Malfunctioning shifter interlock

Bypass the interlock by turning your car key to the accessory position, position the shifter in neutral and then start the car. Alternatively, opt for the manual shift lock override by inserting a small flathead screwdriver or a key. Once you get the shifter interlock set right, you can consider getting a shift lock release fitted.


Incline induced pawl pressure

Relieve the pressure by shifting the car into any drive gear. You’ll often need the assistance of another person to do this to move the car back and forth to enable proper engagement.


How do I get my car out of the park when it’s stuck?

To release a car that is stuck in park, use a small screwdriver to push down on the shift override slot.

You can follow these steps if your car’s shifter is stuck in park to get it released:

  1. Activate the emergency brake of your car so that it doesn’t roll accidentally.
  2. Put the key inside the ignition hole and turn it to the ON or Run position. You don’t have to get the engine started.
  3. Identify the shift override lock slot. This is usually present over the shifter console and close to the shifter lever.
  4. Remove the plastic cap covering the shift override lock slot.
  5. Wedge a key, a nail file or a small screwdriver inside the override slot and push it downwards.
  6. Hold down the above tool and release the brake pedal at the same time.
  7. Hold the shifter and push the release button present on the shifter as usual.
  8. Move the shifter to the gear of your choice.

You can peform the above steps with the engine in the OFF position. Set the shifter to neutral and start the engine.


Car stuck in park and won’t start

Your car may be stuck in park and not start because of a sensor issue, loose battery cables, defective batteries or a faulty brake light switch.

  1. Check all the fuses of the car to determine if they are intact without blowing out. Sometimes, more than one fuse can be responsible for powering the shift interlock system. Replace the fuses that have blown out with new fuses of the same rating.
  2. Inspect the brake lights to see if they turn ON when you press the brake pedal. If not, the brake light switch is faulty and needs a replacement.
  3. Look out for one or more loose battery cable connections and tighten them. This is a good chance to clean the battery terminals if they are dirty.
  4. Check the condition of the batteries to see if they are defective or have reached the end of their lifetime. In either case, you will need to get such batteries replaced.
  5. Watch out for disconnected sensors in the onboard computer of the car. Fit them back in position to establish the connection again.


Car stuck in park but says reverse

Your car may be stuck in park but says reverse due to a linkage issue, a bad shifter position sensor, broken transmission mounts or a defective shift cable grommet.

  1. Check for a worn-out or broken linkage and get a new one fitted. It’s recommended that you get the assistance of a trained mechanic to do this for you.
  2. Inspect the car for disconnected or broken transmission mounts. Disconnected mounts must be connected back in position while broken ones should be changed.
  3. Look out for a broken or defective shift position sensor. Get a new sensor fitted in place of the old one.
  4. Check the shift cable grommet to determine if it’s defective or damaged. Replace it with a new grommet.


Car stuck in park but says it’s in neutral

Your car may be stuck in park but says it’s in neutral because of a missing or faulty shift cable, malfunctioning brake lights, a defective sensor or a sticky shift interlock solenoid.

  1. Watch out for a missing or loose shift cable. If the cable is missing, get one fitted. On the other hand, if it’s loose, tighten the cable. Get it replaced if you notice that the cable is damaged.
  2. Inspect whether the brake lights are working properly as expected of them. If not, you’ll have to get new ones fitted. Also, consider getting their switch checked to see if it’s in good condition.
  3. Check if the sensor that reads the gear level position is working properly. Fix a new one if needed.
  4. Look out for a shift interlock solenoid that is stuck. Release it from the stuck position.


Shifter moves but stays in park

Your car shifter moves but stays in park due to a broken shifter or shifter cable or a damaged input selector at transmission.

  1. Inspect the shifter carefully for signs of damage as well as if it’s broken. If you notice such a shifter, get it replaced with a new one.
  2. Check for wear and tear or breakage of the shifter cable. It’s the cable that is connected to the shifter arm which extends from the transmission and to the shifter below the console. This is indicated by a non-moving PRND display on your car’s dash. Remove the cable and fit a new one.
  3. Look out for a broken input selector at transmission. Get a new one fitted.


Car stuck in park brake lights not working

Your car is stuck in park, and brake lights are not working because of a blown-out brake light fuse, or faulty brake light switch.

  1. Check if the fuse associated with the brake light has blown out. If so, get it replaced with another fuse of the same rating.
  2. Check if the brake light switch transmits a signal to the car’s shift interlock solenoid when the brake pedal is released. To do this, disconnect the two-wire connector from the brake light switch under the dash. Short this connector with the help of a brake light switch. The brake lights must get turned ON. If they don’t, you have a faulty brake light switch that needs to be changed.
  3. Check if the alternator and all the batteries have the desired voltages. If not, take the necessary steps to ensure that they have the desired voltages.


Car stuck in park in cold weather

A car can get stuck in park during cold weather because of an out-of-adjustment linkage, old transmission fluid, a bad shifter cable, or a faulty shift lock solenoid.

  1. Check if the linkage has moved out of its original place. If so, adjust it so that it’s where it should actually be positioned.
  2. Check the transmission fluid of the car. If it’s quite old, drain it out completely and do a refill with fresh fluid. On the other hand, if the fluid is not old, top it up to the desired level.
  3. Check if the brake pedal switch has become loose and tighten it if needed. In case it’s frozen, you can try warming it with a hair dryer or something similar. Else, you can wait for it to warm up on its own.
  4. Check if the shift lock solenoid is working properly as intended. If not, get it replaced.


Can a car stuck in park be towed?

Yes, it is possible to tow a car stuck in park. However, you must remember to take some precautions when you do this to avoid damage to the car.

One way to tow such a car is to ensure that it’s in neutral. Alternatively, you can tow the car over a flatbed. This ensures that the tires of the vehicle are locked securely in place. As a last option, you can take off the rear drive shaft and tow your car with the rear wheels touching the ground.


How to put a car into neutral when the battery is dead

Most cars today have electronic ignitions and electronic shift locks. These cars, like their manual counterparts, feature the battery as one of their key components. If the battery is dead, the automatic transmission will fail and leave you stranded.

Here is what you can do to put the car into neutral when you encounter such a situation by following a few simple steps.

  1. Activate the parking brake. This is essential for your safety. The brake works even when the battery fails. So, you should apply it so that the car does not move when you set the transmission to neutral. This brake can either be a handbrake near the gear selector or a pedal brake to the left side of the brake pedal.
  2. Look out for the shift lock override and get it engaged. Vehicles equipped with an electronic shift lock feature a manual override. This lock override is generally located on the shift selector and is a small and removable panel. Pull the panel up using a flathead screwdriver and put it into the hole to get the manual shift lock override engaged.
  3. Insert the key into the ignition and turn it to the ON or ACC position by turning it in the clockwise direction. This releases the lock in the steering wheel.
  4. Press the brake pedal hard and release it. Make sure that the pedal is released completely. The brake pedal is vital when you change the transmission from park to drive.
  5. Release the shift lock and set the shift selector or gear shift to the Neutral position.


How to fix a Honda Accord stuck in park

Your Honda Accord is likely to have got stuck in park due to damaged brake lights or a defective shift interlock solenoid. Low transmission fluid level or bad shift linkage can also cause a Honda Accord to get stuck in park.

  1. Check the car for broken or malfunctioning brake lights and fuse. If you notice one or both instances, do a replacement of the defective part. The brake light fuse is connected to the shift lock mechanism.

This is a good chance to inspect the brake interlock switch for its proper functioning. If your car is quite old, this is likely to be the problem.

  1. Look out for a defective shift lock solenoid and get it replaced. This can be confirmed if you don’t hear a clicking sound from the shift lever when you press the brake and another sound when the brake is released. Sometimes, you may just have to grease the solenoid plunger instead of changing the solenoid.

For an instant solution, until you get the replacement done, you can override the solenoid by removing the plastic cover over the shifter.

  1. Check out the transmission fluid level and ensure it’s as required. Do a top-up if needed.
  2. Inspect the shift linkage to see if it is bent or has become loose. A bent linkage will have to be repaired or replaced while a loose one has to be fitted back in position.


How to fix a Honda Civic stuck in park

Your Honda Civic might have got stuck in park because of one or more dead batteries, a defective transmission range switch, faulty brake lights or an out-of-position throttle body sensor. A shift lock solenoid failure or a defective shift linkage may also trigger the problem.

  1. Check if your brake lights are working. If not, you may have to change the fuse or the brake light switch that is present on the shift interlock system depending on what is not working. You can also see if the switch has a loose connection that needs to be set right.
  2. Look out for one or more drained-out batteries. Recharge those batteries that don’t have the desired voltage rating.
  3. Inspect the transmission range switch to see if it’s functioning properly. Get it replaced if needed.
  4. Inspect the throttle body sensor to determine if it has moved out of position. Fitting it back in place may help to solve the problem.
  5. Check the shift lock solenoid and shift linkage for problems as mentioned above and take the necessary action.


How to fix a Toyota Camry stuck in park

Your Toyota Camry is likely to have got stuck in park due to dead batteries, non-working brake lights, a malfunctioning shift interlock control module, a locked shifter or a broken shifter cable. A defective shift lock control switch can also cause the ‘car stuck in park’ issue.

  1. Inspect the shift interlock control module for proper functioning. It’s worth considering getting a test done on the module to check for proper operation before doing a replacement.
  2. Check if the brake lights are functioning as desired. If they aren’t, you’ll mostly have to change the brake light switch located above the brake pedal arm. This is also a good time to check if there are any broken or loose wires to and from the switch.
  3. Look out for a locked shifter. If this is the case, release it by activating the emergency brake and using the shifter lock override option. This is usually an easy process that you can do yourself without assistance.
  4. Check if the shifter cable is broken and/or the shift lock control switch is defective. Get a new cable, switch or both fitted depending on which part is affected. You can ascertain if the switch is defective by checking for continuity by attaching a digital voltmeter to the green as well as red wires of the switch. If there is no continuity, the switch isn’t in good condition.

You can choose the shift override option during the testing phase.


How to fix a Toyota Yaris stuck in park

Your Toyota Yaris is often likely to get stuck in park because of a bad solenoid, a broken transmission shift cable, blown-out fuses or a short in the brake light circuit.

  1. Look out for a defective solenoid or bad wiring in the shift interlock. If the solenoid is faulty, get a new one fitted. On the other hand, if the wiring is incorrect, do it once again yourself correctly or seek the assistance of an expert.
  2. Inspect the shifter for signs of wearing out or breakage. Get a new one fitted if you notice any of these damage signs. If the shifter is alright, inspect the transmission cable for signs of wear and tear. Change the cable if required.
  3. Determine if the brake lights are functioning properly. If not, it is likely that you have a blown-out fuse that needs to be replaced. In case the fuse blows out again, it indicates that there may be a short in the brake light circuit that needs to be addressed.

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