Gear Shift Stuck: Causes & Treatment | Autance

There is nothing more frustrating than a stuck gear shift when you have errands to run and places to be….

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Gear Shift Stuck: Causes & Treatment | Autance © Gear Shift Stuck: Causes & Treatment | Autance

There is nothing more frustrating than a stuck gear shift when you have errands to run and places to be. This problem can be solved on the spot if your parking brake is stuck or it may require a visit to the mechanic in case of a serious transmission related issue. Every symptom has its own treatment, so read on to find out more about this problem and how you can fix it.


  • Damaged Safety Mechanism

Every car has a safety mechanism that prevents it from shifting out of park until the driver’s foot is on the brake pedal. This mechanism is called a shift interlock solenoid. Solenoids are metal coils that are shaped like cylinders and they allow you to move the gearshift with ease. When you press the brake pedal, a signal is received by the solenoid and this causes it to release a mechanical lock that makes it possible to move the shift. A damaged shift interlock solenoid will stop receiving the brake pedal signal, and you will unable to get out of park. This safety mechanism was built to last, and once it starts causing problems like trapping your key in the ignition and interfering with the gear shift, then diagnosing the system and replacing it becomes necessary.

  • Brake Light Switch Failure

If your brake lights stop functioning, then this can directly affect the shift interlock mechanism. These lights are activated using a switch, and if this switch breaks, your gear shift will get stuck. A brake light switch can be tested by simply pressing and releasing the brake pedal in the presence of a friend or family member who can stand behind the car and observe the brake lights during this test. If you press the pedal and nothing happens, then the culprit is a faulty switch that will require further testing by a mechanic.

  • Issues With the Transmission Parking Pawl

The transmission parking pawl is yet another safety mechanism that was designed to stop the wheels from rotating when the gearshift is placed in park. A damaged pawl will cause the car to roll forwards or backwards after you place the shifter in park. It you solely depend  on the pawl and the transmission’s Park  position to keep your car from rolling, then you risk damaging the pawl and getting your car stuck as well. This situation can only be resolved if you release the pawl.  Moving your car uphill will successfully take the weight off the pawl and release the shifter. Just make sure that you immediately set the e-brake before the car returns to its original position.

  • Faulty Shifter Cable

Cars with an automatic transmission are fitted with one cable that links the transmission to the shifter. Manual transmission cars are equipped with two cables instead of one. These cables can be broken or stretched depending on your driving style. Speed shifting on a regular basis and slamming gears can result in premature damage. A stretched cable can cause a lot of havoc and drivers will find it difficult to switch gears. Car keys will eventually get stuck in the ignition and other problems will follow as well. For example, you will begin to notice that the indicator is pointing to reverse while your car is still in park.

  • Limp Mode is Activated

Limp mode occurs when the computer in your car becomes unable to read the signals coming from the sensors. These sensors help your vehicle determine when to switch gears and receiving inaccurate date from them will automatically trigger limp mode. This mode will lock the transmission in second or third gear and you will be unable to move it. This feature was designed to guard the transmission until the driver reaches an auto repair shop where the problem is typically diagnosed.

Driving the car in limp mode is considered risky since drivers will be unable to speed down the highway. Therefore, it is recommended to keep the car parked and call a towing service to come pick it up just to be on the safe side.

  • Weather Related Issue

Sometimes, the problem has to do with outdoor elements that are beyond your control. Drivers who live in areas where the temperature drops below freezing can encounter transmission system issues.  Cold weather can cause havoc on the system, resulting in low line pressure and gear trouble as well. A frozen shift lock solenoid can be the culprit behind a stuck gearshift. Heating up your garage can help resolve this problem.


  • Replace the Gear Fuse

Check the fuses that belong to the shift lock control system. If a blown fuse is the culprit, then getting it replaced can fix the gearshift problem. All you need to do is consult the service manual first in order to determine what kind of fuse you are dealing with and how you can successfully replace it. Fuses are far from expensive and they seldom require a visit to the mechanic.

  • Check the Gear Shift Sensor

Many cars have a sensor button that you will find below the brake pedal. This button must be activated before using the gearshift. If the sensor button gets stuck, then this may prevent the gearshift from moving. You can easily resolve this problem with the help of some penetrating oil. This type of oil can be used to clean metal and penetrate incredibly tight spaces, and this can come in handy when you are dealing with a small device or button. Simply spray a small amount of fluid to help lubricate the button. This will allow you to loosen it up without damaging any other component. This is a temporary solution that can work in emergencies or whenever you need a quick fix while on the road. Replacing the sensor button will help eliminate this problem once and for all.

  • Give Your Car a Little Push

Drivers who park on a hill can end up with this gear-related problem. If your car is allowed to roll backwards while you are parked on this incline and you engage the parking brake afterwards, then you risk jamming this brake. Pushing your car two inches forward will help  resolve this problem.

Related Post: Best Garage Parking Aid


  1. How To Release An Automatic Gear Shift Stuck In Park – Car From Japan
  2. Troubleshooting a Locked Shift Lever – Do it Yourself
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