What Causes a Transmission to Stick in Park?


There’s nothing like a transmission getting stuck in "Park" to trigger worries about costly repairs. Sometimes, those fears are justified, but not always – various minor conditions can cause a sticky transmission and several require no repair at all. Make sure you or your mechanic have correctly diagnosed the problem before you give the OK for a costly rebuild of your transmission.

Brake Not Depressed

Short in Brake Electrical System

  • Another built-in safety feature in many cars is that the brake lights are interfaced to the electrical circuit that locks the shift lever. If you’re stuck in park, check your brake lights. If they don’t work, there may be a short or a blown fuse. Repairing this minor problem will restore your shift lever to working order and allow you to shift out of park.

Pressure from Sitting on a Hill

  • If a car is parked on a hill without the parking brake set, it can roll slightly forward or backward. That puts pressure on the pawl -- the pin attached to the transmission that keeps the car from rolling. Repeatedly putting pressure on the pawl can wear it down and eventually it will need to be replaced. If you frequently park on inclines, get in the habit of setting the parking brake.

Faulty Shift Lever Button

Inoperative Shift Lock Solenoid

  • If power is flowing to the shift lock solenoid and the car still won’t shift out of park, the solenoid itself is faulty and must be replaced.

Low Transmission Fluid

  • If the transmission fluid is low or you are running on empty, the transmission won’t shift. Check the transmission fluid or have a mechanic check it whenever you change the oil.

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  • Photo Credit breakage image by Rina from Fotolia.com Car Brake image by Joelyn Pullano from Fotolia.com rückleuchte image by diogenes from Fotolia.com board loading in a car image by Alexey Poklonskiy from Fotolia.com truck stick shift image by Aditia Patria Warman from Fotolia.com Ingranaggi image by volpeshop from Fotolia.com
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