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Is it hard to get your transmission out of park?



Driving a car at night - pretty, young woman driving her modern car at night in a city (shallow DOF; color toned image)

BY KEVIN SAWYER – Has your automatic transmission been acting a little strange lately? Has it been increasingly hard for you to get your car shifted into drive or reverse from the park position? Several things could be at fault here. The main challenge is that modern vehicles have transmission locks where you have to step on the break to release it so you can shift into another gear.

The first thing to check is your transmission fluid. If it is low, or empty, it will make it almost impossible for you to shift gears and your vehicle will not run properly at all. The shifting will be hard and your vehicle will ride extremely rough and may just jerk and pull from time to time.

The cable or linkage connecting your shift to the transmission could be worn, broken, or clogged up with grease, oil or dirt. If it is worn or corroded, it will stick and make it difficult to shift into another gear. Also, if the rear brakes don’t receive a signal from the lock mechanism to turn on, you won’t be able to shift out of park either. The switch itself could be worn or even broken.

All of these problems will be especially noticeable if the vehicle has been sitting for a few hours and is cold. Another reason it can be hard to shift is that there is extra pressure put on all of the mechanics and the inward mechanisms if you are parked on an incline. The parts all have to work harder to get the vehicle into gear.

Fortunately, you can over ride the switch mechanism if you need to get it to your mechanic but can’t drive it there. It will save you paying for a tow. Next to the stick shift on the console, there should be a tiny door flap. It’s about the size of a penny. Pry the little door open and then take a knife, or a car key, and press down on the lock mechanism. If you can’t seem to locate the little door, check your owner’s manual. It will tell you where it is on your particular vehicle.