Car Repair Questions

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Park brake interlock systemPark brake interlock system

I fielded a lot of auto repair questions over the years about specific car repairs. One of the more common car problems that I have addressed across multiple manufacturers is when a vehicle gets stuck in park.

Not only have I received a lot of e-mail questions about this common car problem. I have also seen it on the vehicles that I work on. Since the early-90s all vehicles come equipped with a very fancy park brake interlock system. This added safety feature requires you to have your foot on the brake before it will allow you to shift out of the park.

This system operates by a switch on the brake pedal that intern operates a solenoid on the shifter mechanism.

Some vehicles are equipped with a cable that is activated by a solenoid mounted on the brake pedal. Either system will release the safety lock on the shifter and allow you to move it from the park position.

A Very Common Car Repair Question

shifter stuck in park image

When this system malfunctions, the shifter becomes stuck in park. This leaves the vehicle stuck where ever it may be most likely a driveway or parking lot.

The first reaction of some drivers would be to start pushing on the release button and pulling hard on the shifting mechanism. This is a bad idea because these parts are my mainly made of plastic or white metal that will easily break.

Most of the time when I diagnose this system, I will find that the solenoid around the shifter or the cable release mechanism has become sticky with spilled soda or coffee. Most consoles contain a cup holder near the shifter.

It's very common that a drink will spill in this area. The owner will clean the area, but may not realize soda has dripped inside the shifting mechanism and on the solenoid. So a common car repair question is how to solve the problem.

Consoles that surround the shifter are usually easy to remove. After the console has been removed.

You can clean the area with alcohol or basically any type of cleaner, and the system should begin to work properly again. A valid question would be what happens if cleaning it does not work?

Or in some cases you could find the solenoid or the cable mechanism is broken and not repairable.Is there anything that can be done temporarily to escape from the park interlock.

On most cars the answer is yes. There is a safety override located at the base of the shifter mechanism near the cable or solenoid. This will basically allow you to push a button and override the park brake interlock. So that the vehicle can be moved or taken to an auto repair center.

Finally a car repair with a happy ending. Here is an e-mail response from a gentleman that I helped with this problem. Hey Mark, I want to make sure I don’t forget to thank you for taking the time to answer my questions with the gearshift problem I had.

I do not drink soda at all but I drink a lot of coffee. I spend a lot of time in traffic and count on coffee to keep me going. I must have spilled it a dozen times on the console, I would have never thought of that, thank you so much.

I did as you suggested and found the solenoid switch under the console and it was all sticky with dry coffee syrup. I used straight alcohol to clean it up and its much better. It still gets stuck now and then but I Just lift the console and hit the switch.

You are amazing thank you a thousand times for answering my car repair questions - Mike the Volkswagen guy. Bookmark this car repair questions page or share with a friend having problems. Get professional answers online from mechanics willing to help.

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