Car Parking Tips · October 3, 2022

Why Is My Car Stuck In Park And How To Fix?

Are you unsure of what to do or what is wrong with your car because it is stuck in park?

Even though it’s annoying, a car transmission getting stuck in park is more frequent than one might imagine, especially when it happens without warning.

Why is my car stuck in park? There are a few possible causes for your inability to move out of park. One of the simplest is that you might not have enough transmission fluid, especially if you’ve developed a leak. The above procedures can typically assist with a dead battery, which is another frequent cause of a car not shifting out of park.

Read on to learn the cause of your car’s stuck-in-park situation and the steps you must take to fix it.

Why Is My Car Stuck In Park?

1. Increased Pawl Pressure

The parking pawl will have to support more weight than it would if you parked your car on level ground if you do so. It wedges itself into gear as a result of the added strain on your gear shifts.

In these circumstances, the only option is to pull the car off the incline or even to put it in drive rather than park.

To accomplish this, you must either move or rock the car with the assistance of another person, or else call a tow truck for help, which should reduce this pressure.

Always engage your parking brake before stopping on a incline if you want to keep this from happening again.

Applying the parking brake before putting the transmission in park allows you to fully support the brake assembly.

2. Brake Switch Failure

The brake pedal must be operational for the automatic gear shift to work properly. A sensor is used by the motorized switch for the brake interlock to keep track of when the brake pedal is depressed.

If this sensor malfunctions, on the other hand, it has been determined that you are not applying the brake. As a result, even when you are pressing down on the pedal, the car may become stuck in park.

Consider a scenario in which a friend sees your car rolling when you need to stop and gets out of their car. The automatic gear shift mechanism must be malfunctioning in that case, it can be assumed.

As a result, the instrument panel or dashboard lights operate in accordance with this circumstance rather than in accordance with your direction of travel or rate of speed through traffic.

An independent mechanic will use a multimeter to examine all-electric signals and identify the root cause of the malfunctioning across multiple checks and engine light alerts in order to diagnose defective brake interlock failure.

Thankfully, changing a brake switch is not difficult. To complete the task, no specialized knowledge or expertise is required.

3. Malfunctioning Shifter Interlock

Shift interlock systems are standard equipment in the majority of contemporary vehicles. This feature prevents you from releasing the brake without first releasing the parking brake.

This prevents you from inadvertently switching into drive or reverse while in a parking space or roadblock, which could result in a collision.

Some mechanically inclined individuals choose to bypass these limitations in order to move the car more quickly. By pressing the connector’s center button until it is unlocked, the overridden selectors will disengage and unlock it.

You might be able to disable the system by turning your car key to the accessory position. Start your car after placing the shifter in Neutral.

Additionally, a flathead screwdriver can be used to access a manual shift override. To learn more, consult your owner’s manual as this feature may be located in a different locations in many vehicles.

4. Transmission Failure

Rarely, you’ll discover that specific components of the transmission need to be repaired due to issues like a broken shifter solenoid.

To restore functionality, checking for these problems necessitates specialized diagnostic equipment and prior knowledge of your car’s particular requirements.

There are a number of transmission parts that could malfunction and cause your car to become stuck in park. Depending on what’s broken, you can usually find a replacement, but occasionally you have to take the entire unit apart.

Read More: Why Won’t My Car Shift Out of Park?

Steps To Take If Your Car Is Stuck In Park

There are a few different causes for why a car might not want to move out of park. There are some general actions you can take, though, to see if they’ll be helpful in your circumstance. Here are some quick instructions that should enable you to unlock your car’s parking brake in a variety of circumstances.

  1. Set your parking brake
  2. Turn your ignition to the on position but don’t start the engine
  3. Remove the plastic cap from your shift lock override on the shifter console
  4. Insert a screwdriver or similar object into the slot and hold down
  5. Press your brake pedal down
  6. Move your shifter off park
Car Stuck In Park

How To Fix A Car Stuck In Park?

1. Adjust The Weight

There are a few different ways to make sure your car releases its grip if it is stuck in park because of the weight of your car.

First, you could try pressing the brake pedal down firmly, pushing the gear shift lever hard, and gently rocking the car back and forth to try and release some of the pressure on the transmission. If that doesn’t work, you could always try another method to release the pressure on the transmission.

2. Look At Brake Lights

We advise having someone look at the brake lights as you press the brake pedal to make sure the car is not stuck in park as a result of applying too much force to the brake pedal.

Check the fuses if the lights are still not working. The car switch should be tested for other potential causes if everything is operating as it should.

If the vehicle has a security system, you might need to turn it off. Since the brake switch can be a part of two different circuits, it is possible that it is faulty even if the brake lights are operational.

3. Override Shift Interlock Solenoid

In some cars, it is possible to turn off the shift lock solenoid. Find the shifter cover and check to see if there is a release first.

If no one is present, refer to your owner’s manual to find the precise location of the shift lock solenoid override.

Every car will have a different method for disengaging the shift lock solenoid. Depending on your owner’s manual, you may need to follow a different process, but it usually gets done following these steps:

  • Step 1: Turn Off the Car. Before you start, make sure the car isn’t running.
  • Step 2: Set the Parking Brake. Raise the parking brake as high as it will go before taking any further action.
  • Step 3: Go to the “RUN” or “ON” Position. When your key is in the ignition, set it to “RUN”, and if it has a push-to-start, push the button without touching the brake pedal.
  • Step 4: Locate the Override Slot and remove it. There should be a plastic cap covering the shifter in your car. Typically, it is situated to the left of the shifter, just above the automobile shifter. You can take out those plastic plugs that are in the hole. Simply use a flathead screwdriver to pry them out.
  • Step 5: Push the Override Slot down. Toggle the override slot downward by inserting a screwdriver there. The remaining steps must be taken in the same manner.
  • Step 6: Press the Brake. Put your foot on the brake pedal and change the shifter as you would normally.
  • Step 7: Move the Shifter to Neutral. With one hand, hold the shifter in Neutral while using the other to continue pressing the brake and inserting a screwdriver into the override slot. There is nothing wrong with turning off the car. However, it won’t operate if the vehicle is in drive or reverse.
  • Step 8: Start the Engine. You’ll be able to move forward once your car has started. Put the car in park and take out the screwdriver right away. Since your vehicle is already in “Neutral,” this method will work every time without fail. For a car stuck in park, try this short-term fix. So that you won’t have to repeat this action each time you need to start your car, you should have everything inspected by a mechanic before you drive it.

3. Wiggle The Steering Wheel

The first thing you might want to do is make sure your steering wheel lock rod is installed properly.

The steering wheel may occasionally become stuck if this component is present. Because it will be difficult for you to move the position of your shifter, having one of these rods in place can also make it very difficult to start your car.

The best way to fix this issue is to loosen up the steering wheel by gently pulling it in both directions before trying again.

A steering wheel lock will still exist even if an aftermarket steering wheel lock rod is not installed.

4. Warm Up Your Car

If you live in a colder region of the country, there’s a chance that your car is frozen and won’t start no matter how many times you turn the key.

Heat should be turned on as soon as possible in this situation. See if allowing your car to warm up for a few minutes will allow things to sufficiently defrost before letting it go.

The ideal thing to do is to keep your car in a garage. This will extend the life of your car and stop such a thing from happening.

5. Replace The Ignition Switch

The ignition switch should also be inspected. The ignition switch is the only device that can inform a car’s systems whether the engine is running or not.

Therefore, you’ll be able to tell if your ignition is malfunctioning if either a) your car decides not to start or b) you can’t get your keys out because they won’t budge.

Even though an ignition like this might seem pricey, there are a number of affordable options from reputable companies that cost less than $50.

6. Take Your Car To A Mechanic

If none of the aforementioned solutions work for you and your car is stuck in park, you will need to hire a tow truck to return it to the dealer for additional inspection, which will increase the cost of the repair.

Your car will need to be examined by a mechanic for any additional problems that might contribute to a failed park gear shift. You should have no more trouble leaving the park once the issue has been resolved.

Tips To Prevent Car Stuck In Park

The actions listed below could be the cause of your current situation or could prevent you from ever again having a car that won’t move out of park.

Let me highlight some general advice before I go into some causes and solutions. These will aid in your future escape from Park and may also be the cause of your current impasse.

Don’t Try To Force The Shifter Loose

The time isn’t right to try to force your way through the problem, even though I realize that you’re probably frustrated. Other parts could be damaged if you try to force the shifter loose. A costly piece of equipment, your car’s transmission is.

The troubleshooting procedures I highlight later in this article are the best course of action.

Use Your Parking Brake When You’re On A Hill

Whenever you are parked on a hill, it is a good idea to engage your parking brake. Since I was raised driving a manual, using it every time I park has become second nature to me.

The fact that it is safer is one justification for doing this. Your car will roll away and crash into anything in its path if your transmission or parking pawl malfunction while you’re parked overnight. You have a safety net with a parking brake that can stop this.

Your parking pawl benefits as a whole, which is another factor. Some of the force involved with angled parking is reduced.

Before starting your car and accelerating away, be sure to release the parking brake. The smell and strange sensation you feel while driving should alert you to the presence of your e-brake, even though modern cars usually warn you about it on the instrument cluster on the dashboard.

Remember To Press The Brake

You might be forgetting to apply the brake before stepping out of Park, as silly as that may sound. The parking pawl won’t disengage if this is the case, which means you’ll be “stuck” in Before pressing the brake, put the car in park.

If you’re only lightly pressing the brake, press it harder and try to exit Park once more.


How Can An Automatic Shift Be Unlatched From Park?

To change out of park, you must press the brake pedal. Although it can be challenging, this is a crucial step that you shouldn’t skip. If you neglect to do this correctly, your shifter interlock may end up not functioning at all, which means you’ll be unable to get your car out of park because of a “car stuck in Park” problem with your automatic gear shift. However, if an interlock malfunctions, the automatic gear shift will continue to be in park even after applying the brakes.

How To Access The Shift Lock Override?

Drivers of contemporary vehicles can switch between automatic transmission options thanks to the shift lock release mechanism. When a driver steps out of the car, they can keep the car in park by pressing the shift lock button, which is typically found on top or to the side of the gear selector lever.


At this point, hopefully, your vehicle is in the Drive position. I talked about some typical reasons why cars get stuck in the park and how to fix them so you can resume driving. I hope you find this post to be useful.

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