Solving the Dilemma: What To Do When Your Car Won’t Shift Into Park

Ever found yourself in that frustrating situation where your car just won’t go into park? You’re not alone. It’s a common issue that many drivers face and it can be quite a puzzle to figure out why it’s happening.

In most cases, it’s not just about a stubborn gear shift. There could be a variety of underlying issues causing this problem. From a faulty transmission to a worn-out brake light switch, the reasons can be many and varied.

Don’t worry, we’re here to help you understand and tackle this problem. With the right knowledge, you’ll be able to identify the root cause and take the necessary steps to fix it. So, let’s dive into it, shall we?

Key Takeaways

  • The inability of your car to go into park can be due to a variety of reasons including a faulty brake light switch, malfunctioning shift lock control system, broken transmission cable, or damaged parking pawls.
  • Checking the transmission fluid is a crucial first step in diagnosing the problem. Low or contaminated transmission fluid could be the cause of your car refusing to go into park.
  • The brake light switch plays a significant role in the car’s ability to switch gears. A malfunctioning brake light switch may not signal the car’s transmission properly resulting in difficulties shifting into park.
  • The shift linkage, which connects your gear shift to the transmission, can also cause issues when misaligned or damaged. Proper alignment of the shift linkage is important to ensure smooth gear shifting.
  • Not all car problems can be resolved through DIY fixes. Professional mechanics have the necessary experience and tools to accurately diagnose and fix car issues. Regular maintenance checks by certified professionals can help prevent serious problems and extend the car’s lifespan.

A car that won’t shift into park can pose serious problems and is often indicative of underlying transmission issues. Autoblog explains the mechanics behind this problem and how to address it. For specific troubleshooting and DIY fixes, RepairPal provides step-by-step guidance. Additionally, YourMechanic assesses the safety risks of driving when your car has this issue and recommends immediate actions.

Common Causes of the Issue

Understanding why your car refuses to go into park could very well be the first step in solving the problem. Several factors can be the root cause of this issue, let’s break them down.

A Faulty Brake Light Switch, for instance, can contribute to this problem. The brake light switch, primarily responsible for activating the brake lights once you press the brake pedal, also plays an essential role in unlocking the gear shift. Over time, due to continuous usage, it’ll wear down and potentially fail.

Shift Lock Control issues are also culprit to consider. Located within the shift lever assembly, the shift lock control system prevents the vehicle from being shifted out of ‘Park’ unless the brake pedal is depressed. If this system is malfunctioning, your vehicle might have difficulties getting into park.

Broken Transmission Cable can be another reason. Your car has a mechanical link from the ignition key cylinder to the transmission gear selector, typically via a cable. If this cable breaks or becomes detached, your car’s transmission won’t know that you’re trying to shift into park, which can cause it to refuse to go into the specified gear.

Lastly, damaged parking pawls may be the problem. A parking pawl is a device that locks up the transmission’s output shaft, preventing the vehicle from moving when it’s in park. If the pawl is damaged or worn out, it might not engage correctly, leading to issues with the vehicle going into park.

Keep these potential causes in mind as you encounter issues with your car not going into park. Couple your knowledge of these problems with the help of a qualified mechanic, you’ll be on your way to resolving this issue sooner than you’d think. Remember, the sooner that issues are diagnosed, the quicker and more cost-effectively they can be resolved. Now, let’s move onto troubleshooting each issue and finding effective remedies.

Checking the Transmission Fluid

Diving deeper into the rabbit hole of potential car issues, let’s now tackle your car’s lifeblood – the transmission fluid. Transmission fluid plays a crucial role in ensuring the smooth operation of your car’s transmission system. If your vehicle won’t go into park, this could very well be an area that’s causing trouble.

While it might sound like a daunting task, it’s not. You are more than capable of checking the health and level of your transmission fluid. As a rule of thumb, low or contaminated transmission fluid could well be the culprit for your car refusing to go into park.

First, start your engine and let it run idle for a few minutes to heat up. To get an accurate reading, warm transmission fluid is essential. Pop the hood while the engine is still running. Look for the transmission fluid dipstick, typically located near the engine’s back. It’s usually marked with a bright-colored handle, often red or yellow.

Pull out the dipstick, wipe it clean, reinsert it, and then pull it out again. This will give you a clear reading. If the level is low, you’ll need to add more fluid. Pay attention to the fluid’s condition as well. Healthy transmission fluid should be clear with a tinge of pink. If it’s muddy or has a burnt smell, it’s high time to have it changed.

Speaking of changing the transmission fluid, it’s often recommended to change it every 30,000 to 60,000 miles. However, this varies depending on your car model and driving habits.

If you observe issues with the fluid level or its condition, it’s advised to have a qualified mechanic handle it. Only they can truly diagnose if it is the transmission fluid causing your car to not go into park.

The transmission fluid check is one brick in the wall of possible solutions. Some other factors could be leading to your park problem, like a faulty transmission linkage or worn-out bushings. Therefore, continue looking into these potential causes until your car is back in perfect working order.

Examining the Brake Light Switch

Have you considered the brake light switch in your quest to decipher the mystery behind your car refusing to go into park? It’s another culprit that can cause this issue yet it’s often overlooked. This small device connects the brake pedal to the car’s transmission. Your car’s safety mechanism doesn’t allow the shift lever to move out of park unless you’re pressing the brake pedal.

What’s happening here is your brake light switch may not be communicating with your car’s transmission properly. If the brake light switch is malfunctioning, it might not transmit the signal that you’ve engaged the brake, and as a result, the car won’t shift into park.

Here’s how you can inspect if it’s the brake light switch creating the hassle:

  • Turn on your car and engage the brake pedal.
  • Get someone to check if the brake lights come on.
  • If the brake lights don’t light up, there’s a high chance that your brake light switch could be the problem.

You can find the brake light switch behind the brake pedal. Depending on the make and model of your car, it might be an easy or slightly challenging undertaking to access it. Always remember to consult your car’s manual for any specific procedures related to your vehicle model.

A broken or worn-out brake light switch can typically be replaced without much difficulty. If you’re unaware of how to switch it, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. You can drop by the nearest auto repair shop and have a trained mechanic take a look. However, should the issue persist, it’s possible that other components, such as the shift interlock solenoid or other parts within the brake/shift interlock system, are at fault. The next part of our article will discuss these potential problem areas in detail. So, do make sure to stay tuned.

Troubleshooting the Shift Linkage

There’s also a need for you to understand how to troubleshoot the shift linkage. As we discussed earlier—faulty brake light switches aren’t the only issues that might be causing your car to stay stuck in drive. Sometimes, the cause can be rooted in the shift linkage area.

You’re probably wondering what a shift linkage is. Well, it’s the mechanism that physically shifts your vehicle’s gear. It connects your gear shift to the transmission. If it’s misaligned or damaged, your car might have a hard time getting into park.

Determining if the shift linkage is the issue is relatively straightforward. First off, have a look under your car. Navigate your eyes towards the transmission. You’d typically find the shift linkage nearby. If it looks misaligned or bent, there’s your problem.

Before you try anything, remember safety first. Whenever working under a car, make sure it’s secured, stationary, and the engine is off. You wouldn’t want to take any unnecessary risks.

The act of adjusting the shift linkage may vary depending on the make and model of your car. Usually, there’s a nut that you can adjust to align the linkage properly. Turn it until your shift lever matches the correct gear in your transmission.

However, if the shift linkage seems beyond a quick fix or readjustment— it’s time to go to the professionals. A mechanic has the right set of tools and experience to effectively handle a damaged shift linkage. Although doing it yourself can be cost-effective, certain car issues are better left to the experts to ensure optimal performance and longevity of your vehicle.

Up next, we’ll be discussing another potential culprit that could be the reason why your car isn’t shifting into park: the shift interlock solenoid. There’s no need to worry if these terms sound confusing at first—you’ll get the hang of it quickly.

Seeking Professional Help

Not all car problems can be solved with a quick DIY fix. The technical nature of automobile mechanisms may call for specialized knowledge and tools. When dealing with a shift linkage problem, if you’ve done all you can and your car still won’t shift into park, it’s perhaps time to call in the professionals.

Automotive technicians have the necessary experience and training to handle a wide range of car issues. From replacing shift linkage components to adjusting the complex transmission system, these pros can spot and solve problems you may have missed.

Taking your car to a certified repair shop is the safest bet when trying to avoid further damage. Unresolved or improperly addressed issues can lead to larger and more expensive problems down the line. Repair technicians can run a comprehensive diagnostic test on your vehicle, identifying underlying problems, and determining the most efficient fix.

Professional mechanics possess not only expertise but also specialized diagnostic tools. These devices can speed up the troubleshooting process and ensure a more accurate diagnosis. Most vehicle owners don’t have access to this kind of equipment, further emphasizing the value of professional help.

Don’t underestimate the importance of routine maintenance, either. Regular check-ups can help prevent serious issues and even increase your car’s lifespan. So, while your car may not be shifting into park for several reasons, don’t let your ‘mechanical puzzle’ become a nightmare. Expert help is just a call away.

Next on our troubleshooting journey, we’ll look at how a faulty shift interlock solenoid could be the villain behind your car’s refusal to shift into gear. Stay tuned for more insightful information on the potential causes of this issue and how to fix it.


So, you’ve gained some insight into why your car won’t go into park. Remember, it’s not always a DIY fix. When things get tricky, it’s best to rely on the professionals. They’ve got the expertise and the tools to diagnose and fix even the most complex issues. Don’t delay; timely repairs can save you from further damage down the road. And don’t forget, regular maintenance is your best friend when it comes to extending your car’s lifespan. Stay tuned for our upcoming guide where we’ll delve into how a faulty shift interlock solenoid can cause shifting problems.

Why is professional help important in resolving complex car issues?

Automotive technicians possess the expertise and specialized tools necessary for diagnosing and fixing intricate problems like a problematic shift linkage. DIY fixes might not be sufficient, and delaying could lead to further damage.

What role does routine maintenance play in a vehicle’s lifespan?

Routine maintenance is vital in prolonging a vehicle’s lifespan. It helps identify and address potential issues early on and keeps the car in good running condition, effectively extending its utility period.

What could be a potential cause for issues with shifting into park?

An upcoming part of the article will discuss how a faulty shift interlock solenoid might be a potential cause for problems with shifting a vehicle into park.

Can delaying professional help cause more damage?

Yes, delaying professional help for car issues can exacerbate the problem and cause further damage. It is crucial to address any issues as promptly as possible to prevent this from happening.

Is a DIY fix always sufficient for resolving car issues?

While DIY fixes can be enough for minor issues, complex car problems often require the expertise of professional technicians. An improperly done DIY repair could end up causing more harm than good.