Hot Topics: Car Stuck in Park

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Original Post: Car stuck in Park, shifter won't move

jon_k - Visiting Guest

Model: 1997 Ford Taurus GL

Hello, I've got this Taurus and it has this really bad problem. Let me spill the whole story. A while back a problem surfaced where after I released the emergency brake, the car wouldn't shift from park to any other gear. It's like the shifter was stuck, and wouldn't budge. I worked on it with so much force that I actually broke the plastic colomn for the shifter. I called a towtruck, and he managed to get the car in neutral to take to pepboys to repair. They repaired the column and shift cable.

Now, once later the problem resurfaced. I came home from 7-11, and then shortly after (30 seconds) got back in the car to go somewhere else. The problem resurfaced. I called my dad to come out and try it, and it worked fine when he tried it (about 5 mins before he got there)

Now, the problem has surfaced a third time, and I can't get it to shift. I released the emergency brake and the column is stuck in Park. The damn thing will NOT shift! I even took a rock and pushed the car up a bit and put it behind the tire then tried shifting, but without stress on the parking break I still can't get it to shift.

This is a real problem because it has front wheel drive, and the only way to access the car in the driveway is from the back, meaning we'd have to tear ruin something to tow it away.

If anyone has the vaguest idea (even if you don't think your qualified to respond) then I would be greatly appreciative.

jeff67 - Member

I had a 97 taurus and if I remember correctly, when you step on the brake pedal while in park, there is a mechanical sound (the brake shift interlock I think) that sounds like it releases something that allows the shifter to move. You might have a bad brake light switch. Are the brake lights working when you have the problem?

jon_k - Thread Starter

"I had a 97 taurus and if I remember correctly, when you step on the brake pedal while in park, there is a mechanical sound (the brake shift interlock I think) that sounds like it releases something that allows the shifter to move. You might have a bad brake light switch. Are the brake lights working when you have the problem?"

They towed it, he popped the hood and the car shifted right to neutral. (How would something like that mysteriously work after popping the hood?) He said he better go ahead and tow it cause he's not sure if it'd continue to work.

I just wish we knew what to suggest to pepboys so they could diagnose it better. The brake lights work fine, though I don't hear an audible click when I press the break pedal.

michael van - Member

saftey switch

Do you recall if you had to have your foot on the brake to shift gears?I think so but anyway there is a electrical switch when you apply brakes that let you shift.This was to keep kids from shifting car into gear when stupid parents left kid in car and it was running.

I am not sure what year this saftey device became mandantory.

slickshift - Member

I think that vintage taurus has one of those switches that won't let you shift into gear if you are not wearing shoes

It's one of those safety features

I would assume it's a switch under the brake pedal, like the clutch safety switch would be under the clutch pedal

michael van - Member

more info

I found out that in 1991 they started this system.However how it works I am not sure.I am sure there is more then the switch in the brake petal,There must be a device locks out the transmission or the gear selector stalk.

majakdragon - Member

I have the same thing on my 95 Intrepid. You must have the brake depressed to shift it. I sometimes have to move the steering wheel also. Why I don't know. I wiggle the steering wheel and it shifts as long as I depress the brake.

jeff67 - Member

From the Haynes manual:

"An actuator solenoid and module assembly, located on the lower portion of the steering column, locks the shifter in Park whenever it receives a signal that the ignition switch is in the ON position. When the module receives a signal from the Brake On-Off (BOO) switch that indicates the brake pedal is depressed, it unlocks the shifter so that it can be shifted out of Park."

It says the most common failures in the system are the fuse and the BOO switch, and if they are fine, special tools are needed to diagnose.

To disable the system: Apply the parking brake, turn the ignition key to LOCK, then remove the key. Insert the key and turn it to OFF. Press the brake pedal. Shift to neutral, start the vehicle and select the desired gear.

This is all from the Haynes manual.

It could also be cause by parking the car on a hill. The parking pawl may be getting jammed up when the car rolls forward or backward after putting it in park. The best thing, if this is the case, is to park the car, but on the parking brake, then shift to park. When you want to drive it, release the parking brake only after the car is in gear.

jon_k - Thread Starter

Had it towed, by luck it went to Neutral when the tow truck guy came. It turns out the interlock system wiring was bad.

Torus's have a (STUPID TRACK RECORD STUPID.) saftey system that makes sure the break is pressed before you switch gears. I knew about this, but of course I always hit the break before switching gears.

I suppose the (ENGINEERS) designed it like this so if some guy with no legs attempted to drive a car, it wouldn't back out of the driveway when the amputee tried to switch gears.(stupid enough?)

The interlock is a relay switch, and the wiring that goes to the relay had gone bad. Hence why it worked sometimes, other times it wouldn't. Lucky it worked for the tow truck guy, otherwise we'd have it towed while in park (can you say ruined transmission?)

Thanks for all your replies. Hurrah for stupid engineering!

michael van - Member

good deal

Glad you found the problem.As far as engenering all new cars with automatic have this Federal Law.It appears some stupid parents left kids in the car and when kids shifted the gears well you know the outcome.

LAW SUIT city so they fixed it with the interlock system.

shottys - Member

sorry to resurrect this but to bypass shift locks you turn the key just a little pass where insertion point is.

multytruckhome - Visiting Guest

possible answear but you mostlikely tryed it already

Try holding your driving brake (not the parking brake) firmly down while shfting the gear lever , I have a 95 taurus also and found that out quite by mistake , hope it helps , goodluck .

go67b - Member

temporary brute-force way to take 94 sable wagon auto xmsn out of park

Remove console cover.

While pressing button on shifter and pulling shifter, use wrench to shove little metal piece (that is on passenger-side of shifter—the one that moves when pressing a button) away from the shifter.

Once out of park, use neutral with park-brake instead of park.

If it accidentally gets put in park, repeat the above.

Crusher 396 - Former Member

"The interlock is a relay switch, and the wiring that goes to the relay had gone bad."

I’m having a real problem with the above. Both the switch and circuit (wiring) are not going to fail at the same time. There’s a strong possibility that whoever did the repair didn’t take into account the TSB that is out for this issue. For that matter, the individual who did the repair may not even know what a TSB is. I no longer have access to TSB’s and recalls, but I vividly remember using the TSB to repair the issue you are describing. I also vividly remember that the TSB DOES NOT REQUIRE A SWITCH OR RELAY REPLACEMENT. The TSB simply calls for the installation of a NEW UPDATED WIRE HARNESS that resolves the issue.

You really should get in touch with the individual who did the repair, to see if the repair was done in accordance to the TSB.