Why Is My Gear Shift Stuck In Park? (7 Reasons Why)

If you know the basics of driving, you know that you need to move your gear shift out of park to start driving. However, the gear shift can get stuck and not let you shift gears.

If this has happened to you, you may be wondering why your gear shift got stuck in park. I did some research, and here is what I found!

Why Is My Gear Shift Stuck In Park?

A gear shift can get stuck in park because the shifter interlock can malfunction, meaning you would have to override the interlock sequence. Additionally, pawl pressure from parking at an incline can get your gear shift stuck in park. No transmission fluid and a failed brake switch can keep your gear shift locked in park.

Do you want to find out more reasons why your gear shift gets stuck in park? I compiled a list of factors below, so keep reading!

1. Shifter Interlock

Generally, all automatic cars have a shift interlock system that keeps the driver from accidentally shifting into reverse or drive.

Normally, this interlock manually keeps the shifter from shifting out of park until the car’s brake pedal gets depressed.

While this shifter interlock is meant to keep you safe, these interlocks can also occasionally fail, keeping your gear shift stuck in park.

Luckily, most cars have a shift lock release that can override the shifter interlock to get you out of the park gear.

Typically, the manual override’s location will depend on your car model, so you need to refer to your car’s manual to find where the override is.

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2. Pawl Pressure From Incline

Parking at an incline is a risk for some automatic car drivers, and an inclined park can cause your gear shift to get stuck in park.

Generally, the transmission’s parking pawl will be under a lot of pressure when parked at an incline as the pressure is placed on the parking gear, which will be “park.”

When this happens, the parking gear and parking pawl will support the whole weight of your car when parked at an incline.

Generally, it would be difficult for you to shift out of this gear since there will be a lot of pressure on your gears.

To get out of this situation, a second person can try to shift the car’s weight to allow the driver to shift out of park, but a towing truck may still be required in more serious inclines.

If you want to avoid this situation, you need to use your parking brake on an incline before you shift your gear into park to put the car’s weight on the parking brake assemblies.

3. Open Circuit Issue

Occasionally, an open circuit in your car’s shift interlock system can cause your gear shift to be stuck in park.

That said, the open circuit can interrupt the communication between the ignition switch or the brake light switch and the shifter interlock.

As mentioned earlier, the shifter interlock is your car’s safety measure that keeps your car from accidentally reversing driving.

However, the shifter interlock can go bad, so you can check the power at the shifter interlock to see if it is a problem.

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With the brake pedal depressed and the ignition switch in the “run” or “on” position, check the power at the shifter interlock using a digital multimeter.

If the digital multimeter says that there is power, then it is likely that your shifter interlock is faulty.

4. Faulty Ignition Switch

Faulty Ignition Switch

While this is not a very common reason, a faulty ignition switch can make your gear shift get locked in park.

When you turn your car “on,” a faulty ignition switch will not activate the rest of the parts of your car.

For instance, the faulty ignition switch will not turn the gear shift “on,” making your gear shift stay stuck in the park position.

Typically, the gear shift will be impossible to move until you fix the ignition switch to give the gear shift a signal that it can shift gears.

5. Failed Transmission

Since your gear shifts are part of your transmission, your gear shift can be locked in park because your transmission failed.

If the transmission decides to fail, it is unlikely that you can move your car out of any gear until the transmission is fixed.

Usually, signs that your transmission is failing before the gear shifts get stuck can help you realize that the transmission is the cause of your problem.

For instance, the transmission would make a humming noise when shifting gears or take several seconds to react when you shift gears.

6. Failed Brake Switch

Your brake switch is a part of your shifter interlock sequence, and the brake switch is connected to the brake pedal.

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Generally, the brake switch mechanically presses the pedal into certain electrical signals in your car.

If the brake switch fails in an automatic transmission, the gear shift can get locked into park because there is no power.

7. No Transmission Fluid

Transmissions require transmission fluid to keep the gears in the transmission system running smoothly.

When there is a little transmission fluid left, you will notice that it is harder to shift gears while driving.

However, when there is no more transmission fluid, there is no lubrication to make the gears turn, which can leave your car stuck in gear.

Luckily, it is easy to fix this situation by adding more transmission fluid, but it is best to top off the transmission fluid while it is low, not when it runs out.

Conclusion

Normally, the gear shift in a car can get stuck in park because the shifter interlock can malfunction.

Also, excessive pawl pressure from an incline park, along with a lack of transmission fluid, can make your gear shift stuck in park.

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