Gear Shift Stuck: A Complete Guide

Gear Shift Stuck

Car problems are usually unpredictable and can be frustrating, especially when nothing was wrong with the car a few minutes earlier. One of the common problems that usually will not make your car move is a stuck gear shift.

What is your first reaction if your gear shift gets stuck? Naturally, you want to feel the frustration. But the questions to ask are many as much as the answers you want. Who is responsible for this problem? How can you get it solved? What signs should you look out for when your gear shift is stuck?

These are genuine questions that agitate the minds of many car owners and drivers and are curious to get their answers resolved as quickly as possible. The first step is to know what a gear shift is and how it operates. In order to efficiently diagnose this issue, pick yourself up a creeper for mechanics that we recommend.

What is a Gear Shift & How Does it Work?

A gear shift is a mechanism by which transmission systems of a vehicle are activated or deactivated.

When the gear shift isn’t moving, it is stuck in park mode; sometimes, this problem can be solved on the spot or might need the transmission system’s entire change. Either way, there are various reasons why your gear shift gets stuck. But first, let’s get a simple understanding of how gear works.

Transmission systems are of two types; the manual and the automatic. Most cars now come with automatic transmission. In an automatic transmission, there is a fluid (transmission fluid) that applies under pressure. This pressure is powered when the engine is running, so when the car is off, the pressure is lowered, and an automatic transmission tends to move freely, which is where the park mechanism comes in.

 The parking mode is a simple system that is attached to the outside of the transmission. The system locks the transmission when the gear shift is placed in park mode, preventing the car from rolling. This is where the problem can occur, where the gear shift gets stuck in the park mode, forestalling movement of the car.

Gear Shift Stuck: Causes & Solutions

There are a few causes of the stuck gear shift; some are latent; others are manifest. Whether they appear open or reside in the depths of other components, gear shift issues are a common phenomenon in the automotive industry. It requires that you take serious precautions before they occur. 

Here is a list of some of the causes of a stuck gear shift:      

1. Malfunctioning Shift Interlock

This resembles a safety lock intended to keep the vehicle from being moved out of park mode until the driver applies the brake. The shift interlock is comprised of solenoids, which are circularly molded metallic coils that permit you to move the gear with ease as long as you applying the brakes. 

 The solenoid gets signals from the brakes and removes the mechanical lock so you can put the gear shift in drive or reverse. The gear gets stuck out when the solenoid doesn’t get the sign to deliver to the lock even subsequent to applying the break.

What To Do

How do you go about a bad shift interlock? The process is simple. You can solve the problem on the spot and keep your car moving; there is an override feature that allows you to release the shifter in case of an emergency. This feature is located in different places, depending on the brand of the car.

 You can also check your car manual for necessary information on how to override your shifter. However, this is not a lasting answer; you still have to take your car to an auto repair shop for further diagnosis and repair. The good thing is that the interlock problem does not necessarily require the intervention of a professional technician.  

 2. Faulty Brake/ Brake light switch

Another factor that may be responsible for your car gear shift getting stuck is the faulty brake of a bad brake light switch. As mentioned above, the brake plays a vital role in getting gear out of park mode. A faulty brake system will not send the signal to the solenoid, thereby making the gear shift stuck. Another is the brake light switch. The brake lights are activated by this switch, and if the switch is faulty, it can automatically affect the gear shift. 

What To Do: 

Have your brake light switch and brake pedal checked by a technician. In the case of an emergency, use the brake/shifter override feature. Replacing the brake light switch is another thing you can do. If you choose to replace a brake light switch, there are four steps you can take. The first step requires that you open your car’s driver door to be able to reach the underside dash where the brake pedals are linked together. You will then disconnect the electrical cover and screws that are located behind the brake pedal. With a socket wrench, disengage the brake light switch and electrical supplies before replacing the faulty switch with a new one. Turn on the car and press the brake pedal to check if the lights come on. If the lights are on, your brake light switch problem is resolved. 

3. Defective shifter cable 

One other cause of a stuck gear shift is a defective shift selector light or cable. The shifter cable links the shifter to the transmission system of the car. A faulty shifter cable can be caused by corrosion, rust, gummed grease, or dirt. This will impede the operation of the shifter and the transmission, thereby leading to the gear shift being stuck.

One of the symptoms of a bad shift selector cable is that your indicator light will not work well with the gear. Even when you have adjusted your gear pedal from ‘move’ to ‘park’, the indicator cable will not recognize the action and can be showing ‘park’.

Also, a shifter gear that is faulty will pose a serious difficulty for you to remove the key, thus refusing you the access to turn off your vehicle. If you are unable to turn off the key, it comes with a risk that includes your inability to determine which gear you are in. the far-reaching consequence is that you will not be able to predict the behavior of your car. This will be unsafe for your use.

If you are not sure which gear your car is in, you cannot know the gear it will start with the next time you turn it on. This is a serious problem because it is likely your car’s shift interlock solenoid may have been affected. It may also have caused damage to the shift selector cable. Apart from these signs of a defective shift selector cable, you may also notice that your car will not go into gear.

What To Do: 

Whatever the problem or symptoms may be, you will need to take your car to a trained mechanic to help you diagnose what the issues are and resolve them as soon as possible. You may not be able to tell which parts of the vehicle have issues when any of the signs of a bad shifter light manifest. Take your vehicle to an auto repair shop to have the cable diagnosed for issues and have it fixed. 

4. Overloaded Transmission Pawl 

When your gear shift gets stuck, you may also need to check the transmission pawl. The transmission panel is designed to keep the wheels in place when the car is not moving. If the car is parked in a slant position, there is a tendency for the vehicle to roll before shifting the gear to park mode. This will place the car’s load on the pawl and cause the gear to get stuck in the park mode and damage the pawl.

What To Do:

This is a simple problem but will require you to get help from people to help you push the car up to release the load on the pawl. And do not park in an inclined position without applying brakes firmly first, then slightly take your foot off, making sure the wheels are not moving before shifting the gear to park mode.

5. Bad Gear Fuse

 A fuse is an electrical device that is primarily designed to protect the electrical component from overload. A gear fuse will blow up when it seems like the circuit is overloaded, and a blown gear fuse may be one of the reasons why the gear shift gets stuck.

What to Do: 

The possible way out here is to replace the gear fuse. The electrical components of your vehicle are very sensitive and you should avoid as much as you can the temptation to want to go the Do-It-Yourself way.

6. Low or dirty transmission fluid

 Low or dirty transmission fluid can make the gear shift stuck. This problem is noticeable even before it will lead to the gear shift being stuck. You will notice sluggishness in your vehicle even at high RPMs and general underperformance of the transmission system.

What To Do: 

Make sure you have the transmission fluid checked and, if possible, refilled or changed. Replacing the oil might not be as frequent; however, it needs to be monitored. This will reduce the unnecessary cost you bear on transmission fluid.

7. Cold weather

 This is not common for those living in regions with hot weather conditions and often occurs during winter. The engine and transmission system can get too cold, especially if you live in regions where the weather temperature is low or below freezing point. A cold transmission system can make the gear shift stuck. 

What To Do:

Cold weather is usually a common phenomenon you must be ready to face and deal with when it concerns your car. The best thing to do if your car is under extreme weather conditions is to turn the engine on and wait for a while to heat up before shifting your gear. This process of warming your engine scares away all the cold conditions and activates it for optimal performance.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do you override and release a stuck gear shift?

There are many ways of overriding and realizing a stuck gear shift. It all depends on the model of the car’s and the manufacturer’s instructions. Different cars come with their own override mechanisms, and you need to visit your car manual for more information.

All the same, there is a general way to override or release a stuck gear shift in case of an emergency. This few-step method usually works for most vehicles. 

  1. Insert your key into the ignition
  2. Apply the brakes (emergency or normal)
  3. Turn the ignition key to the point before “on”; this will not put the dashboard lights on but will activate the shifter.
  4. Move the gear shift to neutral
  5. Turn the ignition to start and move the gear shifter to drive or reverse.

Q: Why does my automatic car jerk when I shift gears?

A jerk or a shake when you shift your gear usually indicates that your transmission oil is low or needs to be changed. It could also be a result of metal corrosion in the metal part of the transmission system. 

Q: How often should I change transmission oil?

Transmission oil does not regularly need a change like the engine oil. Nonetheless, it is recommended that you change your oil every 40000km to 100,000km. 

Final Thoughts

A gear shift getting stuck is, at times, a small problem that can be fixed on the spot, and it is usually inexpensive. Some of the causes can be fixed by you while others you have to take to an auto repair shop. Nevertheless, no matter how simple an issue a stuck gear shift is, it can result from the entire transmission system. So have your car properly diagnosed before reaching any conclusion.

Additionally, if the normal force does not let you move your gear, do not force a stuck gear shift; it could lead to bigger damages to your transmission system.