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1996 buick skylark parking pawl

I have a 1996 skylark with a transmission that gets stuck in park. I can shift to neutral and rock the car forward and back, and this will make the transmission pop into neutral. I can then drive around all day in drive just fine. Also, reverse will allow the pawl to lock up too, so I cant use reverse. I think I might be able to fix the problem myself if I can figure out what parts to find before I take my transmission out and need to rely on others for a ride. I am fairly mechanical and have replaced a transmission and various components on other cars I’ve owned for 10 years, but I’ve never opened a transmission before. The cheapest a shop will try to fix the pawl for is $800, being a college student and the car was bought for $2000 its not worth it I would live without park or reverse first.

I’m not sure I can help except to tell you that this is a part that almost should not exist at all. That a parking pawl is the only thing that is holding your car in place in most cases while the local kids toddle and bike and skate and walk behind your car is wrong. The problem is that it is very flimsy part.
Engage the parking brake.

If you have good brakes and a working parking brake, but the pawl is broken, so what? Use the parking brake. Just try to park the car on level ground.

I suppose the problem is that it has to be in park or he can’t take the key out. So he can’t just leave it in neutral.

Well the problems I really have are that its a pain to get the key out. To get the key out I leave the tans in drive, turn the key back as far as it will go, this will kill the engine but not release the key, then I shift the lever to park turn the key all the way off, pull the key out, and shift the lever back to neutral. Then when go to leave all I have to do is start the car in neural shift to drive and I’m off. Second, I don’t have a functioning reverse because if I shift to reverse the pawl engages. Third, while outside my house in the street its perfectly level, there isn’t always a level spot to park in or always a spot where I can pull all the way through so I can just drive forward out of the spot. So I find myself quite often having to push my car backwards out of the spot. As far as the parking brake goes. I have good brakes as I re-did all four when I bought the car, but I don’t trust the cable of a 14 year old car that maybe has never been used.

Okay, sorry for the little rant I did there. I just hate the stupid part and how often it is relied on to prevent cars and trucks from rolling downhill.
If the pawl engages while you are trying to go into reverse, I think you have a linkage issue rather than a problem with the pawl. Obviously, the pawl still works to lock out the ignition function and the tranny, so that part is not in question. But the pawl should engage only when you put the vehicle in park.
I think you should have the linkage looked at before you spend any money on replacing the pawl, which I think will be a waste of money.
By linkage I am talking about the shift, and the associated steel plates that shift your your transmission (but have nothing else to do with your transmission) when you want to go from park to drive or reverse, or any other gear. If the linkage is worn or broken, you will have problems just as you describe, inability to get into reverse, to achieve a locked Park, etc.
I would like you to see someone else aside from the guy who wants to replace the pawl for up to 2 G’s, and ask them about the linkage only.

I’ve taken it to two different places. The first was a goodyear shop where my friend works. they told me the pawl was the fault and the only option they gave me was to replace the transmission with a salvaged one for approx. 1300. I then took it to a transmission specific shop which looked at at, and came to the same conclusion, but gave me the option to pull the trans and fix the pawl for $800 or rebuild the whole thing for $1400. The first symptoms of something wrong was that the trans wouldn’t go into park easy and I would have to apply more than the usually pressure to get it to go into park. I did this for about a month or more then one day it was stuck in park and by rocking it in neutral I was able to push it backwards and drive it in drive. I did try to adjust the linkage as a chilton’s manual described, but I had no success. All that’s involve in that is

  1. Place the selector in the N detent
  2. Raise the locking tab on the cable adjuster
  3. Place the shift control assembly on the transaxle in the neutral position
  4. Push the locking tab back into position

I did notice with just my hand I couldn’t get the transmission to go past reverse or drive I’m not sure which, but it only clicked once and then would go back to neutral.