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Honda Civic (auto transmission) -- gets stuck in PARK often, at times won't start

My friend’s older Honda Civic (automatic transmission)- year is 1995 - has been getting stuck in PARK off and on the past 10 days - she was shown how to “override it” by AAA by putting the car key in some slot near where the gear shifting handle is. She can shift it out of PARK and into 4th gear and then can start the car. but now sometimes she cannot get even get the car to start. It has happened about 8 times in the past 10 days. It first happened about 6 months ago – but now it’s happening almost daily. It has been very rainy here lately (in the Bay Area of Northern CA) - can this be an electrical thing that is happening?

Wish I could give more details – my friend needs her car for work - so she is a bit worried that her car may be on it’s way out or headed for major repairs. Her financial reserves are not great so she’ll have to find a good “used” vehicle again too.

The brake pedal switch is probably the problem. These are sometimes adjustable, but if not, are generally very cheap and easy to replace. The switch is a rectangular plastic box with a plastic button, located behind the brake pedal. If it is defective or needs adjustment, the brake lights won’t come on when you depress the brake pedal, the car won’t shift out of park, and may even not start (not sure about this year and model as far that symptom goes: there might be something else going on with the car). Adjust or replace the brake pedal switch and if that doesn’t help, repost the question.

I am getting a little confused…Why cant she start the car in Park? I dont see you putting it in 4th gear…it doesnt have a selection for that I believe… D4 maybe… But the car shouldnt start in ANY drive gear forward or reverse. In Neutral…yes…but no other setting besides park will allow you to start the engine.

In this car you have an electrical solenoid that unlocks the shifter…When the switch on the brake pedal dies…it wont trigger the solenoid to unlock the shifter…

DO YOU HAVE BRAKE LIGHTS? Do they come on when you push on the brake…very important for obvious reasons…in addition to also being pertinent to the unlock mech…

Check for brake lights…also go thru ALL of your fuses in the vehicle …use a test light or continuity meter to check the viability of all fuses…

Now if you find that you have brake lights…and no blown fuses… I wonder if she has ever spilled coffee or soda in or near the shifter…if so this will wreak havoc on your shift lock solenoid and must be properly cleaned up… Remember where she puts the key in the shifter console? Remove that plastic cover and look at that mechanism… It has an electric solenoid that unlocks your ignition…there are many ways to test this solenoid electrically… Also when you have the cover off key on…apply the brake…does the solenoid make a noise…or click? If so its working and may have a linkage arm off or something…YOu can almost always hear that solenoid working even with the cover on.

So check your fuses…check your brake lights…Listen for the click when the brakes are depressed… Check into the solenoid under that cover… After that you might have brake switch issue…not sending the connection to the solenoid… look at and or apply batt power to the solenoid as a test… LOTS O THINGS TO CHECK…LEt me know if you have questions and I can walk u thru it…

thanks much for your reply – I am forwarding these all to my friend. she plans to go back to her mechanic next week. Rita

thanks much for your reply – I am forwarding these all to my friend. she plans to go back to her mechanic next week.

Mostly, the problem has been that she can start the car, but she can’t get it to shift out of PARK (unless she does the override thing I described). but yesterday, she couldn’t even get the car to start – period.
although, after she called me (and I posted this on CAR TALK) I told her to go back and try to start the car again – and she was able to this time. So the main problem – has been the frequent need to “override” in order to get the car out of PARK.

Also, if she has the problem again this weekend she plans to flag down someone walking by (or call me her neighbor to come over) and check her brake lights while she is trying to shift the car from PARK.

I’ll let you know how it all works out.

Let us know, thanks.