Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Seattle rain causes shifter to stick like semi-dried gum

*** Re-posting to this board what I sent to Car Talk ***

People keep telling me to go on Car Talk to stump you guys… so here I am.

I have a 2005 Hyundai Tucson. Mostly maintained by myself (brakes, oil changes, etc). Always follow service schedule.

I moved to Seattle in 2012 (from the cold Midwest). When the Tucson is parked for more than a day or two in rain, the transmission shifter sticks as if someone took wads of semi-dried chewing gum and stuffed it down inside the shift console (located center column between driver and passenger). In addition to the sticky behavior, the transmission does not always change from park, to reverse, neutral, or drive.

I learned that if I rock the transmission shifter, from park to drive, over and over, the “stickiness” starts to go away, and eventually after 10 or so tries, it shifts like it should: smooth.

Unfortunately, when it rains (Seattle), the sticking problem returns and I have to repeat the rocking process. Again, when this problem appears, it doesn’t always go into drive (or back to park!). So I have to “rock” it until it’s smooth. Only then will it go into into drive and/or park. Like I said, rock it enough times and it’ll smooth itself out, and go into drive and park like it normally should.

Note: transmission appears to work just fine. No hiccups or trouble shifting gears when driving.

I’ll make stuffed blue cheese burgers with caramelized onions and thick hearty mushrooms (with a few beers to wash it down) if you can figure this one out.


Have you had the stop lamp switch replaced under this recall? The recall notice says the faulty switch can interfere with shifting out of “park.”

Recall number: 09V280000

Or it might be another part of the interlock switch/mechanism that prevents shifting out of park unless your foot is on the brake.

The next time you know the transmission will be hard to shift, open the hood and remove shift cable from the transmission. Now try shifting the shifter.

If the shifter moves freely the problem might be with the transmission range/limit switch.


I would disassemble the center console, remove the shifter unit and clean the gum out of it - and the old soda and coffee and whatever other goop has run down there, and lube up any kinds of pins or pivots. I’d probably do the same down the entire shift linkage until I hit the range switch at the transmission - and then I’d see what cleaning that might need too.

(Of course Tester (above) is frequently smarter than I, so you can disconnect at the switch first to see if the center console needs any attention at all).

I agree with everyone so far. I lived in the Seattle area for a while and believe me…lubrication in that kind of weather can be your best friend.

Thanks everyone for the feedback. Cigroller, there’s no old soda/coffee/or other goop… I run a clean ship! :wink: Will give these suggestions a go and report back on my findings.

The shift cable itself could have a bad spot where rust has formed inside the jacket. The same could happen at a pivot point at the transmission end or the console end.

This is not a common problem for this vehicle so knowing the entire repair history might be helpful when looking for a problem that was created by a person rather than normal wear and tear of the car.