Soda in the gear shifter - please help!



My teenage son was helping me run errands in my husband’s new car, and I rewarded him with a coke which he put in the cup holder up front. Our next and last stop was to pick up some wood at the hardware store, and when we loaded the wood we inadvertently knocked over the nearly full soda which landed on the gear shifter. A few days later the car started having trouble shifting out of Park. This trouble seems to be worse when the weather, and car, is cold. Yesterday it was 20 degrees here, and I had to warm up the car for 45 minutes before it would shift out of Park.

Several of my girlfriends have related since then that their car transmissions were ruined after similar accidents. Our very nice mechanic says that the sugar in the soda may have clogged the linkage, but not entered the transmission. My husband says take it to the dealer because the car is under warranty, but I don’t think the warranty covers our stupidity. What do you suggest to save this car and possibly this marriage?


Warranty does not cover self-induced issues like this. Dealer might do a good will repair, but be prepared to pay…


The coke probably spilled on the interlock solenoid for the shifter thus making it difficult to shift out of park.

The only thing that can be done is to remove the center console to get at the mess so it can be cleaned up.

And no, this won’t be covered under warranty. As burning a hole in the seat with a cigarette wouldn’t be covered under warranty.



Do you have any idea what the problem is? Nice local mechanic says “just live with it and see if it goes away”, which is not working out so well for us.


Thanks! That sounds promising.


As Tester said, the console needs to be opened up. The cost may not be as high as you fear. The tranny itself is not damaged internally.


The shift mechanism needs to be cleaned out. The soda doesn’t dry, but turns to a sticky syrup, a lot like glue. It has coated a lot of surfaces and may be jamming the shift interlock solenoid as previously mentioned. It cannot enter the transmission, since this shifter is only attached to the transmission through a cable. But, the console needs to be removed to expose the shifter, then the shifter removed to easily get at the mess and clean it out. It cleans up fairly well with any mild cleaner or soap solution, and nothing harsh is necessary. I’ve used many available interior detailing cleaners on such spills without damaging anything. Hopefully, they can also clean out the soda on the backside of the console and under the shifter mechanism and the rug.





is the only real way here. If you do it yourself or pay someone, this is the only way.
Good ol’ hot water will clean the soda, but to get to all of it means take apart everything.

take off the console trim, unplug all electrical, disconnect shift cable,
take shifter assembly out.

With the components out and separated you can now clean with hot water. ( even in the kitchen sink )
Even the release solenoid will clean ok because it will dry out before reassembly.
The sliding parts like the shift indicator cover can now be moved back and forth under hot water and get that sticky cleaned from within.

Some portions may need re-lubricated after cleaning.

You can now clean the carpet and floor hidden under there so it won’t stink or attract bugs.


The answers cover it completely, except to say that there is NO chance that this Coke got in your transmission.