Spill in gear shift, now no up shift!

I have a 2006 hyundai sonata, which has possibly the worst designed cup holder of all time. Because of this awful design flaw, I stopped my car at a light yesterday and some of my coffee spilled into the gear shift box.
Now when I am in regular D, it appears the car stays in 1st gear. This sonata also has the option of pushing the stick to the right so you can manually shift gears… I think it’s called sports mode or something. When I try that, I can shift it up to 2nd, but I drops right back down to 1.
I left it overnight, hoping it was just some wet electronics and would dry, but this morning the problem persists.
Not sure if there’s a fix for this, if I should take it to a transmission place, or just my regular mechanic.

Someone suggested contact cleaner, which I might have I just have to look.

Any ideas?

This really isn’t a transmission problem. The shifter is really just a box of electrical switches along with other electrical things like diodes etc. Likely you’ve shorted out a circuit board and it won’t come back to life. I think this is best handled by a dealer service department.

A transmission shop would have to order the part and they might not know how to take apart the interior to access the shifter without doing damage to the plastics.

My friend said it might be in something called limp mode, which may be fixed by disconnecting the positive battery terminal and erasing the computer codes. I’ll try that first before I go getting it towed or anything.

Actually it was disconnect both terminals, touch the wires together and wipe the computer and then drive it up through 4th gear. I did it, and no dice. But there’s a possibility it seems like it might be working itself out. I was able to drop into neutral and then back into drive and got it into third and hit a normal speed. We shall see.

I’ll bet you use sugar and/or cream in your coffee. Sugar is the worse but cream, especially the non-dairy creamers aren’t good either.

Your shifter has a bunch of spring loaded gates with push button switches. These may be attached to a circuit board, but they can just be individually wires and mechanically attached to the gates. You coffee saturated one of the switches where the contacts are, probably the 1st gear switch and shorted the terminals.

The sugar and/or cream delayed drying so the mixture remained conductive longer, telling the cars computer that the 1st gear is selected by the driver. As it dries, it will become less conductive, but the residue will want to absorb any moisture in the air so on very wet days when there is a lot of condensation, this problem will reoccur.

I don’t know your car specifically, but most follow the same design for the console. You empty the rear storage compartment and down in the bottom, there should be a cover that you can pry up. Under it there should be one or two screws. There may also be one or two screws at the very forward edge of the compartment. Remove all these screws and then lift the compartment out of the way.

You should see two more screws at the back of the console cover that goes over the stick shift. You also need to pull the insert out of the cup holder and there should be one or two screws under it. Remove all these screws and you should be able to lift the cover up over the stick shift. Now you should be able to see all the gates and switches.

Use a Q-tip soaked in distilled water to clean the back of each switch. Do not use alcohol, it doesn’t work well with sugary residues, water is much better. Then put it all back together.

Or you could just pour hot water down into the shifter where the coffee went. Just do it on a warm dry day where you can leave your windows open to dry out the interior. Pour just a little at first to soften the residues, then follow a few minutes later with a little more, and then again a few minutes after that. No more than about a cup of hot (distilled) water should do the trick.

If you take the console apart, I would recommend using DeOxit D100 to clean the contacts. It is about $20.00 for a 2 oz aerosol can, but you don’t have to use very much. I use it to clean “dusty” contacts in stereo equipment and it quickly eliminates the scratchy sound that some older equipment can make when you adjust the volume.

I would not use the DeOxit in this case. It wont work as good as hot distilled water. It doesn’t dissolve sugar very well. It is a very good product for cleaning electronics in general, but for salts and sugars, distilled water is better.

I’ve never tried cleaning salts or sugars off of anything with it, so I’ll defer to @keith on that :).

I find it interesting that you blame the cup holder.

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I agree.

When coffee is spilled while I drive my car, it’s definitely my fault.

I accept full responsibility.

For my spilled coffee, that is.

Try “Break Free” electric grade contact cleaner. It does not need to be rinsed and is a safe solvent for most all surfaces. I use this stuff and other similar Break Free products for everything cause I’m lazy and it works. I would worry pouring water down there…hot or otherwise. Break free is an anti corrosive as well which is what you need as you have way too much moisture and residue introduced into the area. If it doesn’t work, it’s time to spend money at a shop…

Same thing happened to me yesterday on my way to work… Drink fell forward when breaking and car went from 4th gear immediately down to 1st and wouldn’t shift up. I Googled “spilled beverage on gear shifter” and this forum popped up.

Randomly, I also have an 06 hyundai sonata, so I thought I was on the right track to a solution. Same exact symptoms as @cwrigley. Except mine wouldn’t go into 3rd when putting car in neutral and back in drive while coasting. Car would just go back to 2nd. Alas, either cwrigley didn’t solve the issue or never bothered to follow-up on matter. I was left with no clear resolution.

I solved the issue in about an hour after limping back home 15 miles. Remove center console and locate electrical connector on the passenger side of the shifter. (its white, on the bottom right side of the shifter) Disconnect and clean and allow to dry, and boooom! Your back in the saddle again.

Hope that long winded explaination helps. No money spent on repair. Just some time figuring how to get the console apart without breaking anything.

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Thanks for posting your solution. Someone else with the same issue could follow your lead and avoid a costly trip to the shop. Stop back again and join other conversations.

This thing happens to a lot of Ford cars. I fixed mine by changing the gearbox’s oil

How does changing the gear box oil solve spilling a drink into the console shifter mechanism ?


Warning, this is an 8 year old conversation. I think I said before we were driving cross country on an unfamiliar territory in Illinois. My wife had her cell phone on the center arm rest and my coffee in the cup holder. I had to stop a little less gently than normal and the cell phone slid right off into my cup of coffee. I won’t assign blame to the cup holder anyway. All was fine though after the phone got dried off. It was a miracle.

Well, I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt by assuming that there was a hole in the top of his transmission case, and that the spilled drink leaked into the transmission. :wink:

But, this could only be the case if he is referring to RWD vehicles whose transmission is located below the console area. If he is referring to a FWD vehicle (or most AWD vehicles), the transmission is almost surely located a few feet forward of the interior console.