Stuck Gear Shift Linkage

An older friend has a 3 or 4 yr old Ford Taurus, bought used. She lives in Blacksburg, VA. In the last several weeks, the temps dropped into the 30s & 40s at night. In the morning, after starting the car, the lady could not shift the gear lever out of Park, normally allowed after pressing on the Brake Pedal. After the car warmed up for a while, she could then get the car out of Park. She took the car to the local Ford dealer, and left it over night for two nights. The dealer said they could not find the problem. Ideas? Bob O

Replace or adjust the brake light switch, under the dash. This switch, among other things, is what allows the shift lever to be moved from park. If it’s out of adjustment it could be the problem. Check the operation of the brake lights, too.

Are people getting dumber? Clutch and neutral safety switches, park inter-locks, parking brake buzzers and lawn mowers which go dead if you get off the seat or shift into reverse. On my own vehicles and equipment I remove anything which interferes with my desire to operate it as I desire. Vehicles will start with the clutch pedal up or while in drive and shifted while the key is in my pocket, the brake pedal up or even the battery dead. Mowers will continue to run unattended until out of fuel and start with the blade down as I stand next to them while in forward or reverse if I don’t pay attention… Rant over.

There is a cause and effect relationship here. Current must be present at the brake switch, the switch must function properly and the solenoid which locks the shift mechanism must be operating when current from the switch is carried through the myriad of wires, ultimately to an adequate ground. If the problem seems to be temperature sensitive I would suspect a solenoid interlock first.

It’s not people getting dumber, it is insurance companies putting pressure on automakers to try an ‘fool-proof’ cars to reduce the number of accidents, or the severity of accidents. Interlocks and safety switches have been developed for just that. I tend to also circumvent these devices when they become troublesome. I’ve by-passed clutch safety interlocks on some of my manual transmission cars, and even removed the safety switches on my lawnmower. I only have one auto-tranny car, and have yet to gave had problems with the shift interlock. But, if I do, it’s out-a-there.

“Are people getting dumber?”

I explain to my computer hardware classes that the computer ciruits only have two states, so therefore we use binary logic. I then ask them why man uses the decimal system. When I don’t get a reponse, I ask what would have happened if mankind had invented the rotary power mower before he invented our number system. We probably would have used a base 9 system instead of the decimal (base 10) system. Apparently, after rotary power mowers became common, too many people stuck their fingers under the mower to see if it was running. This is the only reason I can figure out as to why we have the deadman controls on rotary mowers.

This works on some vehicles, will not fix the problem, but will get you going. With the key in off position, place your foot on brake(“VERY IMPORTANT”). Turn the key to the first detent but not on, (dash lights should not be lite), you should be able to move the gear shift out of park and into neutral, (MAKE sure your foot is on the BRAKE because the car could roll). Start the engine by turing the key to start, move gear shift lever into drive and go… good luck