URGENT: Astro Van gear stick won't shift out of park

I bought a 99’ Astro last week. I went to move it an hour ago, and suddenly the gear stick won’t shift out of park mode. It’s urgent that I move the car from its current parking space as quickly as possible or else I’m gonna get ticketed. I just did an hour’s worth of research online, have tried a few things, but mostly the mechanical jargon is over my head. It’s suggested to override the shift lock, but have been unable to determine how to do that. I did notice that there is a thin band-like thingie hanging out of the side of where the ignition key goes in, slimed up with oil residue (see photo). Was this there before and I just didn’t notice?? Possibly not. Could this be related to why I can’t move the stick?
Also, in case it matters, it’s parked on a hill.
Any help, the sooner the better, would be much appreciated. Thanks!

p.s. I didn’t know what topic to place this post in. If there’s a more appropriate topic, please let me know, and I’ll delete this one and repost…

On some vehicule you need to press on the brake pedal to shift out of park.Its a safety mechanism

See if the brakes lights work.

If not, the brake pedal switch is faulty and that’s why it won’t shift out of park.


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Whatever that is hanging there, it sure doesn’t belong.

I definitely press the brake pedal when trying to shift. No go. Brake lights work. In which case, are you sure the problem is a faulty brake pedal switch, and what entails fixing that?Everything was working fine just yesterday.
Yes, that hanging thing doesn’t belong, is/was a lining around some part in/near the ignition key area? Simply by virtue of it being out of place, can’t help but wonder if it’s culprit. But no idea what it in fact is.
Thanks for the inputs! Could use all the help I can get…

More than likely then, the shift interlock solenoid has failed.



It might. Does the van have a working parking brake and did you use it? If not, the weight of the vehicle is being held by the parking pawl in the transmission, making it very difficult to shift out of park. Pushing it uphill a little would relieve this pressure, but you don’t want to roll over anyone.


I strongly suspect the parking brake is not in use.

Tester, I’m confused because first you said it’s a faulty brake pedal switch, then said the shift interlock solenoid likely failed. Are these one and the same thing?

NYBo, it has a working parking brake, which I used. But of course turned it off when trying to start. Came across this online literature in the last hour “engage the parking brake when on an incline before shifting into Park or releasing the brake pedal. That way the parking brake, not the transmission pawl, bears the load and will allow you to shift freely.”…which would seem to square with what you’re saying/suggesting. I don’t remember, but it’s quite likely I applied parking brake after shifting into park…
It happens to be on a steep hill and I’ve got a vey bad back and noone presently to help push it. So before I hustle up the help I need, I wanna maybe rule out other possibilities, such as that this damn piece of hanging rubber-band like material - photo attached in my original post - isn’t the true cause for these troubles, as it seems suspicious - I certainly didn’t see it before today. Hoping someone might weigh in on that.

The brake pedal switch energizes the shift interlock solenoid which allows the shift lever to be shifted out of park.


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No he didn’t, he told you

You said the brake lights work, that eliminated the brake light switch.

Thanks for clarifications. I was thinking backwards or upside-down.

Thanks one and all on this site/thread! I was able to “fix” it!!! For the 2nd time today, this time quite desperate, I just pushed the van from the back several times, created a rocking effect, and then I got beyond the wheel and, viola, the shifter goes into gear! What a relief! I really appreciate all the help and clues that led to the cure. Thanks for taking the time!


Hmmm… I would have thought that this was a topic for Stringed Instrument Talk, rather than Car Talk.


I use this same humorous intentional misuse of this word. It has come under scrutiny before and someone piped up citing the comedian that used this frequently as part of their schtick. I forget who it was but stuck with me at least.

Oh dear. I have been spelling Voilà wrong for a long time, I realize this morning! Sheesh. Thanks for waking me to the ignorance and error of my ways.

I am a violinist who loves viola jokes. You gave us a new one.

How does the composer get a violist to play a series of very short notes all without changing thedirection of the bow: write a whole note and mark it as SOLO!

If the rod goes down to solenoid and the rod is hanging down outside of the steering column, how does it work now?

the violist/composer joke might not have reached its peak humor potential with me, unhip to the ways of those string-strokers. and, cavell, is your question a setup for a cartalk punchline?..in which case - or any case - am afraid I’m equally unhip and solely without solenoid knowledge to even hazard a guess.

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A lady who used to write for a local (St. Louis) computer publication spelled it “walla.” I suspect a lot of folks don’t know the correct spelling.