March, 20, 2006 AT 4:54 PM

Subaru Legacy SW 1995, automatic
I've been having the most annoying problem on my Legacy wagon for over 2 years now, and 3 mechanics have tried at it (including a Subaru dealer) to no avail.

When my car is in park, it won't come out! As in, the thumb button on the shift won't push in, so I can't move the car out of park. I think it has to do with the " shift lock" mechanism requiring the brake pedal to be depressed before it will get out of park. When this problem first started, it only happened when it was cold, and warming the car up for 20 minutes to an hour usually made it work (as did forcefully pumping my foot on the brake pedal as hard as I could over and over).
However, the problem started happening at higher and higher temperatures, and right now, I have not put my car into " park" for a year. Yep, I leave it in " neutral" and put on the hand brake. I'm afraid that if I put it into park one more time, it won't ever come out (the last time it got stuck, I had to warm it up for over 3 hours!). This shortcut has made the car functional, but it is so ghetto! I have to leave my key in the car (it won't come out if the car is in neutral). I still lock the car with another key, but this is not a good ideal.
I'm tired of doing this, and I can't park the car on a steep hill. I feel very strongly that this problem has something to do with some sort of brake pedal sensor, but one mechanic said that to just try to diagnose the problem, they'd have to take my dashboard apart for $400, and they don't think they'd be able to figure it out anyway. Another mechanic tried cleaning the shifter, then gave up. Yet another mechanic told me " I just have no clue".
I am very tired of this problem, and I cannot hope to ever sell my car used if it is like this. I can't even let friends borrow it 'cuz I'm afraid they'll accidentally put it in " park".

Any suggestions? Any similar problems?


5 Answers



March, 22, 2006 AT 11:23 AM

I wonder if it the solenoid in the shifter mechanism. It must have voltage going to it before it will allow you to shift. By pressing on the brake pedal, you energize the solenoid. Turn the ignition to the run position but do not start the engine, depress the brake pedal and listen for the click of the solenoid energizing. It is not very loud and you will not hear it if there is noise around you (busy street, radio, ect). If you hear a click but cannot move the shifter, the problem is with the solenoid. Also, have a partner check the brake lights when you depress the brake; if the lights go on and you don't hear a click, then the solenoid is damaged or you have faulty wiring. If brakes do not illuminate and no click is heard, the brake pedal switch is faulty. This is an easy fix - confused that mechanics did not mention this; or did they and this was not the problem? All in all, it sounds like you need a new solenoid in the shifter mechanism.



March, 26, 2006 AT 2:09 PM

CF, Thanks for the reply,
So I took the car to the mechanics this past Thursday, and Friday they called and said that it wasn't the brake pedal sensor, that the " click" was present at all times.
So- They said they will investigate getting a new solenoid.

But then they called later and said that they thought I did't need a new one, they're just gonna clean the area out and move around the solenoids, adjust them.
I told them that a previous mechanic had tried that 2 years ago to no avail.

Then I arrived and was shocked at being charged $200 for such service (I actually was taking the car in for a new starter that had been termperamental lately, and I just thought I'd give the whole " doesn't come out of park" thing a new try). I didn't have enough money in my bank account and had to borrow from a friend. Very embarrassing.

The car came out of park for the first half day, no problem. However, I noticed that now I didn't even need my foot on the brake pedal to get it out of park! Kinda dangerous. And I couldn't tell what gear I was in at night, the lights didn't work around the shifter.

Then, the car refused to come out of park! And at a very inopportune time (I was to take a friend to the airport.)
It took two hours of idling to get it out of park, and I consider myself lucky.

Shoud the mechanic just have gotten a new soleniod? I feel rather gypped. I wasn't even really trying to get it fixed at the time, just asked them to glance at it if they wanted to, while I was getting a new starter put in.

I'm thinking of going back to the mechanic tomorrow and asking them to 1) get my shifter lights back working, and 2)give me a refund since my car still gets stuck in park.

I was fine with getting a new solenoid next week (when I will have more money), and it seems as if, from what you way, that is the most probable problem.

Drat. Maybe I should give up on this problem. It continues to stump mechanics and I continue to pay to NOT have it fixed.



March, 26, 2006 AT 5:21 PM

When you get the cash, get a new solenoid. As I mentioned before, it may also be faulty wiring but solenoids are mechanical devices - mechancial devices break and wear down. If you gave the mechanic permission to mess around with the solenoid, they are going to charge you for labor. However, ask them since it did not work if they would be able to work out a deal to cut cost on replacing the solenoid. As far as mechanics go, I think they get a bad reputation based on isolated incidents. I do all my car work but if I do use a mechanic, I will only use one that has been in business for 10 years plus. Anybody who has been in business that long has built a relationship with customers by fixing their problems; not by ignoring them. Good luck.



July, 5, 2006 AT 4:33 PM

This happened to me once. I think it tells you what to do in the owners manual. Get a screw driver and take out the screws around the gear shift. Pop off the black casing around the shift display. Then you'll see a hole, push your screwdriver down to release a reset button. Voillaaaaa fixed. It only happened to me once, but I still carry the screwdriver in the glove box just in case! Good luck



October, 25, 2006 AT 11:56 PM

1999 Subaru Legacy Outback
85000 miles
I just had the same problem happen to me today for the first time - wouldn't shift out of park, even after depressing the brake pedal. I followed the manual's instructions and depressed the reset button to override the shift lock mechanism. Only problem is, after I put it back in Park I can't get it out until I push the reset button again. The manual says to take it straight to the Subaru dealer. Well, that's not going to happen so I guess I'll leave it in Neutral like the other guy until I can figure out what to do.

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