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    Thread: Transmission Shift Lever Stuck in Park - or, Key will not come out of Ignition

    1. 11-13-2005 06:59 AM #1
      I searched for a prior post on this without success. I have a serious problem with my '04 V-8 transmission shift lever being stuck in Park in cooler weather. Ny wife is the primary driver, and on some cooler mornings it is almost impossible for her to move the shift lever out of park. She has to let the car warm up a bit, and then move the lever around a bit with all her might before it will finally move out of park. The dealer can't figure out what is wrong. It only appens when the temperature is below about 50 degrees, and with winter approaching, frequent problems lie ahead. I would be interested if anyone else has had a similar problem. Thanks!

    2. 11-13-2005 12:13 PM #2
      My uneducated guess: have them check for a sticking brake light switch. That is what detects that you have the brake pedal depressed, in turn releasing the automatic shift lock.

    3. Moderator PanEuropean's Avatar
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      11-13-2005 03:06 PM #3
      Hi Kevin:

      Nice to have you back again, we have not seen you for a while now. I suspect that the problem you are having is a really easy one to fix, you can either do it yourself (takes about an hour, it is interesting), or just ask your VW dealer to fix it for you.

      There is an electrical solenoid located beneath the shift lever assembly that 'locks' the transmission shift lever in the PARK position unless the engine in running and the brake pedal is depressed. The formal name for this part is 'N376 Ignition Switch Key Lock Solenoid'. This lock serves two purposes, first is anti-theft, and second is child safety - the shift lever cannot be moved out of PARK unless an adult is pressing the brake pedal at the same time. My guess is that the big metal locking pin that comprises the only moving part of this solenoid is sticking - for some reason, it is not fully retracting into the electro-magnet.

      I will provide you with all the information you need to troubleshoot and resolve this problem, however, there is also a (less likely) possibility that the problem is caused by a pawl, located way down in the transmission itself, not releasing from the gear that it engages to actually prevent the car from rolling away when you put the shift lever in park. If you are parking your car on an inclined surface (i.e. nose or tail of the car is pointing uphill), then check to see if the problem goes away when the car is parked on a flat surface. If the problem exists when the car is parked on a flat surface, then it is most likely the Ignition Switch Key Lock Solenoid, not the pawl in the transmission itself. If the problem exists when the car is parked on an inclined surface, then it might be the pawl in the transmission that is sticking, not the safety solenoid on the shift lever.

      Another way of troubleshooting to eliminate the transmission locking pawl as a possible suspect is to do the following:

      1) Drive the car into the desired parking position.

      2) With the car still in gear (forward or reverse, does not matter), engage the foot-operated parking brake.

      3) Remove your other foot from the main brake pedal. The car will probably move one inch or so forward or backward.

      4) When the car stops moving, THEN put the transmission shift lever in PARK.

      The next morning, start the car, and move the transmission lever out of PARK before releasing the parking brake. If you find it is really easy to move the transmission lever out of PARK when you follow the five steps listed above, then the problem is with the pawl in the transmission itself. If you still have difficulty moving the shift lever out of PARK, then the problem is most likely with the Ignition Switch Key Lock Solenoid, not the actual transmission.

      Below you will find a picture that shows where the N376 Ignition Switch Key Lock Solenoid is located. It is easy to get at this part. Just follow the dis-assembly instructions shown on the Retrofitting Keyless Start to North American Phaetons post, then, with the engine running, see if the locking pin moves freely and completely in and out of the solenoid when you put your foot on the brake, and see if it freely and easily slides back out (into the locked position) when you take your foot off the brake. If there is any binding or hesitation in the movement of the locking pin, look for evidence of something that would be interfering with the free movement of the pin - for example, spilled Coke or coffee, a cable in the way, a dust-ball, or similar. I don't think it is normally necessary to lubricate this pin, and VW does not specify a lubricant, but you could probably give it a light dusting of powdered graphite, just to ensure it moves freely. At the same time, have a look to make sure there is no damage or evidence of binding to the opening in the shift lever assembly that the locking pin fits into when you have the shift lever assembly in PARK.

      Let us know how it goes.

      Michael

      Postscript added later: See further down this thread for an attachment (PDF file) that provides instructions for getting access to - or replacing - the park lock solenoid.

      N376 Ignition Switch Key Lock Solenoid


      Modified by PanEuropean at 5:29 PM 3-22-2007
      Last edited by PanEuropean; 12-15-2010 at 04:40 PM.

    4. 11-13-2005 04:22 PM #4
      Thanks a million, Michael. I will investigate this later this week and let you know how it goes. I wonder, though, why this problem is temperature-dependent. And no, the problem is not incline-dependent. The problem happens often on my perfectly-flat garage floor. Thanks again for the invaluable assistance!

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      11-13-2005 04:45 PM #5
      Quote, originally posted by Katmeat »
      I wonder, though, why this problem is temperature-dependent. And no, the problem is not incline-dependent.

      Hi Kevin:

      OK, I am really happy to hear that it is not incline-dependent. That rules out any possible problem with the transmission itself, and makes it 99% probable that the cause of the problem lies in the mechanical function of the locking pin that slides in and out of the shift lock solenoid.

      The shift lock solenoid itself is as simple as a deadbolt door lock - even simpler, I suppose, because all it consists of is a pin, a spring, and an electro-magnet. Although it is possible that the pin is binding or catching on the transmission shift lever mechanism, my personal guess is that someone spilled something in there (Coke, coffee, etc.) and the remains of that liquid are less viscous at lower temperatures.

      By the way, the correct function of the N376 Ignition Switch Key Lock Solenoid is something that is supposed to be checked by the VW dealer at every single scheduled service interval - in other words, every 10,000 miles. It is listed on the VW maintenance schedule (both at the dealership, and in your owner manual) as "Check Automatic Shift Lock Operation". So, have no fear about asking your dealership to pay special attention to this next time you take the car in for service.

      On the other hand - if you enjoy taking things apart, that is a pretty easy task to start developing your Phaeton knowledge on, because we have it so well-documented here on the forum. By example, here's a photo of the Alabama GTG last month, showing us taking the shift lever selectors apart so that we could install start buttons. Brent's car is in the foreground, and in the background, you can see Robert's wife wondering what the heck we are up to. There's more excellent photos of this GTG at this link: Alabama GTG Photos.

      Michael

      Spy Photo - Volkswagen's Top Secret Trussville, Alabama Research and Modification Center


    6. 11-13-2005 06:18 PM #6
      Well, for simplicity I still like my explanation. But for correctness, you are going to have to go with Michael's!

    7. 11-13-2005 06:37 PM #7
      Michael, you're cracking me up! LMAO
      with that Volkswagen's top secret -Trussville, Alabama research and modification center!

      BTW, the dental rope wax indeed stopped my rattling in my wood trim piece around the radio. Sometimes the simple things provide such gratification.

      One more question. Should powered graphite be used to lubricate this piece mentioned above in the transmission lever action?

      Also, I believe the CD update has now fixed my clock!!!!!!! I will double check at the end of the week.



      Modified by dcowan699 at 5:39 PM 11-13-2005


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      11-13-2005 07:10 PM #8
      Hi David:

      Great news about the clock. Just for the benefit of others that might be following this - you had software 0220 in your Front Information Display and Control Unit (the big screen), and I updated it to 0223.

      As for the shift lock thing - no, I would not put any lubricant on it unless it was indicated by evidence of a problem such as what Kevin seems to be having. It has no lubricant on it ex-factory, by design, it should not need any. Maybe a wee, tiny, tiny bit on the slot that the end of the locking pin fits into (to lock the shift lever) - but only if there is a demonstrated need for a lubricant, not if the thing is working OK.

      Michael


    9. 03-21-2007 11:47 PM #9
      On vacation, I pulled the car into a parking lot, put it in park, turned off the engine, but the key was locked in the ignition. The instrument cluster display said "put shifter in P" or something similar. I called the 800 number, they said to hold down the brake pedal and wiggle the shifter until it finds the sweet spot. They also said it has to go to the dealer to get fixed. Anyone else had this problem?

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      03-22-2007 11:34 AM #10
      Just picking up on a much older topic from further up the thread, that being problems with the park lock solenoid... There was a campaign issued in Europe in early 2005 mandating inspection of park lock solenoids and replacement of any that were found to not have a washer installed on the end of them. This campaign did not affect any North American cars - the VIN cutoff for that particular check (item 15) was prior to the first VIN imported to North America.

      However - the instructions contained in the document provide superb illustrated guidance for anyone who needs to get access to the park lock solenoid, either for the purpose of cleaning spilled beverages out of it (the most common cause of problems with it), or to replace it, so I have attached the instructions to this post in the form of a PDF file.

      Michael

      Attached Files
      Last edited by PanEuropean; 12-21-2011 at 11:58 PM.

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      03-22-2007 11:38 AM #11
      Quote, originally posted by sethdallob »
      ...the key was locked in the ignition. The instrument cluster display said "put shifter in P" or something similar. I called the 800 number, they said to hold down the brake pedal and wiggle the shifter...

      Seth:

      The problem has been reported once before (see higher up in this same post), it turned out that the cause of the problem was a sticky beverage (Coca-Cola, coffee, etc.) that had spilled onto the shift lever assembly and run down onto the solenoid that actuates the transmission Park position lock.

      You have several choices available to you here. First, read this thread, it discusses how to get the key out of the ignition slot if you have exactly the problem you reported (this information is also in the owner manual): Ignition Key Emergency Release

      Concerning the problem with the park lock solenoid not releasing, assuming it was not a one-time event (meaning, if the problem happens again), then you probably want to investigate things a bit further. Here's a discussion that explains how to do so: N376 Ignition Switch Key Lock Solenoid - how to get access to it.

      Michael


    12. 03-22-2007 11:47 AM #12
      just drink diet coke (or diet cherry coke)

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      03-22-2007 11:49 AM #13
      Lastly, be aware that there are a number of precautions that need to be taken when working in the area of the shift lever... these include taking great care to not scratch or chip the wood trim on the center console (it is brittle!), and also taking great care when re-installing the shift lever handgrip so as not to break the sliding plate that controls the Tiptronic function. If you anticipate you will need to get access to the Park lock solenoid, it would be worth your while to not only download and print the PDF file that is attached two posts higher up in this thread, but to also read the instructions for Retrofitting Keyless Start to a North American Phaeton.

      That rather lengthy post explaining how to retrofit a start button also contains complete illustrated instructions explaining how to get access to the Park Lock Solenoid, and it also contains a number of tips and cautions that will help you avoid unpleasant surprises when working in that area.

      Learn from the mistakes of others, because you won't live long enough to make them all yourself...

      Michael


    14. 03-22-2007 11:53 PM #14
      I know that I haven't spilled anything down there, since there hasn't been anything liquid in the passenger section of the car since I bought it. My problem was a little different than the OP - my car wouldn't go in to park - I have no problem shifting out of it. Even the little "foot light" reminder switch next to the P lit up. At 48k miles, it was due for service anyway, so I dropped it off for warranty service. Apparantly this isn't that rare of a problem since the rep at the customer service # knew exactly what to tell me without missing a beat.

    15. Moderator PanEuropean's Avatar
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      03-23-2007 10:23 AM #15
      Quote, originally posted by sethdallob »
      Apparently this isn't that rare of a problem since the rep at the customer service # knew exactly what to tell me without missing a beat.

      Well - keep in mind that the design of the Park Lock mechanism is not only the same on every Volkswagen made since the mid 1980s, it is also the same on every center-floor shift vehicle from any manufacturer made since the mid 1980s. So, the question you posed kind of falls into the "how do I get the CD out of the player" category - it's pretty generic and not model or brand dependent

      Reports of a problem with the Park Lock Solenoid have been uncommon here on the forum - I searched the archives before finding the first report from Katmeat back in the fall of 2005.

      The system design is pretty straightforward - pressing the brake pedal energizes the solenoid, allowing the shift lever to be moved either into or out of the Park position. There's not too much that can go wrong - either the solenoid won't get power due to an electrical problem, or the center core in the solenoid won't move due to interference. The cause of the interference can vary, but spilled drinks have been by far the most common cause across all models and brands, including Phaetons.

      There is another possibility for difficulties getting into and out of Park that is not at all related to the Shift Lock Solenoid. This arises when the car is parked on a hill, and pressure is applied to the pawl within the transmission that holds the car in place. You didn't mention a hill, so I didn't discuss that possibility.

      Michael


    16. 03-27-2007 10:55 PM #16
      Just to update the thread - according to the dealer, I need an entire shifter assembly. I don't understand how this broke - I'm not an abusive driver by any stretch of the imagination. ETA of the parts is another week.

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      03-28-2007 07:25 AM #17
      Seth:

      A suggestion - have a look at this particular post on the "Installing a Start Button" thread: Click Here. It addresses the possibility of damage to a very delicate part of shifter assembly that can easily happen when re-installing the chrome and leather shift lever handle. Just a head's up.

      Michael


    18. 07-07-2007 12:34 AM #18
      I have the exact same problem with my wife's 99 cabrio. ONly when it's cold (I'm in MN). If I turn the egnition switch slowly while holding the shift lever release button under pressure it will release just prior to turning over the car. I hold the button down while it starts and while I shift and it works until the next morning;.

      Is this the same thing?


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      07-07-2007 07:45 PM #19
      Hello Jon:

      Welcome to the Phaeton forum.

      My guess is that the problem you are encountering with the Cabrio could be the shift lock solenoid (if the Cabrio has one), or it could also be difficulties with the parking pawl disengaging from the gear or ring that it fits into.

      The fact that you only encounter the problem during cold weather suggests that something (spilled fluid, lubricant congealing, whatever) is interfering with the disengagement process for one of these components.

      You could, perhaps, eliminate the park lock solenoid as a possible consideration by listening carefully to hear if it is operating when you press the brake when the ignition is on and the vehicle is in park (the engine does not have to be running). Similarly, you could eliminate the parking pawl as a consideration by making sure that the car is parked on a perfectly flat surface, then pushing it back and forth a couple of times (just "rocking" it) before you start it and try to move the shift lever. The pushing back and forth a few times will likely relieve any pressure that might be present on the pawl. Note that if you are parking on a slope when you encounter these problems, that strongly suggests the parking pawl as the cause of the problem. If this is the case, then apply the parking brake BEFORE you put the car into Park, to prevent the weight of the car resting on the pawl. Exercise the parking brake a few times during good weather first, to make sure it works OK, before you apply it the first time in the winter.

      Michael


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      07-09-2007 09:19 AM #20
      Quote, originally posted by stretcher2007 »
      If I turn the egnition switch slowly while holding the shift lever release button under pressure it will release just prior to turning over the car.

      I've seen this condition multiple times in Mk4 Jettas/Golfs. Typically ends up being an issue with the brake light switch. The next time that happens, start the car & have someone stand behind it while you depress the brake pedal to see if the lights are working.

      --Chris

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      07-09-2007 11:28 PM #21
      Great suggestion, Chris.

      Below is an illustration that shows how the "parking lock" on the transmission works. This illustration depicts a 6 speed Phaeton transmission (the ZF 6HP 32), but the concept is similar on other transmissions.

      The park lock engages mechanically whenever you put the transmission selector in the PARK position. The yellow arm moves toward the round gear wheel, and the tooth on the arm falls into one of the slots on the round gear wheel. If the car attempts to roll forward or backward after the transmission has been placed in the PARK position, it can be difficult to pull the tooth out of the slot in the gear wheel because of the tension that the gear wheel is exerting on the tooth.

      Michael

      Last edited by PanEuropean; 12-22-2011 at 12:00 AM.

    22. 08-21-2009 11:24 AM #22
      I got bitten by this -- or something like it -- last night.

      After filling up my Phaeton's gas tank tonight it refused to shift out of park. The car turned on; the "step on the brake light" to the left of the P symbol on the shifter went on and off with the brake; but the chrome button on the shift handle couldn't be pressed, and the car couldn't be shifted.

      I called Motorista who was extremely kind in lending help the middle of a late dinner, and he recalled this thread. He reminded me that instead of AAA I could call the VW hotline since the car is still under warranty. They sent a flatbed, and the crew -- first one, and then another -- had an extremely difficult time getting the car loaded since there was no way to put it into neutral. They tried dollies under each wheel, and then skids -- but they only had two front skids. It was excruciating to watch the car dragged one inch at a time onto the bed, resisting all the way. There were few options since the car was stuck in front of an active gas pump.

      It arrives at the Boston VW dealer this morning. Fingers crossed that the Park issue is easily fixed -- and that nothing was damaged in the operation to bring it there.


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      08-22-2009 01:33 PM #23
      I'd just like to add one detail about Jonathan's problem: he reported not being able to push in the button on the shift lever, which I don't think anyone else experiencing the "transmission stuck in Park" problem has reported. In most other cars this is simply a button connected to a detent to allow the lever to move, but I wonder if in the Phaeton it is also electronically connected?
      Stefano

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      08-22-2009 07:02 PM #24
      Quote, originally posted by Motorista »
      ...not being able to push in the button on the shift lever...

      Ah. Missed that.

      The button on the driver side of the shift lever is entirely mechanical. If it won't operate, pull it out (it will hyper-extend by about 3 mm), then, try pushing it in once again. When it is hyper-extended, it stays that way - that is to facilitate re-installing the shift lever when it is removed from the shaft for other disassembly purposes.

      Michael


    25. 11-06-2010 03:54 PM #25
      Yes, I am haviong the same problem!! errrrrrr

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      02-04-2011 11:47 PM #26
      my girlfriend has an audi a4 04. its an automatic & its stuck in park. when i push the break it act as im not pressing it although the brake lights do light up. im confused being told its a "brake light sensor swtich" a "brake peddle sensor switch" & even a "neutral safety switch"...can someone please give me some kind of help....the brake peddle light on the shifter colum doesnt light up either even when the peddle is pushed. idk someone help!

    27. Moderator PanEuropean's Avatar
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      02-05-2011 09:20 AM #27
      Hello:

      I wish I could help, but this discussion forum is specific to the Volkswagen Phaeton. There are some forums out there that specialize in the Audi products, perhaps try these links:

      http://forums.vwvortex.com/forumdisplay.php?5061-Audi

      http://forums.audiworld.com/

      Michael
      Please don't send me technical questions via IM - instead, post your questions onto the end of the most appropriate thread in the FAQ, so that everyone can benefit from the answer, and everyone can assist in providing the answer. Thanks, Michael

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      02-21-2011 11:07 PM #28
      I have had the same type of problems as above. The problem is definitely worse in the winter, getting the gear shift our of Park or neutral into gear can take a while of toggling and hoping!
      I now, as a routine, leave the car in D or R, when I park. To start, the gear lever lock button works in these positions, I then keep it held down, shift to neutral and start the engine and shift into gear (ie never let the gear stay in N or P and let go the lock button as this will make it lock and not move).

      I like the idea it may be the solenoid switch, but would love it someone can confirm so I can get this fixed.http://www.vwvortex.com/Anthony/Smilies/confused.gif

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      02-22-2011 06:02 AM #29
      Mr. Patel:

      Welcome to the forum.

      Does your question refer to a Phaeton, or to a Passat? Your user profile indicates that you drive a 1993 Passat. If your question refers to a Passat, there is a Passat-specific forum at this link: http://forums.vwvortex.com/forumdisp...-Passat-(B3-B4)

      Michael
      Please don't send me technical questions via IM - instead, post your questions onto the end of the most appropriate thread in the FAQ, so that everyone can benefit from the answer, and everyone can assist in providing the answer. Thanks, Michael

    30. 08-30-2011 11:29 PM #30
      My 99 Jetta has a similar issue. It is automatic and got stuck in park last week. I called AAA and the tow truck operator simply popped the plastic cover off the center console and flicked a bit of metal under the shifter to release it. I have been doing this for a week until I could get it into the shop. Today the place I went to said the item would be a special order part from NJ (I live in DC) and would cost $189.54 and service would be $267 for this part of the job. Yikes? Really? I declined the repair for now. Would it harm the transmission or anything else to simply continue to manually flick the metal bit under the shift column to release it? Also, it is now working without manually flicking it and I feel like just driving it without fixing it at this point. It's 12 years old with 107,000 miles on it. Any recommendations?

      Thank you.

    31. Moderator PanEuropean's Avatar
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      08-31-2011 01:36 AM #31
      Quote Originally Posted by Julies99Jetta View Post
      Any recommendations?
      Hello Julie:

      Welcome to the Vortex forums. Vortex is a large discussion forum for VW products, and it is subdivided into different sub-forums according to vehicle model type. This particular sub-forum is for discussion specific to the VW Phaeton, which is quite different in construction from your Jetta.

      Best suggestion I can offer is that you have a look in the model-specific forum for the Jetta. In your case, because you have a 1999 car, that would be the Jetta III forum. You can click here to go directly to it.

      Good luck!

      Michael
      Please don't send me technical questions via IM - instead, post your questions onto the end of the most appropriate thread in the FAQ, so that everyone can benefit from the answer, and everyone can assist in providing the answer. Thanks, Michael

    32. 08-31-2011 09:07 AM #32
      Quote Originally Posted by Julies99Jetta View Post
      My 99 Jetta has a similar issue. It is automatic and got stuck in park last week. I called AAA and the tow truck operator simply popped the plastic cover off the center console and flicked a bit of metal under the shifter to release it. I have been doing this for a week until I could get it into the shop. Today the place I went to said the item would be a special order part from NJ (I live in DC) and would cost $189.54 and service would be $267 for this part of the job. Yikes? Really? I declined the repair for now. Would it harm the transmission or anything else to simply continue to manually flick the metal bit under the shift column to release it? Also, it is now working without manually flicking it and I feel like just driving it without fixing it at this point. It's 12 years old with 107,000 miles on it. Any recommendations?

      Thank you.
      It doesn't sound as if you're going to harm anything in the transmission, since all you're doing is bypassing the park/brake fail-safe. I'd carry on driving it since you know how to fix it if it happens again, just keep whatever you need handy.

    33. 08-31-2011 08:42 PM #33
      Thank you, Michael.

    34. Junior Member NMellor's Avatar
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      11-20-2011 10:35 PM #34
      The weather is turning cool (40 degrees) and I had difficulty getting my key out of the ignition this evening (twice). The key would not release and I was instructed to put the car in Park. The car was already in Park so I turned the car off and then started again and then turned it off. After turning it off and on, they key released. I don't recall ever spilling anything in the shifter area. Just wanted to note that I had a problem similar to the one that started this thread and it appears to be related to the weather.

      I've now put approximately 20,000 miles on my car (coming up on 85,000 miles) and I still love this car!

      Nathan

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      12-21-2011 10:38 AM #35
      Hi All,

      came back home, parked in the garage, needed to move a bit more backwards and oops
      could not get into D stuck in P (park). break release light goes off when touch the brake pedal so that works...

      Any hints or clues, could not find any pointers in the FAQ so fast.

      Thanks
      Aart

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