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What To Do If Your Car Is Stuck In Park

How do you release your car stuck in park?

  1. Keep foot on the brake for incline parking problems
  2. Check brake lights for brake switch troubles
  3. Apply brakes for shifter interlock issues


There may be times when your car’s gear shift becomes stuck in park mode. This is very common for a lot of modern vehicles as it is a standard safety feature. However, it can turn into a problem if you keep troubleshooting your automatic gear shift and nothing seems to work.

You may be alarmed the first time it happens to you, but you don’t have to panic. You can release a car stuck in park without needing to call a mechanic with these tips.


Keep Foot On The Brake For Incline Parking Problems

A woman's foot on the brake pedal

Parking on a hill or an incline angle may cause your car to get stuck. In particular, it can happen if you do not park the car properly. Once you shift the car to park mode, it may start to roll as you release the breaks. This results in the weight of the car being placed on the parking gear and the car pawl, which will prevent you from moving the gear to another position.

To avoid getting stuck in the future, try this out. Don’t take your foot off the brake pedal before applying the parking brake. Then, lift your foot off and move the shift into park. This will ensure that your car won’t roll away. It will also make sure that your parking brake will hold the weight and not your gears. If your shifter still doesn’t move, push the car an inch forward to remove the pressure off the transmission.


Check Brake Lights for Brake Switch Troubles

Close up of a car's brake switch

Your car can be stuck in park if you have a problem with your brake switch. If the brake light isn’t on when you push the brake pedal, the switch can potentially be the cause of the trouble. Make sure that your brake lights are plugged in and functioning. Brake lights are connected to the switch, which is then connected to the shift interlock system. The car may not shift out of park if the light isn’t working so be mindful of this next time you have your car checked.


Apply Brakes for Shifter Interlock Issues

A businessman holding his car's gear shift

The brake-shift interlock function prevents the vehicle from accidentally shifting into reverse or drive. In older models, the lack of this function caused a lot of accidents. With modern models, you need to apply brakes for the shifter interlock to release and allow the car to move out of the parking shift. Keep this in mind when you’re stuck in park and make sure to try applying the brakes before calling a mechanic.


Key Takeaway

The automatic gear shift is a modern feature that is important for your car. This safety feature usually goes unnoticed until it needs to be used. It’s very easy to perform troubleshooting for your automatic gear shift if you remember these tips. Remember to avoid panicking when this happens. Be mindful of if you’re applying the brakes properly and if your brake light is functioning. If you still run into problems, it’s best to consult your car manual or call a mechanic as soon as possible.

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