Chevy cavalier shift lock override

Chevy cavalier shift lock override DEFAULT

shift lock release

Is your shift lock release stuck? Learn how to fix it!

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In early 2018, automakers recalled thousands of vehicles manufactured from 2006, and 2014-2018.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) alone recalled over 180,000 Ram trucks due to issues with the brake-transmission shift interlock system.

What exactly is a shift lock release and how does it work? Read on to find out.

What Is a Shift Lock Release?

Vehicles made from the early 1990s through the present with automatic transmissions have a safety feature called a key-shift interlock.

When you put the shifter into park, the feature locks it in. To shift out of park, you must insert the key into the ignition switch and turn the ignition to the on or run position.

Now, most vehicles made from 2010 to present also have a safety feature called a shift lock release. In addition to turning the ignition switch, you must also depress the brake pedal.

To move out of park, you must push the shift lock button on the shifter at the same time.

automatic transmission shifter

Manual vs. Automatic Transmissions

As most people know, there are two types of transmissions, manual and automatic. While the mechanics are similar, both types function the in different ways.

With a manual transmission, the driver shifts gear manually with a clutch and either a floor gear shift or one mounted to the steering wheel. To shift gears, the driver presses the clutch and shifts the lever to the desired gear.

With an automatic transmission, the driver doesn’t shift gears while driving. Automatic transmissions have a vertical gear shift with which the driver can switch between park position, neutral, reverse, etc.

What Does a Shift Lock Do for Automatic Transmissions?

The shift lock release feature allows the driver to switch the available automatic transmission options. The shift lock button is usually a button found on top or side of the gear selector lever. With it, the driver can lock the gear to the desired option.

So, when the driver parks the car, he or she switches the gear selector lever into Park and locks it there. The driver can’t move the level until he or she engages the shift lock release mechanism.

The brake pedal connects to the shift lock release. When the driver presses down the pedal, the shift lock circuit activates. The circuit remains closed otherwise.

If you’re dashboard is lit up with a transmission symbol, considering purchasing an OBD2 adapter that reads transmission codes.

What Is a Shift Interlock Solenoid?

As a safety feature, the shift interlock prevents a driver from switching to reverse while driving. The car must come to a full stop before the driver can switch gears. The shift interlock solenoid is part of this safety mechanism.

The shift interlock solenoid works together with the brake light switch and the neutral safety switch. Solenoids are cylindrical coils made from metal wire. They carry electric currents.

The shifter interlock solenoid prevents you from shifting from Park to Drive without first hitting the brake. When you press the brake pedal, the solenoid receives a signal that tells it to release the mechanical lock on the shifter.

If the solenoid does not get a signal from the brake pedal signal, it won’t release the shifter. Thus, the components that control the shifter along are the ignition switch, the shift interlock solenoid, and the stop and brake lights.

Not to be confused with the TCM (Shift Solenoid)….

How to Release a STUCK Shift Lock Release

If any component listed above that controls the shifter malfunctions, you may not be able to move out of park. Your car will also be stuck in park if your battery dies.

The shift lock release is a safety feature that allows you to move your car if you can’t shift gears for whatever reason, such as a dead battery.

Here are the steps for employing the shift lock release.

  1. Engage the emergency brake / parking brake. Insert the ignition key and turn the ignition. Note that you don’t have to start the engine.
  2. Find the shift lock override slot. It is on the shifter console near the lever. The slot may have a plastic cap that you’ll need to remove
  3. Insert a key, nail file, or screwdriver into the slot. Push it down and hold.
  4. Press the brake pedal while you are pressing down on the override,
  5. Shift gears as you normally would.

If you perform these steps with the engine off, be sure to switch to neutral to start the car.

Check Your Owner’s Manual For Shift Lock Release Instructions

Information on how to use the shift lock release option is in the owner’s manual for each automobile. Seasoned drivers may not consider this feature necessary.

Others don’t even know about it until they find themselves in need of a way to move a car stuck in Park. If you find yourself in this position, follow the steps in the user’s manual, which will be similar to the ones presented above.

If it doesn’t work the first time, try the procedure again. Be sure the ignition switch is in the On or Run position. You must firmly press down the brake pedal and the locking mechanism at the same time you move the shift lever.

If You Can’t Get Out of Park

If you can’t get out of park, it may mean the shift interlock solenoid is malfunctioning. Though, if your dash lights indicate that your car’s brake lights aren’t working, then your shifter interlock many not work either.

The shifter interlock solenoid is not a part that requires servicing because it’s designed to last the life of your car. Things happen, though. If a dead battery or malfunctioning brake light isn’t the cause, it’s time for a mechanic.

Your shift interlock solenoid may also need replacing if your car is stuck in gear or the key is stuck in the ignition.

You may also want to check for any recalls on your make and model car that may have to do with the shift lock release or shift lock solenoid.

One Small Button, One Big Job

Even if you already knew what a shift lock release was, you may have never thought about it in as much detail until now.

One little switch is part of a mechanical system that protects you and your automatic transmission from damaging your transmission.

The release button is also the one thing that will help you get your lifeless car out of the parking lot and onto the tow truck the next time your battery dies.

If you have any comments or questions about the shift lock release, please contact us.

Categories RepairSours:

Street Smart® Technical and DIY Guides

If the brake lights are not working – you’ve found the problem.  Either the brake light fuse is blown or the brake light switch is faulty.  These are the most common reasons for a shifter being stuck in Park.

Note: The connection between a faulty brake light switch and the shifter being stuck in Park is that a properly functioning brake light switch sends a signal to the shift interlock solenoid when the brake pedal is depressed, which causes the interlock solenoid to release the shifter.  A faulty brake light switch does not send this signal.

Brake Light Switch Replacement Cost…
Repair Shop Cost: $75 to $100
Do-it-Yourself Cost: $7.00 to $35 (Cost of switch)

2) Faulty Shift Interlock Solenoid
If you’ve verified the brake lights are working correctly then the problem is most likely a faulty shift interlock solenoid.  However, before replacing the interlock solenoid, use a digital multi-meter to rule out the problem being an open circuit in the wiring.  In other words, if the electrical signal that causes the solenoid to lock and unlock the shifter is not reaching the solenoid because of an open circuit in the wiring — replacing the solenoid will not help.

The shift interlock solenoid is located underneath the shifter console right alongside the shifter lever.  To access the shift interlock solenoid, you must remove the center console.

READ THIS Before Replacing the Shifter Interlock Solenoid: In some instances the shift interlock solenoid can malfunction when a beverage or other sticky liquid is spilled and leaks down through the shifter console and onto the solenoid or locking mechanism.

In these instances, cleaning the solenoid and locking mechanism with Q-tips and alcohol may resolve the problem.

Shift Interlock Solenoid Replacement Cost…
Repair Shop Cost: $140 to $200+
Do-it-Yourself Cost: $35 to $75 (Cost of solenoid)

3) Open Circuit
An open circuit in the shift interlock electrical system can cause the shifter to become stuck in Park if the open circuit interrupts communications between the brake light switch or the ignition switch and the interlock solenoid.

Check for power at the shift interlock solenoid.  With the ignition switch in the “ON” or “RUN” position and the brake pedal depressed, use an digital multi-meter to check for power at the solenoid.  If power is present, the shifter interlock solenoid is bad.

Cost to Locate and Repair Open Electrical Circuit...
Repair Shop Cost: $80 to $100+ per hour
Do-it-Yourself Cost: $0 (Require testing using a multi-meter)

4) Malfunctioning Ignition Switch

A less common cause for a shifter being stuck in park is a badly worn or faulty ignition switch.  What happens here is that the ignition switch, (even after being turned to the “ON” position), does not send a signal to the shift interlock solenoid indicating that the ignition is ON.  The shift interlock mechanism will remain in the locked position until the interlock solenoid receives a signal from the ignition switch indicating that it is in the “ON” position.

Ignition Switch Replacement cost…
Repair Shop Cost: $150 to $200+
Do-it-Yourself Cost: $25 to $75 (Cost of ignition switch)

5) Transmission Parking Pawl

The Transmission Parking Pawl is the least likely cause for a shifter being stuck in Park.  But, it does happen.  The two main factors that point to the parking pawl as the possible culprit are;

1) the shifter lock bypass procedure described above does not release the shifter
2) you are parked on an incline and you did not set the emergency brake before shifting into Park.

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Key stuck in ignition, cant get car out of park

Originally Posted by gage3780View Post
Had the car fixed nd 3 months later it did it gain! Any mechanic alive that may have an answer if theres an over ride button,etc. This is really annoying.
There has been a bypass on all of the newer automatic cars I have seen. It is usually on the console by the shifter, just look for a small slot that you can fit a key into. Sometimes there is a cover over it to keep dirt out that has to be popped up. It will usually say something like "Shift Bypass" or something. I have a shop manual for the cavalier but it doesn't show where the bypass is located (or if it exists). There should be something in your owners manual. I don't have mine with me so I can't look it up for you at the moment.

The shop manual did mention that the solenoid activates when you start the car and deactivates when you push the brakes so it may have something to do with a bad brake light switch. Check to see if the brake lights are working properly and that the plugs for the solenoid aren't loose.

Good luck and keep us informed about your progress.
Cavalier shifter cable repair

2005 Chevrolet Cavalier — Owner's Manual – Page #90




controlsystemwhichlockstheshiftleverinPARK (P)



fromPARK (P)whentheignitionisinRUN.See

AutomaticTransaxleOperationonpage 2-20.

IfyoucannotshiftoutofPARK (P),easepressureon

theshift leverandpushthe shiftleveralltheway upinto

PARK (P)asyoumaintainbrakeapplication.Then,




shiftoutofPARK (P),trythis:



2.ApplyandholdthebrakeuntiltheendofStep 4.

3.ShiftthetransaxletoNEUTRAL (N).







in,move theshiftlever intoREVERSE (R),and firmly


beenplacedinREVERSE (R)withtheclutchpedal

pressedin,you canturntheignitionkey toOFF,remove


Operationonpage 2-23.



Override shift lock chevy cavalier

Nothing is worse than sitting in a vehicle that’s stuck in park.  The engine is running fine, but the shifter just won’t move.  There are several things you can try to get your Chevy Cavalier moving now.  These include checking to see if the parking brake is stuck, finding the shift lock solenoid override (if applicable), and the shift linkage.

Let’s get straight to it.  We’ll start with things that are easy and quick to remedy (allowing you to get moving again).  We’ll then move onto the less likely problems with the hope that you can get your Cavalier out of park fast.

Won't Shift Out of Park Chevy Cavalier

Chevy Cavalier Stuck in Park Causes

Is it physically impossible to move the gear shift into any other position? Here are a few possibilities that could be causing the problem.


Parking Brake Stuck

Is your Cavalier parked on a hill?  If so, then the force of gravity could be forcing your transmission to put pressure on the parking lock in the transmission.

If this is what happened to your Cavalier, it is good news since it’s pretty easy to fix.  This happens a lot when you don’t use a parking brake on a hill.  It can happen to any vehicle, at any age or mileage.  Getting it unstuck can be easy, but also a little dangerous since you’ll need to rock the vehicle.  The best way to rock it is from the driver’s seat.  Just throw your weight around.  Proceed at your own risk.

What you’re going to need to do is safely:

  • Turn the vehicle engine on.
  • Rock the vehicle with your foot off the brake.
  • Press the brake down when you have rocked toward the hill a bit.  You want to “catch” it with the brake at the right time.  This will take pressure off of the parking lock.
  • Apply light pressure to the shifter.  You don’t want to break the shift linkage.

Hopefully that worked.  You want to get a little pressure off of the parking mechanism in the transmission.  It’s not meant to be a brake.  That’s why parking brakes aren’t called emergency brakes anymore.  So if you do rock it, try and catch your Cavalier as it rolls behind you.  When it’s about to rock forward again, hit the brakes and try to get it out of park.  Easy right?

Chevy Cavalier Stuck in Park Diagnosis

Shift Lock Solenoid Failure

The shift lock solenoid is the mechanism that keeps you from shifting out of park without your foot on the brake.  The good news is that most shift locks have an override button.  You will need to find it for your particular model year of Cavalier (if applicable).

Finding it is usually pretty easy.  Just look at your shifter.  There’ll be a little plastic cover, you pop it off and override the shifter lock solenoid.  This can get you back on the road in a hurry and could save you from being stranded.

Here’s a video that’ll show you where to find them on most vehicles. 



Bad Shift Linkage

The shift linkage on your Cavalier will usually provide a lifetime of dependable service.  But, they can go bad.

If you are positive that the gear shifter is not stuck in park (see directly above), then it’s likely that the shift linkage may be bad.  Either something caused it to bend, or it’s starting to come loose.  If it’s come loose, the geometry won’t be right anymore and it may keep your Cavalier stuck in park.


Conclusion:  Cavalier Stuck in Park

There aren’t a lot of issues that would cause your Chevy Cavalier to be stuck in park.  Good luck working through the diagnosis.  If there is anything that you would like to add, please feel free to leave a comment below.


Categories Chevy CavalierSours:
2003 04 05 Chevrolet Cavalier \u0026 Pontiac Sunfire Broken Auto Transmission Shift Cable Bushing Repair

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