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My Pontiac Won't Shift Out of Park

by Lindsey Fisher

Diagnosing transmission problems can be a daunting task. However, problems shifting out of park in you Pontiac might not be a difficult transmission problem. By checking a few things that relate to your automatic transmission, you can often fix shifting problems or narrow the problem possibilities down before taking your car to a mechanic. If your Pontiac won't shift out of park, the problem could be as simple as spilt soda or low fluid levels.

Check for Debris

Step 1

Remove the plastic pieces around your shifter. Use a flat-head screwdriver to pop out any light components or tabs that might be preventing you from removing the plastic. Center console components can block the view of the base of your shifter.

Step 2

Clear any debris from the base of your shifter. Use the multi-purpose cleaner to cut through any dried-on liquid by spraying it onto the area and wiping it clean with a paper towel. Any sugary drink that is has been spilled in the shifter area, like soda, can leak through plastic components and dry onto the base of the shifter. Dried-on soda or juice will make the inside of the shifter base sticky, resulting in a harder shift from park.

Check to see if this fixed the problem by starting your car, pushing on the brake and trying to shift out of park.

Check Your Transmission Fluid

Step 1

Open the hood of your car and secure it so it doesn't fall on you. There will be a dipstick designated for checking transmission fluid in the engine compartment of your Pontiac.

Step 2

With your engine idling, pull the transmission dipstick out of the tube it is in and wipe the excess transmission fluid off with a paper towel. Replace the dipstick in the tube for a few seconds and pull it back out.

Step 3

Tilt the dipstick into the light so that you can see the transmission fluid on the very end of the stick. Keep the dipstick level so that you get a proper reading.

Step 4

Look at the base of the dipstick, the end opposite of the handle, for the level markings. These markings will show when your transmission fluid is low when the fluid on the end of your dipstick covers no more than the "Low" end of the spectrum. Low transmission fluid levels can cause your transmission to not shift into gear.If the fluid is low, fill the transmission fluid reservoir with transmission fluid approved for your car.

Check to see if this fixed the problem by pushing on the brake and trying to shift out of park.

Check for Broken Cables

Step 1

Jack your car up. Once the car is jacked up you can place jack stands on either side of the car's frame to safely keep it elevated while you work.

Step 2

Crawl under your car so that you are positioned under the transmission of your Pontiac. This will be in about the center of the underside of your car.

Step 3

Feel on the side of your transmission, by the pan that holds the fluid, for a cable that is hooked to an assembly that moves back and forth, lengthwise of your transmission. This cable is the shifter cable and connects your shifter in the car to the transmission. This shifts the car from gear to gear, including to and from park.

Step 4

Pull gently on the cable. If it is really loose or hanging down from the transmission, the cable is probably broken, causing there to be no connection from the shifter to the transmission.

Move the assembly manually by putting the shifter inside the car into neutral and pushing the assembly on the side of the transmission down two notches to get it into the highest gear. This is only a temporary fix that will allow you to drive to a mechanic to get this fixed.

Take it to an Auto Mechanic

Step 1

Hire a professional to fix your car. Fixing internal transmission components requires someone with the skill and knowledge of transmissions to diagnose and fix. You can check with the Better Business Bureau for licensed mechanics in your area.

Step 2

Call your auto mechanic and arrange for someone to come look at your car or get it towed into the shop. If your car won't shift out of park and your shifter, transmission fluid and shifter cable are all in proper working order, there is probably a problem with an internal component of your transmission.

Tell the auto shop that your car will not shift out of park. If your car needs to be towed in, it is helpful for the shop to know what the problem with the car is so they can bring the right equipment to load the vehicle or even fix your vehicle on the spot.

Items you will need

  • Flat-head Screwdriver
  • Multi-purpose Cleaner
  • Paper towels
  • Light
  • Automotive Jack
  • Jack Stands

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