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How to Unlock a Transmission

by Owen E. Richason IV

You're running late for work and scamper out to your car, throwing your brown-bag lunch into the passenger's seat. Thrusting the key into the ignition, you hurriedly start the car and look left and right for oncoming traffic. Quickly, you shift the gear into drive and press down on the accelerator, but the engine just revs up and the car stays put. You try punching the accelerator again to no avail. The transmission is locked and you have to unlock it.

Turn the vehicle off and take your foot off the brake. Turn the key to "IGN" and depress the brake firmly, listen for a clicking sound from the brake shift interlock solenoid. This component "tells" the car the brake is engaged and the transmission can be shifted into gear.

Shut the engine off. Take your foot off the brake again. Turn the ignition to "ACC." Depress the brake firmly. Try to shift the car into "Neutral," then start the car. Attempt to shift the transmission into "Drive." Listen again for the solenoid click. If you do not hear the click, the fuse may be out; go to the next step.

Retrieve your vehicle's owner's manual. Open your vehicle's fuse box. Find the fuse going to the brake shift interlock solenoid using the owner's manual as your guide. Replace the fuse. If you cannot replace the fuse, find the override lever under the dash. This is usually an orange or red lever that will manually disengage the locking mechanism. With your foot on the brake, press the override lever toward the front of the vehicle, then shift the car into gear.

Warning

  • These are only temporary fixes to unlock a transmission; have the vehicle serviced by a professional mechanic to repair the problem.

References

About the Author

Owen Richason grew up working in his family's small contracting business. He later became an outplacement consultant, then a retail business consultant. Richason is a former personal finance and business writer for "Tampa Bay Business and Financier." He now writes for various publications, websites and blogs.

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