Honda Drama

Addendum (added 3/31/07):  I get a lot of traffic on my blog for this entry.  The answer on how to get the car out of park IS in here.  So, if you found this blog posting because you are having the same problem, you can find out how to rectify the problem if you keep reading!!!

Original Posting: 

I own a 1996 dark green Honda Accord EX.  And I love this car.  It has been a regular work horse for me.  It has really never given me much of a problem.  I feel badly though, because I never named it.  I never even assigned a sex to it.  I assume it’s a girl, but I can’t say for sure!

Princess was the car I had before this current car.  She was an older model Honda Accord that I bought from a real life Thai princess.  It had a car phone in it before people even really had cell phones.  Except for doctors, and they had those big brick phones (remember those?).  Awesome to have a car phone back then!  And the Thai princess named the car “Princess”.  So I kept the name.

The car I had before THAT car was a fire engine red, 1971 baja style Volkswagon bug with a factory sun roof, dual carbs, and a dual cam engine ground out to increase the cc’s to something ridiculous that I can’t remember now, and with Hurst shifting.  It was a CRAZY GREAT car.  It was my first car.  I bought it back in 1988 I think, for about $3500.  A fortune to a girl who would go out with friends and order hot water and lemon and put honey in it, cuz it was free.  When I bought the car, I asked the owner, what’s the car’s name?  They looked at me sort of funny, and asked why I would ask that.  I told them “a car like that HAS a name, and I don’t want to change it”. 

“Dudley”, they said.  And Dudley he was.  I loved that car.  But he became impractical at a certain point because of career changes and a viscious commute, and I had to let him go. 

Present week!  The Honda Drama.  I recently took my car in to a local independent Firestone service center to have a whole bunch of little things taken care of.  I needed an oil change, I needed an alignment, I needed a new battery, I needed new front brakes, and, in addition to a few other things that I found out I needed, I needed new radiator hoses.  (Those babies are EXPENSIVE, btw!).  So, since I am leaving my car with my cousin to use while I am gone for the summer, I wanted it to be in the best condition possible to avoid her having any problems with it.  I’ve also been having problems with the button on my shifter not working, but they couldn’t reproduce the problem or see anything wrong with it.

I won’t tell you what the grand total was.  It was not cheap.  But I drove off feeling good about the car. 

The next evening after Bunco I was dropping friends off.  I watched the temperature guage go from nearly in the blue, to in the red in the span of about a minute.  I pulled in to my friend’s driveway and saw steam, or maybe it was smoke, coming out from under the hood.  When I opened the door, I smelled something hot and burned. 

The next day I met the tow truck at my car in front of my friend’s house and got towed back to Firestone.  I explained what happened, and speculated that it seemed as though perhaps a hose was not correctly attached and I lost all my radiator fluid.  I was assured they would check it out.  About an hour later I got a call from them telling me that I had cracked my radiator.  I steeled myself for a fight when it came to who was going to pay the bill for this.

When I picked the car up, I was handed a receipt for $0.00.  I guess they agreed with my assessment of the problem!  Which is a good thing, cuz I didn’t really want to fight with them.  I have fought with mechanics before.  It is true that they will take advantage of the customer, and probably because I am a woman I have looked like an easy target.

Present day!  For a few weeks now, as I mentioned, I occasionally have trouble getting my car into gear.  It gets stuck in “park” and the button on the shifter won’t engage.  When I turn off the engine, and turn it back on, and try again, it works.  Until yesterday. 

My sister and I went to the county to pick up our disapproved plans for Rancho Liberte’.  I parked in the 15 minute zone.  We had the plans picked up and were back to the car well within the 15 minute limit.  Until I couldn’t get the shifter to work.  I tried.  Over and over.  And over.  I really didn’t want to have to have my car towed again.  This time I was plenty far from Firestone.  So I just kept trying.  I’ve heard that the definition of insanity is to try the exact same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  I guess I was a bit insane then, cuz I just sat there and kept trying, hoping for something different to happen.

By the shifter there is a little slot that has writing next to it that says “shift lock”.  Remember now, I have had this car for ten years.  In all those years, I never was curious enough to look up in the manual what that was for.  I figured it was some sort of anti-theft device you could set if you wanted, but never bothered to learn.  I thought, “well, it seems like the shifter IS locked, maybe this slot will help”.  I stuck my key down into the slot, where it bounced up and down, but did nothing to help start the car.

Okay, bring out the manual.  “If you still cannot get the car into gear, turn the car off, take the key out of the ignition.  Push key down into slot while pressing in the button on the shift handle at the same time.  This will unlock the shifter.”

Huh?  Enough people have had this problem to actually have a solution built into the vehicle?  That’s just odd to me.  Why all of the sudden would it start locking up on me?  And how odd, how very very odd, that this “shift lock” slot exists.

I have never seen, or maybe just never noticed it on any other vehicle.  It worked, though, and we were off.  How utterly embarrassed I would have been to have had my car towed all the way to a mechanic, only to have them stick the key in that slot and unlock it. 

(OR, a horrible thought I just had was, to have them tell me I needed a new transmission!  I probably WOULD have believed them without any question!)

If your car has a nutty “shift lock” slot, I’d sure like to know about it.


About Lou (Linda)

Just a girl from Colorado trying to live life to God's glory with a certain amount of gusto! View all posts by Lou (Linda)

23 responses to “Honda Drama

  • Helen Losse

    Ah. Perahps, her name is Keyleigh.

  • Lou (Linda)

    It is now! Thanks Helen! BTW, how will I be pronouncing Keyleigh??

  • Helen Losse

    kee lee Both syllables rhyme and have a long e! I’m sure of it! 🙂

  • Jonathon

    Been starting to have the same shifter problem that you described here. Thanks for the info!

  • shell

    Hey Lou,
    I had the same thing happen in a new Toyota Truck.
    Turns out it is a safty feature.
    If you hit something( In my case a parked car on a steep hill.) or you are parked on a incline that is too high it will sometimes lock your car in gear to keep from slipping.


  • En Krave

    wow.. that tip really helped me. Thanks a lot! I too started developing the same problem since recently.

  • Harry

    I have a similar issue but it only surfaces when the car has been parked for a while. I suspect it’s related to the battery because once I’ve been driving around, the problem goes away. So maybe the battery needs to be replaced.

  • roy

    wel that happen to me and i cant unlock it, im have to put my key in the gear lock and move it to “N” and start the car to drive ,.,… it didtn fix my problem and im borkw to gone fix it..

  • CLY

    MY Honda Accord had the shift Lock up and we had to use the release slot to get it out of park…….. Took it in and they replaced the Brake Light Switch ($85.00 overpriced) and it fixed the problem…..

  • Honda

    common problem with this model/year of honda

  • NoThanks

    Agree with above poster, normally 1 of 2 things, either the brake lights are out (mainly newer models) or the switch that disengages the lock on the gear shift is out($85-120 for mechanic to fix, $25-35 to fix it yourself, very very easy fix). The way to check if it is the second, is press on the brake, do you hear a click shortly after you start pressing the break? If not then this part is broken. Easy first check is to replace all break lights. If they are bad on the newer ones then as a saftey feature the shift lock on the break won’t release as a warning to fix your break lights.

    Hope this helps others, I had the same problem recently.


  • Al

    Thanks a million. My wife and I have this exact issue. Was glad to come by your post.

  • Joy

    Yep…today I encountered this for the first time on my ’96 Honda EX wagon. We are dealing with Hanna (TS) rains here. I had my car in garage and getting out of park was no big deal. But I stopped at mailbox at street, put car in park, got out/got in and then WHAA? I was so puzzled. The car was still running! How could this just lock up randomly.

    so I shut off the engine, restarted, nothing changed….called my dad, he had no ideas (hasn’t owned Hondas) was about to call the tow truck on my cell (still at the end of my driveway) and then eyed the shiftlock release. Pulled out manual and yes…it helped me out of PARK.

    But now what? A friend said to let the rain go away and chances are the selanoid (sp?) will dry out and not lock the car in park again.

    I’m going to call my mechanic on Monday and see if he can lubricate or something or if something needs to be replaced. It’s a 12 year old car with over 176K mileage…but I plan on running it into the ground… so if I have to use the SL everyday…ugh. so be it.

    I also have some crazy automatic locks…the automatic locks no longer lock the back doors…and to unlock the back doors takes Herculean strength…no fun when it’s raining. But the craziest is when I do lock up the car with auto locks (and the back doors are manually locked), ALL DAY, ALL NIGHT it seems the auto lock system keeps TRYING to lock my doors. I’ve totally had people come knock on my door to tell me my car is making funny noises.

    My mechanic said it would be expensive and not worth the investment to replace the locking mechanisms…I’m wondering if they can’t just be lubricated….procrastination has beat out inconvenience now for 3 years since this started!

    So now I just hope people think it’s some sort of obnoxious anti-theft device. LOL. crazy cars.

    Thanks for your post.

  • Becky Toussaint

    I have a 2002 Honda CRV. There was a lot of snow today and I picked up two hitchhikers – women who wanted a lift across a bridge because it was dangerous to walk across with so many cars slipping and skidding on the ice. (Here in Portland, Oregon, no one really knows how to drive in the snow, so any decent storm pretty much shuts the city down.) I put the car in park when I dropped them off, and it wouldn’t go back into gear. Of course, it was wet out, so maybe rain and snow factor into this problem happening. While I was on hold with AAA, I read in the manual about the lock release. Fortunately, I had a screwdriver in the car, so I managed to get the car back into gear. I had to put the car in park a couple of times on the way home, because I was on a hill and the street was blocked by three city buses that couldn’t make it up the hill. Each time, I had to use a screwdriver to get the car out of park again. What with the buses and other traffic problems, it took me about 2 hours to drive the 5 miles I had to drive to get home! It would have been far longer if I’d had to wait for AAA to tow me. There were downed cars EVERYWHERE! It was a relief – and pretty empowering – to be able to at least manage a temporary fix on the spot myself.

    I really appreciate the information in this blog, because now I can confidently go to a mechanic tomorrow and explain that I want the brake light and the switch that disengages the lock checked. I’ll also ask them for a new cover for the hole I made in the dash with my screwdriver (I wouldn’t want some kid sticking their fingers in there). With any luck, this will be an affordable fix for me, too. (I’m a little broke at the moment, what with Christmas and some home repairs.)

  • Lou (Linda)

    Oh, I hope so, too! I used to live across the river in Vancouver, and I know just what you are talking about in regards to people’s driving abilities in bad conditions!!! I’m glad you got home safely, and I too, hope it’s an inexpensive fix!

  • Eliza Bennett

    I have a variation on this theme. I have a 1993 Honda Civic (a hand me down). It’s fine most of the time, except when it’s cold. In the cold, the car gets stuck in park AND the ignition won’t release the key! I fiddle with it, but since my key is in the ignition, I can’t use it to take advantage of the “shift lock release”. Very frustrating. Do you think this is the same problem others are identifying, or something else? HELP!!!

  • John Twelker

    Any piece of metal thin enough to fit the slot will work, i.e. fingernail file or dinner knife.!

  • Lou (Linda)

    Oh, good to know!!! Thanks!

  • Monique

    Thanks. This helped me out a lot yesterday. Battery was completely drained and I couldn’t get the car out of park.

  • Karen

    I have a 97 Honda. I have been having trouble with it slipping from one gear to the other for awhile. I took it in to Honda and they said no problems….so today I am in the drive through at Starbucks and I put the car into park. It starts to make a weird noise but I just thought it was due to the heat. THen I go to get back into drive and it is stuck….. I am so embarrassed that I am blocking the drive through and freaking out that it finally got stuck beyond repair. The woman comes out to help me. She tells me to get it into neutral which I could not bc it was locked in park….I looked down and saw the same lock release and something told me to stick my key in….well I was able to get it into N but not drive. So she pushed me out into the lot. THen I was able to get it into drive. So now thanks to you, when I go back to Honda I can tell them what to look for and not have them tell me again that there is nothing wrong. Thanks for the info.

  • bigern

    The problem often comes from the beverage holder nearby. If you ever have a soda in the holder and it spills on to the gear shift, which is right next to the beverage holder, the soda can seep down and get onto the solenoid in the gear shift. If the soda gets in there, it can affect the grear swith, especially when it is dry. This will lock your gear, and can only be manually released through the shift lock slot. You can try to clean the solenoid off by taking the cover off the gears. Hope this helps.

  • Lou (Linda)

    Thanks for the input! Not the problem with mine (never spilled anything down there and I bought the car new), but perhaps the problem for someone out there! Cheers!

  • Patty

    Tonight down at the beach, my 2007 Fit wouldn’t start and I called the Automobile Association. While waiting, I realized that the shift was locked, so I read the manual and borrowed a pen knife, and managed to get the top off, and used the method described to start the car in neutral. I got home and just parked it, and the shift is locked again. I’m happy to know that it does not seem to be a serious problem. BTW, my radio went dead and I’ll have to look up the code to restart it, but otherwise the battery seems 100%.

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