Broken Gear Shifter – Fix With Ease

Did your gear shift lock and now you can’t get it out of the park or neutral positions? Maybe you applied a little more force. Consequently, the shifter popped all of a sudden. Now the handle moves loosely but it won’t put the car in gear unless you can fix the broken gear shifter. It is not possible to drive a car without a gear shifter, after all.

gear shifter

You may have had no previous trouble with the transmission. It may have driven fine throughout the day until the issue cropped up. Read on to find out how to find the problem in the gear shifting assembly. Then you can fix the faulty gear shifter.

How does a Gear Shifter Work?

A gear shifter allows the driver to change gears to obtain the best torque or speed ratio between the engine and the wheels of the car. First, the driver disengages the clutch by depressing the clutch pedal. After that, he can change the gear ratio of the transmission by moving the gear shifter into different positions.

gear box with shifter

In the case of an automatic transmission, a computer handles the shifting of gears depending on how fast the vehicle is moving. It also takes into account many other factors. It frees the driver from having to shift gears manually. As a result, he can better concentrate on the road.

gear box for automatic transmission
Internal Mechanism of an Automatic Transmission

Why Did The Gear Shifter Lock?

First, let us check out the obvious. If you haven’t fully depressed the clutch, it can prevent the gear shift from moving. In some vehicles like the Sebring, having the brake pedal depressed can also lock the gear shifter up. On a 1997 Venture, the gearshift sometimes doesn’t move unless the driver also moves the steering wheel.

Also Read:   How To Tell If A Steering Gearbox Is Bad?

chevrolet venture

In the case of automatic or semi-automatic transmissions, the main components that have a role in the locking and unlocking of the gear shifter are the following. If any of these are out of order, then the gear shifter will not change from the park position.

  • vehicle ignition switch
    In the case of a faulty ignition switch, the shift interlock solenoid does not receive the signal to unlock, even when the switch is at the ON position. The cost of the replacement switch is USD 25 to 75.
  • brake light or stoplight switch
    If the brake lights are not working, either due to a blown brake light fuse or a faulty brake light switch, it can prevent the gear shifter from unlocking. It is by far the most common cause for a locked gear shifter. The cost of replacing the switch is USD 7 to 35.
    damaged brake light switch causing locked gear shifter
  • brake-shift interlock solenoid
    If the ignition switch and the brake lights are okay, then the solenoid may be causing the problem. Sometimes a beverage or other sticky liquid is spilt and leaks down through the shifter console onto the solenoid or locking mechanism. Just cleaning it with q-tips and alcohol cleaner will be enough.

If your battery is dead, then, too, the gear shifter will not work. With the obvious out of the way, next, you will have to look under the hood and check if the linkages are hung up or broken somewhere.

How To Solve A Locked Gear Shifter?

1) At first, you need to set the emergency brake, so that the car doesn’t roll.

ignition swtich for gear shifter repair

2) Next, insert the car key into the ignition and turn the ignition switch to either the ON or RUN position. You don’t need to start the engine.

Gear Shifter override

3) You need to locate the override slot for the shift lock, usually located on the shifter console near the gear shifter. Normally, a small plastic cap covers the slot.  You will have to remove the plastic cap.

override shifter using screwdriver

4) Insert a thin object like a small screwdriver, nail file, key or something similar into the override slot, push it down and hold.

5) While holding down the shift override mechanism, you should depress the brake pedal.

press shifter release button

6) Now, take hold of the shifter, and press the release button on the shifter like usual. Then move the shifter to the desired gear. If you have gone through the above steps with the engine off, you can move the shifter to the Neutral position to start the engine.

Checking the Gear Shifter Lever

First, open or unclip the cloth or leather cover around the lever cover. Move the cloth cover-up. After that, disconnect any wires connected to the shifter lever. Make a note of which wire goes where in case of multiple wires.

open the gear stick cover

Next, pull out the shifter knob, with some continued force. Be careful to keep your face out of the line of movement of the knob. Otherwise, you may end up cracking your nose when it comes off. In your case, it may also be a screw-on type knob. If yes, just unscrew it. Now check for any damage to the lever.

How To Fix A Broken Gear Shifter?

If you use excessive force to try and move the locked gear shifter, you can damage the shifter lever or the shifting mechanism. To fix the gear shifter follow the given steps under the issue that matches yours.

Also Read:   What Causes Condensation On Inside Of Windshield?

1. Replacing the Shift Lever and Carrier

If the shift lever or the carrier had been damaged, it is moderately easy to replace them, with the right tools, right at home. To do this, you need to access the area around the carrier. Depending on the car you have, you may need to disconnect and remove the battery.

2. Replacing The Shifter Through Center Console

In case the gear shifter mechanism has broken or otherwise become damaged, you need to replace it. It is not possible to drive unless you fix the broken gear shifter. In most cases, you need to remove the centre console to get to the gear shifting mechanism. For this, you will require:

  • A plastic trim tool
    trim tool to fix broken gear shifter
  • A flathead screwdriver
  • A T-25 and a T-30 Star bit or driver to remove certain screws
  • A socket driver of the appropriate size.

Follow the steps in the video to change the damaged shifter.

If you do not have the same model car, the only thing different will be the placement of the screws. Remember to check your manual to find where they are placed. Only pull out the centre console after you are confident you have removed all the screws. Otherwise, you may damage the looks of the console and also its functions.

3. Damaged Transmission Shift Cables

If the transmission shift cables have broken or have otherwise suffered damage, you can replace them without a lot of hassle. You will need a 10mm wrench (or another appropriate size) and a paper-knife. The replacement gear shift cables will cost around 300 USD. You can also procure used ones for much cheaper but they tend to be untrustworthy.

Wobbly Gear Shifter Knob

If your problem is just a wobbly knob on the shifter stick, it is easy to replace at a minimal cost. You only need to procure a replacement gear stick knob that is compatible with your car. Any automobile spare parts shop will be able to provide it. You can also order a knob online for as little as USD 25 to 30.


In this manner, you can fix the broken gear shifter without having to spend too much on it. As long as you understand how the gear shifter assembly is fitted, you can easily repair it or replace any of the components. You can find aftermarket replacement parts in online stores or automobile spare parts shops. You only need to take care that the replacement you buy is compatible with your vehicle.

If you are unsure of disassembling the components, you can consult a local mechanic. You may also contact any friend of yours who knows about automobiles.

Leave a Comment