Looking for ways to fix the “shift to park” message? You need not search any further. It is utterly annoying to see this pop up in the instrument panel when one is in a hurry to get into the office. The car is already in P (Park), but the sensors won’t acknowledge the fact. Today, we will discuss how to solve the shift to park problem you are facing.
It is a dangerous fault. The driver cannot be sure if the vehicle is positively parked or will roll forward at any time. Being unable to shut down your automobile could make you late for an appointment. Now, though, we know the cause of the complication. Therefore, it is possible to fix it. What are we waiting for? Let’s do it.
Table of Contents
Meaning of “Shift to Park” Message
What does it mean when your automobile says, “shift to park”? The car is telling you that it has not been put into the park position. It is a safety feature. The transmission has to be in P (Park) before you can remove the key from the ignition. Taking out the key or keyfob from the cabin without activating P (Park) can get you in trouble. The vehicle can roll away (on an inclined road) or otherwise cause problems.
So, the car reminds you about it when you attempt to remove the key from the ignition. It does the same for the keyfob from the vehicle (in the case of keyless ignition). Some models can prevent the removal of the key unless “Park” is engaged. “Shift to park” may also show up as “Transmission Not in Park”.
When Does This Message Appear?
The “Shift to park” message appears when you attempt to remove the key from the ignition without the transmission in park mode. However, sometimes the message shows up even though you have put the vehicle in park. Also possible is an intermittent appearance of this message.
Some Malibu, Volt, Arcadia and Traverse owners have reported such a problem. The primary cause is that corrosion or other material builds up on the park switch contacts. It prevents the Body Control Module (BCM) from electronically sensing that the vehicle is in the park position. Thus, the BCM prevents the ignition from turning off. It keeps happening until and unless you fix the shift to park message.
The buildup of unwanted material raises the resistance of the signal circuit, throwing off the current readings to the sensor of the BCM. As a result, the BCM will keep the ignition in Accessory mode. You cannot turn it off when you want.
Fix The Shift To Park Message
Sometimes, wiggling the shifter lever and changing the transmission positions a few times works. However, this is only a temporary solution.
The foolproof way to resolve the “shift to park” issue is to remove the excess foreign material on the electrical contacts. To prevent this from happening in the future, you can install a harness jumper in line with the shifter wiring. The jumper goes in between the shifter base connector and the console harness connector.
If that doesn’t solve your problem, you may need to replace the shifter control (Transmission Control Module). We will go through the repair procedure step by step. The relevant portions of the owner’s manual are provided in italics.
1. Clean the Park Switch Contacts
Put the vehicle in the park position, with the ignition off. Disassemble and remove the shifter knob and boot assembly (Transmission Control Lever Knob Replacement). Be careful not to scratch the car interior.
Using your thumb or a trim stick, depress the actuation rod fully, then release it. Let it snap back to the full up position. Repeat this step about 50 times to completely clean the internal contacts. The electrical connections are not openly accessible. Therefore you must clean them in this manner.
The cleaning procedure for the park switch is critical to the repair. Don’t overlook this step or cut it short. Start the vehicle and check if the warning message still appears. If it doesn’t, proceed to install the harness jumper.
2. Install The Wiring Harness Jumper
After cleaning the electrical contacts, remove the front floor console trim plate (Front Floor Console Trim Plate Replacement). Usually, one can access the shift control wiring connector by removing the front trim plate. In some models, repositioning the console assembly may be necessary (refer to Front Floor Lower Console Replacement).
Install the In-line Shifter Harness Jumper on the Shift Control assembly. After that, connect its other end to the Body Harness. Make sure that the jumper is not bent or kinked at more than 90 degrees. Otherwise, it will degrade faster.
Start the vehicle and check that the “shift to park” message is no longer on the instrument display. Reinstall all the disassembled parts, including the shifter knob, carefully (Transmission Control Lever Knob Replacement). Follow the appropriate replacement procedures to avoid causing cosmetic or other damage to your car.
3. Replace the Transmission Control Module (TCM)
If the “shift to park” pop up continues to appear even after the cleaning operation, further work is necessary. You will have to replace the TCM (refer to Transmission Control Replacement). The tools that come in use are a pry bar set or a flat head screwdriver. Either one works. A 10mm ratchet wrench and a small metal hook, as well as a light source, are also essential for this procedure.
Is “Shift to Park” Covered Under Warranty?
In most cars, the “Shift to Park” issue is covered under the bumper-to-bumper warranty. It is not covered in the powertrain warranty because the failed component is not an internal part of the drivetrain. The exception is the Chevy Volt. Specific to the Volt model, the Voltec (Electric and Hybrid Vehicle) Warranty covers STP repairs. So, insist on making use of the warranty.
If you own a Volt and face this defect, cite the Warranty Information to support your point at the service station. On other cars, you may have to shell out the cost of the service and the jumper if you don’t have the B2B warranty.
So, that is it. Now you know what to do to fix the shift to park message on your car. While the shifter problem won’t stop you from driving the automobile, it will probably block you from shutting it down. Therefore, do not delay the repair. You never know when you might be stranded inside the vehicle, without a safe way to turn it off, lock and leave.
The tools to carry out the repair are readily available. The harness jumper can be found in any automobile shop. The part number is available in the service bulletin above, so make sure you buy a compatible one. You can consult a mechanic if you feel it necessary.