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Shift lock due to blown fuse or other cause? Brake lights out too


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10 replies to this topic

#1 mountainwalker

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Posted 24 December 2012 - 11:03 PM

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Habari Gani (Kwanzaa) and best wishes for the New Year to you and your families!

Started our 2003 Outback VDC 3L H6 111K miles, and shifter was locked - stepped on brakes and couldn't shift shifter back to Drive after shifting to the right from Park. And every time I moved the shifter to the right from Park, I heard a click from the steering column - my guess is that's a solenoid in the steering column that controls the shift lock.

Then I checked the brake lights - not working when the brakes are depressed. I think the brake lights and shift lock are likely on the same fuse. What do you think - most likely cause is blown fuse?

Hoping that the Shift Lock Release with a screwdriver works so I can drive the car to the garage - any tips on engaging the Shift Lock Release? Looks pretty simple.

#2 Fairtax4me

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Posted 24 December 2012 - 11:43 PM

Shift lock gets a signal from the brake light switch. Without input from the brake switch the shift lock will not disengage, this is to prevent the runaway shift. Someone or something (backpack, dog, kid, practical joker friend, etc.) from pulling the shifter into gear and allowing the car to roll away while the engine is running. It's a "stupid" feature kinda like the neutral start switch.
Occasionally the brake light switch fails, and this prevents the voltage from getting to the shift lock release.
Check the fuse for the brake lights, if that checks out, check the brake switch with an ohmmeter for continuity when pressing the plunger down.

There is another possibility as well which I've heard of on other cars. There is a tab on the brake pedal that presses against the switch. In the center of this tab is a rubber or plastic "bushing" that just makes the contact between the pedal and switch quiet. Otherwise you get this faint "tick" every time the pedal is pressed. Sometimes the bushing breaks and falls off, then you end up with a hole in the little tab where the plunger for the brake switch just pokes through rather than bein pushed against. Check that as well, it's usually a simple fix of just gluing or taping a peice of plastic or something over the hole.

#3 mountainwalker

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Posted 24 December 2012 - 11:59 PM

Fairtax4me, super helpful as usual, thank you. Do you think the Manual Shift Lock Release will still work under the circumstances?

Someone mentioned on another forum that sometimes the cause turns out to be a damaged bulb socket in one of the brake lights, or a broken wire in the bendy boot that goes between the rear roof edge and the liftgate.

Note that the problem surfaced today after two days of torrential rains when the car was outside. Maybe water got somewhere it's not supposed to be.

#4 Fairtax4me

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 12:31 AM

Fairtax4me, super helpful as usual, thank you. Do you think the Manual Shift Lock Release will still work under the circumstances?

You're welcome. And, yes the manual lock release will still work. That's designed to be a bypass in the case the battery dies or the car has to be pulled onto a tow truck/trailer without a key.

Either broken wire, damaged socket, or water in the right place could cause the fuse to blow. Since fuses are usually the easiest thing to check they get first place on the list. The cause of a short can be a pain in the rear to track down, but if the fuse is blown a short somewhere is a big possibility. Bulb sockets are easy to check for corrosion and/or damage. I would also check the tail light housings for water.

And since its now officially Christmas, have a merry one! :)

Edited by Fairtax4me, 25 December 2012 - 12:33 AM.


#5 Cougar

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 04:42 AM

If the fuse is blown then check the trailer hitch wiring, if you have that in place, for a problem. Another thing to check is a short to ground at one of the light sockets due to burned wire insulation.

#6 lmdew

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 08:08 AM

Pull the bulbs, if you don't seen any problems, put a new fuse in and see if the shift lock works.

If it does then start putting the bulbs back in one at a time and step on the brake as you do each one. That will isolate the problem.

#7 MilesFox

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 12:54 PM

she brake switch on the pedal may be stuck if you do not find any electrical issue. do a ninja flip and take a look

#8 mountainwalker

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Posted 01 January 2013 - 11:05 PM

So turns out the Shift Lock was due to the Brake Light Switch failure, which also burned out the brake light. Total cost parts and labor: $80. According to our excellent indie garage head, it's a problem he sees fairly often on Subarus and several other makes including Honda.

#9 grossgary

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 07:58 AM

thanks for the follow up on that. i haven't seen that one yet.

#10 86BRATMAN

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 01:23 PM

Common problem on some of the newer ford cars. We stock the brake light switches at work, sell at least 3 a month.

#11 MilesFox

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 01:54 PM

I remember helping someone with a stuck brake switch causing the shift to be locked at a gas station on 90's gmc jimmy.




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