My gear shift gets stuck in park

Q. I have a 2003 Buick Century. Lately, whenever I park my car on an incline, it’s almost impossible to get the gear shift out of the park. It just seems to be locked in there so tight that it almost feels like the shifter could possibly break. Do you have any suggestions?

A. More than likely, the parking pawl is worn and causing the shifter to bind up. Considering the car is nearly 10 years old, the most practical solution would be to not fix the problem. Rather than fix the problem, whenever the car is parked on an incline, apply the emergency brake, then shift the car into park. By applying the parking brake you reduce stress and pressure on the internal parking mechanism.


Q. I have recently started to experience a ‘shuttering’ while driving my Subaru. It seems to happen at any and all speeds, including coasting to a stop sign. I only have 34,000 miles on this car and planned to keep it for a long while.  Do you have any ideas as to what it may be?

A. It is possible that the transmission clutches are starting to fail. Although, I would be critical of the transmission fluid if it was changed recently. If the fluid was changed and anything but Subaru fluid is used, a transmission shutter is possible. If this is the case, a fluid exchange with Subaru fluid may reduce or eliminate the problem. 

Q. I have a 1988 Toyota Camry with a four-cylinder engine and a five speed manual transmission. I have replaced the fuel filter and fuel pump, battery, distributor, rotor, engine coolant temperature sensor and the cold start injector. First thing in the morning when it is cooler out, the car takes longer to start up. Could you help me sort this out by guiding me to the root cause of the problem? 

A. The most common problem is the cold start injector timer switch. The other common issue is the ignition coil on some of these older Toyota engines not developing sufficient spark when the engine is cold.


Q. I have a 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee, purchased used about eight years ago. I never had a problem with it, until last month when it suddenly accelerated on me. I was only going about 30 mph as I made a right turn, when it suddenly accelerated on me and I couldn’t stop it. The brakes did nothing; I needed to turn off the ignition to get it back under control. Jeep tells me they don’t know any problems like this and can’t tell me how to get it fixed, yet there are reports after reports online of this issue. I just want my Jeep fixed. Is there a “fix” for this issue?

A. If this were my vehicle, I would spend time looking at the throttle (gas pedal) linkage and throttle body. If the linkage jammed and the power brake booster was leaking, I could see this scenario happening. Under acceleration, the booster would lose vacuum and make the brake pedal seem ineffective, all while the car is accelerating.

Q. I have a 2004 Pontiac Bonneville and I’m happy with this General Motors car so far. I’ve owned them all, Ford to Plymouth. My question is electrical; all the gauges in the dash, one by one, have stopped working or read incorrectly except the speedometer. The car works fine and starts up okay. There is a computer on the dash that keeps track of the miles per gallon; oil change, fuel used and all of these items still work fine. My wife loves the car and has had three Pontiacs since 1993. I took out the dash and brought it to a diagnostics shop and they told me everything is fine and working. A friend who is a mechanic says there are several computers working behind the dash and the only ones who have access to the codes are the GM dealers. The car now has 51,000 miles on it. Should I spend thousands at the dealer to trace down the problem or run the car into the ground and then buy my wife a new car?


A. The problem can be due to poor electrical grounds or even low battery voltage. With a little time and effort, a good technician (although a General Motors technician may be more familiar with the problem) should be able to find and fix the problem. Regarding whether you should buy a new car or fix this car, my only advice is “happy wife-happy life.’’

Q. I recently heard about the controversy concerning the repair law ballot question in Massachusetts and now I’m more confused than ever. I thought the law passed this summer address the issue. Now I hear from one group to vote no and from you to vote yes. Can you clarify your position on this?

A. There are certain critical aspects of the information that your car stores and transmits, and the current legislation could give the manufacturer ownership of that information-not you. A yes vote advocates your ownership of all the information that your car produces-including open-access to the information necessary to have it repaired by your trusted repair shop-and your right to choose other third-party service providers to whom you grant access. In addition this telematics technology allows remote diagnosis of potential safety issues that could impact your vehicle.

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