Brake light switch could be to blame for balky shifter

  • Article by: PAUL BRAND
  • Updated: February 17, 2012 - 3:52 PM

The 2009 Hyundai Santa Fe starts but then can't get shifted out of park unless the engine is shut off and the driver starts over.

Q I own a 2009 Hyundai Santa Fe with just 9,000 miles on it. When I start the engine, I cannot shift it out of park unless I shut the engine off and start over -- then it works. Also, the ignition locks up. The dealer told me to turn both the steering wheel and the ignition key clockwise at the same time. I am 84 and can still do this, but it's very hard. There should be a simpler way.

A Actually, this shouldn't be an issue at all. Regarding the first problem -- not being able to shift out of park -- make sure you're firmly pushing the brake pedal as you attempt to shift. The brake/shift interlock solenoid must release the shift lever from the park position. I found information on a recall for the brake light switch on the 2007 model year Santa Fe. If this switch -- activated by the brake pedal -- is faulty, it could affect not only the brake/shift interlock but the brake lights, cruise control and electronic stability control system. Have your dealer check the adjustment and function of the brake light switch.

The difficulty turning the key is somewhat normal if the steering wheel is in a turned position and leaning on the locking pin. By unloading the steering wheel to release pressure on the pin, the ignition switch operates freely. Try parking with the steering wheel perfectly straight.

Q When I first start my 2008 Buick Lucerne, it runs rough for 10 to 25 seconds, then smooths out. After running it, turning it off and immediately restarting it, it is OK. After letting it sit for a few minutes and starting it, it has the same problem. The dealer ran some tests but could not find the problem. They felt it was a carbon buildup or a bad batch of gas. They ran some carbon cleaner through it, checked the injectors and also put some cleaner in the gas tank. I ran one tank of gas through it, and it still does the same thing.

A Did the dealer run a fuel pressure leak-down test? If not, that's the next thing to check. If fuel pressure falls off quickly after shutting down the engine, check for a leaking fuel pressure regulator or check valve in the fuel pump assembly or -- more likely -- fuel leaking into the cylinders from weepy fuel injectors. It's also possible a faulty coolant temperature sensor could cause this symptom by operating the engine too rich when starting at less than full operating temperature. A scan tool can monitor coolant temperature sensor voltage to determine if it is an accurate signal.

Q My 2001 Acura MDX has served me very well over the past 125,000 miles. For the past few months, the power steering makes an annoying groaning noise for the first few minutes after starting it up cold, but then it's thankfully quiet. The noise lasts longer in cold weather before disappearing. The dealer says it needs a new power steering pump, which was replaced only 18 months ago. The local mechanic says that the noise would continue and not fade away if the problem was the pump. So far the O-ring and hoses have been replaced and the filter/screen has been cleaned out. None of these repairs has made any difference in the noise.

A Hyundai service information indicates that some power steering pump noise for 2 or 3 minutes after start-up is normal. I agree. If the power steering operates normally at start-up with no binding, hesitation or loss of assist, I would suggest adding a power steering fluid conditioner or SeaFoam Trans-Tune to the power steering fluid. Unless the 18-month-old pump is still under warranty or there's an issue with power steering function, I'd be inclined to live with this on an 11-year-old vehicle.

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