The shift lock won't let Camry out of its grip

  • Article by: PAUL BRAND , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 24, 2010 - 5:29 PM

Q I have a '95 Toyota Camry that I have just brought out of storage. It has low mileage, and I'm going to put it back into use. Here is the problem: The floor-mounted gear selector will not shift out of park. I have gone over all the connections. Even with the key on and a foot on the brake, the gears are locked for some reason.

A The shift-lock mechanism in your vehicle, ironically engineered to prevent unintended acceleration, requires the ignition switch in the "on" position and the brake pedal depressed before the shift-lock module energizes the shift-lock solenoid and allows the shift lever to move out of "park." My Alldata automotive database outlines a relatively simple test procedure using a voltmeter to troubleshoot the system. Check the ECU-1G fuse in the fuse box and make sure the brake light switch is working. You may be able to get around this problem temporarily by accessing the shift-lock override button under its little cover on the console.

Q I drive a 2005 Jeep Liberty V6 with 56,000 miles that I bought new. Recently, it's developed the annoying characteristic of "burping" a rather large splash of gas from the fuel filler when the pump clicks off. The nozzle is inserted into the filler neck as far as it will go, and the rubber flap on the nozzle is set back from the top of the filler neck about 1 inch or so, about even with where the filler door is when closed.

A You can try withdrawing the nozzle just a bit from the filler neck. Obviously, the nozzle tube needs to be past the restrictor opening and far enough into the filler neck to prevent leakage, but this little trick may reduce the fuel dispenser's sensitivity when refueling.

However, I suspect the problem involves the fuel tank vent hose or the evaporative emissions system's charcoal canister, valving and plumbing. The canister is mounted under the body near the fuel tank, and it's designed to capture fuel vapor from the fuel tank. If the canister is filled with liquid fuel from "fuel packing" -- overfilling the tank repeatedly -- or if there's a problem with the evap system itself, this type of splashback can occur. Have your dealer check the vent hose, test the entire evaporative emissions system and inspect its components for physical damage.

Q I have a 1991 Dodge Spirit with a four-cylinder engine that won't start. I have changed the coil, spark plugs, cap and rotor. The plug wires aren't that old. I have a very weak spark. Could the problem be in the pickup coil?

A If the spark is consistent and rhythmic while cranking the engine, check the quality and condition of electrical "grounds" between the drivetrain and chassis. It's an old vehicle, so age and corrosion can deteriorate electrical connections. If you get only one weak spark as you crank the engine, the Hall-effect transmitter in the distributor, the crankshaft position sensor and the engine management SBEC -- single board engine controller -- are suspect. And check the coil wire, even though it's newer.

Q Regarding the discussion about cold starts [Feb. 18 and 25], I start my vehicle in the morning and pull it out of the garage. I put the car in reverse with my foot on the brake for 10 to 20 seconds so the transmission fluid circulates. Then I put it in drive, with my foot still on the brake, for another 10 to 20 seconds. Then I keep my speed under 35 to 40 miles per hour for 4 or 5 miles. Summer or winter I do this. Have I been doing it wrong all these years?

A Not in my humble opinion. That's my plan -- exactly.

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