Don't Stick With a Stick to Unlock Versa Shift Interlock

Dear Car Talk:

My 2015 Nissan Versa has a shifting problem. I can only get it out of park when I stick a stick through the shift lock. The dealer says it will cost $1,000 to fix.

I'm a real cheapskate; how long can I get away with using a stick? -- Ed

Until the stick breaks off in the bypass slot or jams it up with wood shavings, Ed. So even though you're cheap, you might want to invest in something a little less breakable, like a $2 screwdriver.

Your car -- like all modern cars – has a safety device called a brake-shift interlock. To prevent you from putting the car in gear and driving through the back wall of your garage, the car won't let you shift out of park until your foot is on the brake.

There's a switch near the brake pedal that triggers a solenoid that unlocks the shifter. Just in case something goes wrong with the system, every car also has a manual bypass or override. It's usually right next to the shifter. So if you're in "Jurassic Park 14," a T. rex is coming after you and your shift interlock fails, you can always use the manual override to put the car into drive and get away -- to be eaten later in the movie by the T. rex.

So, something is wrong with your interlock, Ed. It could be a bad switch at the brake pedal or a switch that's just badly out of adjustment. It could be the solenoid that operates the lock. Or it could be the lock mechanism itself. While the manual override switch should operate indefinitely, I think it'd be worth taking the car for a second opinion. The dealer may be right that it's a $1,000 repair, based on other Versas he's fixed. But he also could be guessing or trying to get you to trade in your car so he can have another car to sell.

If it's just the switch at your brake pedal, it's not going to cost anywhere near $1,000 to fix. Even if it's the solenoid, you'll probably get a much better price at a good, independent shop. So at the very least, spend $2 on a screwdriver and throw away your stick. And if you can stomach spending a few more bucks, get a second opinion before you give up and condemn this car to heap status.


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