So I’m at work all day and 5pm comes around, I grab my stuff and head out to the car. I get in, start it up and go to shift it out of park, but the shifter won’t move. I check the obvious, break is fully depressed and the brake lights come on, but no shifting. So I pull out the owner’s manual, and try the ‘manual override’ instructions for the transaxle. This consists of removing the rubber insert from the cup holder and reaching through a little hole to push a lever. No joy.
Step 1: Initial Troubleshooting
I pull the chrome trim piece from around the shift lever and look inside through the gap. I notice that the plastic part that I pushed for the ‘manual override’ is pink. There is another pink plastic piece on the other (left) side of the shifter that moves when I try to shift. I grab a screwdriver and pull this toward the rear while shifting. Whew, got it. That let me drive home, but I don’t want to shift with a screwdriver, so I’ll need to fix this.
Step 2: Disassembly
After I get home, I pull the center console out to get a better look at the problem. First I need to pull the a/c control bezel out so I can get to the screws behind it. The bottom of the panel pulls out, and then you need to pull the unit down to pull the top side out. Remove the cable connectors. Remove six 10mm screws. Two are behind the a/c bezel, and four are in the center console armrest compartment.
Step 3: Diagnosis
With the console out of the way, I notice that the plastic part on the left side of the shifter is attached to a cable, which pulls it forward when the key isn’t in the ‘on’ position. It goes slack when the key is ‘on’ but there is no spring to pull the plastic piece back out of the way. I find a place where something has broken off, but I don’t find a spring or the broken piece. This is when I decide to improve their system so this doesn’t happen again.
Step 4: Repair
I had to get a replacement spring, so I went to the parts store and bought the smallest throttle return spring I could find. It was a bit too long, so I cut it down to one inch total length. Then I drilled a hole in the pink plastic part and hooked the spring between it and the spring hold down hook on the shifter housing. After testing that it worked as needed, I put the console back together. Total repair cost, $3.00 and one hour of work for a solution that is better than new. The price for a replacement shift housing at the dealership, $142.00 plus installation, probably at least $300.00 all together.
Step 5: Factory recall notice...
I received a recall notice for my car from Chrysler today, outlining exactly the issue I created this instructable for. I won't be taking my car in since it's already fixed, but if you have this problem and need to take it in, they'll probably fix it for free. They stay that they'll install a "reinforcement clip" to keep your spring retainer hook from breaking.