Car Talk

What is it Shift Lock Release and How Can You Use it?

Avatar Adie Tinkle -

The shift lock is a very effective and useful tool when your vehicle is not working optimally and you need to tow it. 

The two typical transmissions that are available in a vehicle include manual and automatic. 

Manual Transmission 

The manual transmission requires the driver to shift manually with a clutch and gear shift. The gear shift can either be a floor shift, or it can be mounted next to the steering wheel. The number of gears a vehicle has depends upon the engine’s size and the size of the automobile. 

Sports cars, including large utility vehicles, have more gears than normal sedans. However, regardless of the gear numbers, the driver has to shift gears manually by pressing the clutch and shifting the level to the required gear. 

Automatic Transmission 

The automatic transmission or automatic gear shift does not have a clutch and does not require the driver to change gears manually. Unlike manual cars, automatic cars do not have the “H” pattern. They have a vertically descending heart shift that allows the driver to switch between options like park, reverse, and neutral. Also, the transmission switches automatically by adjusting itself to the motion of the car. 

For the driver to switch between the options available in an automatic transmission, there is a shift lock release feature that allows the driver to lock the drive safely in a particular motion. 

All modern vehicles are connected with a shift lock release function for safety purposes. Let’s cover the basics of the shift lock release, including what it does and when you want to use it. 

What is the Use of a Shift Lock?

The majority of the latest vehicles with automatic gear shift have shift locks and a release as a safety measure. These buttons need to be depressed to shift out of the park. This simple feature prevents the vehicle from shifting into gear without the key in the ignition and your foot on the brake pedal. 

The shift lock lever is present on the side or top of your gear shifter. When the button is enabled, it automatically controls the gears when your car is in parking.

When Do You Need to Use the Shift Lock Release? 

When everything is operating correctly, you do not need to override the shift lock manually. Instead, you can simply put your key in the ignition, turn your car on, and push the brake pedal. After doing that, you can push the button on the gear selector and keep going.

However, sometimes the system does not work the way it should, leading to car battery failure, and you might find no way to get out of the gear. 

Also, if you need to have the vehicle towed, it is essential to put the vehicle in neutral without running the engine. It’s in this case that you require the override button for the shift lock release. Without it, your vehicle will remain stuck in the parked position, making it unable to move. 

How Can We Use the Shift Lock Release?

When the vehicle is working efficiently, you do not need to think much about how you will get your car out of the park. You can simply turn the key in the ignition, push down the brake pedal, and depress the button in the shifter to move it to the appropriate gear. 

However, there are situations when you need to override the button manually. In these scenarios, you will need to use the shift lock release function to get moving, 

Here are some of the important steps that you must consider with most automatic transmission vehicles.

Consult the Owner’s Manual 

The first step when handling something new is to read the owner’s manual. Though the operation will be the same for most vehicles, it is important to read the manufacturer’s recommendations first. 

If you do not understand the manual, you might want to seek further assistance. For example, a tow company can provide assistance and direct you on how to use the shift lock release. 

Verify if Your Vehicle Can be Shifted.

Firstly, check if you can shift the car the usual way. Start your vehicle by putting the key in the ignition. With your foot on the brake, push the button on the gear selector and change gears. If you cannot get your vehicle started, you have a bigger problem to handle. However, if the car’s battery is a deal, you might be able to jump-start it and get moving again. 

Locate the Shift Lock Release 

Your next step is to find the override slot for the lock. You can find it on the shifter console. It may also contain a plastic cap that needs to be removed before you proceed.

Push in Release 

It will not be simple to find the button, and it is designed in a way that makes it easy to push. Otherwise, getting it out of the gear will be too simple, making it a safety hazard. Therefore, you will need a small tool to push in the slot.  

You can use your keys, a compact screwdriver, or even a nail file. After pushing the buttons, you need to hold it down while you shift the selector to its desired location. After you shift, you can let off the release and put the cap back in its place. 

Do all Cars Offer Shift Lock Release?

The shift lock release function is not present in manual transmission vehicles or old automatic transmission vehicles. 

However, since 2010, the majority of automakers have used the shift lock feature and release button to increase driving safety.

Why do Manual Cars Not Have a Shift Lock?

Manual cars operate differently than automatic transmissions. The shift gears, with a manual transmission, require you to depress the clutch while moving the shifter. With this design, you can put the vehicle in gear even when it is not running. In automatic vehicles, you do not need to change gears, and the lock shift ensures more safety


Knowing the purpose of shift lock release and how you can use it enhances your experience during times of emergency. If you are used to driving a vehicle with an automatic transmission, you might not be familiar with this feature. However, anyone looking to switch from manual to automatic transmission should be well aware of the functionality of a shift lock. 

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