Toyota Tacoma Stuck in Park: Causes & How to Fix

If your Toyota Tacoma is stuck in Park, the odds are that you’re not stranded.  We’ve made this guide to quickly help you get back on the road if your truck doesn’t shift into gear. 

Most vehicles with an automatic transmission have a linkage that connects the gear selector to the transmission. Recently, more vehicles have been using push buttons and actuators to select a gear.

Toyota Tacoma Won't Get Out of Park

This article starts with things that are easy and quick to remedy (allowing you to get moving again) and then moves on to the less likely problems.

The two most common reasons a vehicle won’t shift into gear are a shift interlock failure or gravity pulling on the parking pawl.

Vehicle Won’t Shift Into Gear Diagnostic Tree

  1. Are you currently parking on an incline?  Is the parking brake on?  If not, the truck’s weight is on the parking gear.  You’ll have to rock your Tacoma to get it moving.  Jump down to section 1.
  2. Do the brake lights come on when pushing the brake pedal?  If they don’t, the brake switch is causing your Tacoma to stay stuck in Park.   The shifter interlock on modern cars and trucks keeps the transmission from accidentally going into gear when your foot is off the brake.  Jump to section 2.
  3. Did the brake lights come on?  Not parked on a hill?  Take a look at the shift lock; that’s section 3.
  4. Was it recently freezing outside?  The weather may have caused the shift linkage to freeze.  It can also rust over time.  Start with section 4.

Toyota Tacoma Stuck in Park Causes

Here are the likely reasons your Toyota Tacoma’s shifter isn’t moving out of Park.

1. Parked on a Hill

Stuck in park causes

Relieving the pressure caused by gravity will get your truck out of Park.

Is your Tacoma parked on a hill?  If so, the force of gravity is putting extra pressure on the transmission’s parking pawl (the device inside the transmission that locks it up when in Park). 

A jammed parking pawl is common when you don’t use the parking brake and will put all of the vehicle’s pressure on the parking pawl.  It can happen to any vehicle, at any age or mileage.  

Getting your Tacoma out of Park when this happens takes a little effort.  You’ll need to rock your truck, which can be dangerous.  The best way to rock your truck is from the driver’s seat.  Proceed at your own risk.

What you’re going to need to do is safely follow the procedure below:

  • Turn your Tacoma’s engine on.
  • Then, rock the truck with your foot off the brake.
  • Press the brake down when you have rocked uphill.  You want to “catch” it with the brake at the right time.  This will take pressure off of the parking lock.
  • Apply light pressure to the shifter when doing this.  You don’t want to break the shift linkage.

Hopefully, that got your Tacoma into gear.  In the future, using the parking brake should keep this from happening again.

If you do rock it, try and catch your Tacoma as it bounces up.  When it’s about to rock forward again, hit the brakes and try to get it out of Park.

2. Brake Pedal Switch

Your Toyota Tacoma won’t shift into gear if it doesn’t detect the brake pedal is being pressed.  Vehicles are designed so you don’t bump the shifter into gear when rooting around the cabin.

Have a friend check to see if your Tacoma’s brake lights are coming on when you hit the pedal. If you don’t have anyone to help, just use your phone’s camera to take a video. If the brake lights don’t light up, replacing the switch should get you back on the road.

3. Shift Interlock Failure

Toyota Tacoma Stuck in Park Diagnosis

The shift lock solenoid is the mechanism that keeps your Toyota Tacoma from shifting out of Park without your foot on the brake.  The good news is that most shift locks have an override button.  

You will need to find it for your particular model year of Tacoma (if applicable).  Grab the owner’s manual and look up how to access it.  Sometimes there’ll be an override button; other times it’ll be hiding under the shift boot.

Finding it is usually pretty easy.  Just look at your shifter.  There’ll be a little plastic cover. Pop it off and override the shifter lock solenoid.  This can get you back on the road in a hurry and will save you from being stranded.

Here’s a video showing you where to find them on most vehicles. 

4. Bad Shift Linkage

The shift linkage on your Tacoma will usually provide a lifetime of dependable service.  But they can go bad.

If you are positive that the gear shifter is not stuck in Park (see directly above), then it’s likely that the shift linkage may be bad.  Something caused it to bend, or it’s starting to come loose. 

If it’s loose, the geometry won’t be right anymore, and it may keep your Tacoma stuck in Park.

Conclusion:  Tacoma Stuck in Park

There aren’t a lot of issues that would cause your Toyota Tacoma to be stuck in Park. The shift linkage is usually the last place you’d want to start looking.