My Ford Econoline Won’t Shift Out Of Park – Why? What To Do?

If you try to drive your Ford Econoline, but it won’t shift out of park, you're probably wondering why the problem is happening and how you can fix it. We researched these concerns for your convenience, and here’s the information we found.

A Ford Econoline van may not shift out of park because of unwanted pressure from gravity or a bad shift linkage. You should search for the cause of the problem and use a suitable solution based on your findings to get the van out of park and perhaps restore the transmission’s normal functions.

Continue reading as we talk about the possible reasons why a Ford Econoline won't shift out of park in greater detail. We’ll also tackle the step-by-step guides for each highlighted issue.

3 Reasons Why Ford Econoline Won’t Shift Out Of Park (And Their Possible Fixes)

Compact bus Ford E-Series at the countryside.


Parking a Ford Econoline on a hill may prevent the vehicle's transmission from shifting out of park. The reason behind this issue is gravity is putting additional pressure on the parking lock, stopping it from changing gears.

How To Fix

Generally, you don’t need any special tools to shift a Ford Econoline out of park when it’s on a hill. But you should be careful because the following solution may endanger people, vehicles, and objects if you don’t do it properly. 

Step-By-Step Guide
  1. Press the Econoline’s brake pedal and ignite the engine.
  2. Slowly and carefully remove your foot from the brake pedal.
  3. Push against the brake pedal with sufficient force while applying light pressure as you change the gear shifter.

Note: Don't use this technique if any people or obstructions are in the area. Make sure to clear the area to reduce the risk of the Econoline bumping into them.

Shift Linkage Failure

A shift linkage is a group of cables that typically connects the transmission and the gear shifter. Although these components serve their purpose, they can still go bad over time and with frequent use.

Aside from the Econoline’s transmission refusing to shift out of park, other symptoms that may indicate a bad shift linkage are:

  • Unknown noises (e.g., grinding, bumping, and/or whirring sounds)
  • Gear slips
  • Transmission oil leak

How To Fix

Replacing the shift linkage cables should help restore the transmission and gear shifter’s functions to normal. This replacement procedure is usually a DIY-friendly job.

But if you think this task is too much for you to handle, you should request help from a reliable automotive technician.

If you want to proceed with this task, here are the general steps to follow:

What You’ll Need
  • Wheel chocks
  • Philips screwdriver
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Panel remover
  • Allen or hex wrenches
  • Wooden shims
  • Replacement shift linkage assembly
Step-By-Step Guide
  1. Engage the Ford Econoline’s hand or parking brake.
  2. Chock the wheels to prevent the vehicle from rolling while you’re working on it.
  3. Enter the van’s cabin and remove the screws securing the plastic cover behind the steering wheel.
  4. Pull out the plastic cover and set it aside temporarily.
  5. Loosen and remove the Allen or hex bolts securing the gear shift lever.
  6. Pry the shifter out of its mount with a flathead screwdriver or a panel remover.
  7. Loosen the bolts underneath the steering wheel assembly to lower it. Wedge wooden shims between the lowered steering wheel and the dashboard.
  8. Push the faulty shift linkage cable upwards and pull it out from its mount.
  9. Install the new shift linkage cable in the same location as the old unit.
  10. Return the steering wheel assembly and the gear shifter to their original positions.
  11. Turn on the Econoline’s engine and check if you can now release it from park.
  12. If all is well, return the dashboard cover and remove the wheel chocks.

Check out this shift cable repair kit on Amazon.

Tip: Ask for help from someone with fairly thin arms and hands to remove the old shift linkage assembly and install the new unit. Doing these steps might be more challenging than expected for an individual with reasonably large arms and hands.

Watch this video if you need a visual guide for the procedure.

Bad Shift Lock Solenoid

A shift lock solenoid is an assembly with the responsibility of preventing the Ford Econoline’s driver from shifting the van’s transmission out of park.

Generally, it’s a safety feature that stops the vehicle from making unwanted movements, which may otherwise lead to accidents and injuries.

However, the shift lock solenoid may become faulty and prevent the Econoline’s driver from shifting the transmission out of park, even if the driver doesn’t engage the brakes.

How To Fix

Replacing the shift lock solenoid might be the best path to take if you want long-term results for your van’s transmission. But purchasing the assembly and waiting for the part to arrive may not be your best option, especially if you need to move the van from its parking site.

If so, you may use the following steps as a workaround if you have to shift your Ford Econoline out of park immediately:

What You’ll Need
  • Small screwdriver
Step-By-Step Guide
  1. Engage the Ford Econoline’s hand, parking, or emergency brake.
  2. Find the shift lock override slot, which should be on the center console near the gear shifter.
  3. Remove the cap on the shift lock override slot and insert the screwdriver into the small opening.
  4. Apply pressure to the screwdriver as you depress the brakes.
  5. Press the release button on the gear shifter and release the vehicle from park.

Tip: You can ask help from another person to move the gear shifter for you. That way, you won’t find it more difficult than expected to press the screwdriver and move the gear shifter at the same time.

Take note that if this technique doesn’t work, then you may need to replace the vehicle’s shift interlock solenoid. If so, contact a towing service, particularly if the Econoline van is currently at a public parking site.

Check out this replacement shift interlock solenoid on Amazon.

Watch this video if you need a visual guide for the steps mentioned above. The video shows a different vehicle. Nonetheless, the process for this temporary fix to release a vehicle from park should still be quite similar for a Ford Econoline:

What Are Common Ford Econoline Transmission Problems?

An old Ford Econoline with a Canadian license plate

Aside from refusing to shift out of park, some Ford Econoline models may experience other transmission problems. Some reasonably common transmission issues that you may encounter with your Econoline van are:

Brake Pedal Failure

Certain Ford Econoline models, particularly the 1999 version, may have brake pedals that fail. Some drivers may experience the van’s brake pedal falling to the floor.

If this occurs, the driver may lose control of the vehicle, putting themselves, along with other people and vehicles, in danger.

Gear Slips

Also called a transmission slip, this issue generally occurs when the gear changes from one setting to another. Plus, the slippage typically happens even without the driver’s intervention.

How Do You Know If Your Ford Econoline Transmission Is Going Out?

White passenger van Ford Econoline in a city street.

Watch out for certain signs if your Ford Econoline’s transmission is failing. Some possible symptoms may include:

  • Rough gear shifts
  • Delayed transmission shifting response
  • Transmission fluid leaks
  • Difficulty or failure to change gears

How Much Does It Cost To Rebuild A Ford Econoline's Transmission?

1965 Ford Econoline van at a local car show., How Much Does It Cost To Rebuild A Ford Econoline's Transmission?

If your Ford Econoline’s transmission requires serious repairs, it might be better to rebuild the system than to take advantage of temporary repairs. If so, prepare to spend about $861 for the completion of this task.

Note that the overall fees related to rebuilding the transmission system of a Ford Econoline may vary based on certain factors. Some elements that may affect the final expenses are the van's current mileage, the difficulty of the task, and the Econoline’s specific model.

Final Thoughts

A white Ford Econoline van on huge wheels, with sirens and flashing lights, parked on the waterfront in Reykjavik, Iceland.

A Ford Econoline may not shift out of park because of reasons that might either be preventable or avoidable.

Some reasons include pressure from gravity or a bad shift linkage. Make sure to find and verify the cause of the issue before attempting repairs.

If you believe that you lack the confidence and skill to fix the van’s transmission, think about requesting help from a reliable automotive service center.

If you’re looking for answers to other Ford vehicle concerns, check out these other great posts:

Can You Add Seats To A Ford Transit Cargo Van?

Do Ford Lightnings Come Supercharged?

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