My automatic car was in Neutral and Drive at the same time?
January 30, 2014 11:05 AM   Subscribe

Last night I moved my running car out of Park and into Drive. I pressed on the gas, and the car didn't go anywhere. Then I noticed that the panel lights showed that the car was in Drive and Neutral.

I shifted to Park (just park is lit) and shifted back to Drive (Drive and Neutral are lit, car doesn't go well). At this point the "Check your Engine Soon" light comes on.

I shifted back to Park, turned off the car, waited a minute, started the car, shifted to drive, everything seems fine now. Check Engine is still on.

How did this happen? What should I do now?

Car is 2005 Mitsubishi Eclipse
posted by jander03 to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total)
Best answer: Go to your local AutoZone or whatever and have them pull the OBDII code. It's most likely some kind of transmission fault, but without that code it's hard to say how serious.
posted by dobi at 11:12 AM on January 30, 2014

Best answer: It looks like the transmission selector cable/connector is out of alignment and the transmission position for 'drive' doesn't line up with the selector position. It could be a relatively easy fix, but I'd get the code read and see. There's every chance it just triggered a "I didn't expect that response from the trans" code that can be reset and the mechanic check the cable/linkage.
posted by Brockles at 11:27 AM on January 30, 2014

Best answer: I would guess either an out-of-adjustment transmission linkage or a faulty transmission range switch.

The transmission range switch is just a rotary switch, located at the transmission, that tells the car's computer what gear is selected. It is also used to light the dashboard lights. If the switch is faulty, it can indicate the wrong gear or multiple gears at once.

The transmission linkage is a cable or other mechanical connection between the transmission and the shift lever. If it is out of whack, the shift lever might be in gear you want, but the transmission will be in the wrong gear (or between gears, leading to the multiple gear light issue). Since the engine revved but the car didn't move, I'd put my money on the cable.

In either case, the computer is confused so it throws a fault code and your check engine light comes on. If you are handy with basic tools and you can get the shop manual for your car (expensive, but usually available online if you know where to look, if you get my drift), you might be able to diagnose / fix it yourself. You will still need a code reader to clear the CEL. Most auto parts stores can do that.
posted by indyz at 11:31 AM on January 30, 2014

Best answer: I have an old Honda, so our cars are in no way comparable, but when mine did this, it was my TCU-- the bits of computer that tell the transmission what gear to be in. It was a simple and relatively inexpensive replacement. Definitely get your codes read, but if you can't do that right at this moment you might want to hunt around on the web and see if Mitsubishi has documented this as one of the ways the car lets you know your TCU is going.
posted by WidgetAlley at 12:14 PM on January 30, 2014

Best answer: To make you feel better, it is very unlikely this problem could cause damage the transmission.

Drive is neutral plus some other stuff -- it isn't like accidentally being in reverse and drive at the same time (that would be bad if you were moving). Heck, that's why neutral is in between them, so if things get loose, you don't blow up.

Probably a loose cable or failing switch, as indyz says. Should be an inexpensive repair.
posted by flimflam at 12:26 PM on January 30, 2014

Best answer: dobi: "Go to your local AutoZone or whatever and have them pull the OBDII code. It's most likely some kind of transmission fault, but without that code it's hard to say how serious."

They can't do this anymore in California, and most places don't even rent them. Some lawsuit about auto parts stores "performing unlicensed repair" or something. If you have time and a android smartphone I highly recommend buying a bluetooth code reader and an app to read work with it - Torque is what I use. I've read codes for two random strangers over the last year who were sitting in an auto parts store parking lot trying to figure out how to get their codes read without paying a shop.
posted by Big_B at 2:13 PM on January 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The cable being out of adjustment is a good suggestion, but i just wanted to add that last time i encountered this issue the little gate the selection lever hops along to lock it into drive/reverse/etc was overly worn.

However, the CEL coming on means it's probably throwing a transmission error code, which might just be a really general "something weird happened" useless code. Still, the suggestion dobi gave is good because autozone/o'reillys/etc will walk out to your car with a scanner and pull the code for free. Then you can google it on your smartphone and find some thread on an "" type site where a couple of gurus explain what it actually means.

On preview, what Big_B said about the parts shops not doing this anymore isn't true in my area. I just did it this sunday.
posted by emptythought at 2:14 PM on January 30, 2014

Response by poster: The light went off after about 30 miles, and the vehicle is driving normally, no noticable issues when accelerating or decelerating. I guess I will let this one go for now...
posted by jander03 at 8:58 PM on January 30, 2014

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