I have a 1996 Fiat Punto Selecta with only 12,000 miles on the clock and have a problem with the gear selector on the autobox. Sometimes I’m unable to shift the gear selector from ‘Drive’ to, say, ‘Reverse’ or ‘Neutral’. This seems to happen more often when the car has just been started and driven a short distance. When the brake pedal is pressed, you can hear a click and the gear sometimes moves up through PRND and sometimes refuses to move. When ‘Drive’ is engaged, it drives perfectly. The gearbox oil has been recently changed and is a clean, red colour and at the correct level.
The problem sounds as though it is within the shift lock mechanism. To access this, you will first need to remove the centre console to expose the mechanism. This may necessitate the handbrake being disconnected to allow the handbrake lever to rise sufficiently to remove the console. With this in mind, the vehicle should be choked to prevent movement. When the footbrake is applied, the solenoid should release the lever which locks the mechanism. With the console removed and the mechanism exposed, this can be easily checked. As you can hear a click when the brake pedal is applied, I would expect to find that the solenoid is operating correctly but the lever it operates may not be. Although even though the solenoid is working, I would also ensure it is operating fully, giving full clearance to the mechanism. By disconnecting the operating cable, you should be able to isolate the fault. If, with the cable disconnected, the selector lever moves freely through the positions, you can then check that the cable moves freely.
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