Why won't Scott's repo'd Kia shift when it's cold out? Tom and Ray make the diagnosis.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jul 01, 2006

Dear Tom and Ray:

I picked up a repo'd 2000 Kia Sephia last fall. It's in great shape. The only problem I have with the car is that whenever it gets bitter cold -- which it does a lot where I live, in Montana -- it will not shift from park to drive until it warms up! One cold morning last winter, I sat in the driveway waiting for 10 minutes. Otherwise, it runs great. Can anything be done before next winter to reduce the time it needs to shift in the cold? -- Scott

RAY: Yes. Build a heated garage.

TOM: There are several possibilities, Scott. But the first thing I'd check is the shift interlock.

RAY: This car, like every car these days, has a switch that prevents you from shifting out of park unless your foot is on the brake.

TOM: That's to prevent you from stepping on the gas by accident, and then putting the car in gear and accelerating straight into the nearest moose.

RAY: It's possible that the shift interlock is out of adjustment, or the solenoid is being lazy in the extreme cold. That happens to my brother.

TOM: Only when the temperature drops below 95!

RAY: If it's the shift interlock, you don't even have to fix it. You have a bypass button that allows you to shift out of park just in case the shift interlock fails. I don't remember where it is on the 2000 Kia Sephia, but it's usually on or near the shifter. Your owner's manual will tell you where it is and how to use it.

TOM: If using the bypass allows you to move the shifter when it's otherwise stuck, then you know the shift interlock is the problem. And you can either get it fixed or just keep using the bypass.

RAY: And if that's not it, you can use the remaining months before next winter to look for work in Arizona, Scott.

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