2007 Dodge Charger SRT8: DIY Transmission Stuck In Park Repair
by Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor on May 18, 2016
"What do you want to do?" my coworker Mike Schmidt asked me. We were at his desk in the Edmunds offices deciding on a course of action for our long-term 2007 Dodge Charger SRT8 and its uncooperative transmission shift lever.
As Mike wrote previously, it became stuck in Park under his watch. Mike figured out a temporary workaround, but clearly not everybody was going to be willing to use a screwdriver to essentially hotwire the thing every time he or she wanted to drive the Charger. Now it was my turn to deal with it. The dilemma was: a) just take it to the dealer and likely pay hundreds of dollars, or b) try to fix it ourselves?
"Well, it is our Millennial Used Car Project," I said. "Millennials aren't supposed to have much money, otherwise they would have bought a new Charger Hellcat. Plus, there are YouTube videos out there on how to fix it. How hard can it be?"
In the back of my mind, though, was the question of whether those would be famous last words.
The problem, as I saw it, was not necessarily the Charger but me: I was just mechanically inclined enough to take on the project but then get myself in irreversible repair trouble and end up having the Charger towed to the dealer anyway. But on a Wednesday afternoon, I forged ahead. I took the Charger home, parked it my garage and started in.
As noted, our Charger's problem is what you might call a "known issue." Search "Dodge Charger stuck in Park" and you'll get Dodge Charger/Magnum/Chrysler 300 forum posts about it, plus a handful of YouTube videos with guys showing how to fix it.
Interestingly, Mike and I discovered during our research that there also seemed to be a recall out about it: the Chrysler Customer Satisfaction Notice K39 for the transmission shifter interlock lever. It specifically calls out 2005-'07 vehicles with a problem seemingly identical to ours. Couldn't we just get this fixed under warranty? Oddly, though, when I entered our vehicle's VIN into Chrysler's recall search tool, this particular recall wouldn't come up for our Charger. So I called the number listed on the recall letter and talked to a representative. It turns out our car isn't eligible "because it's an SRT8." Lame. But that made me wonder: was the SRT8's shifter different somehow? Would these online fixes we'd discovered still apply?
There was only one way to find out. I watched this video first, which seemed to give a solid overview. It seemed doable.
I won't bother documenting all the steps since you can watch the video if you're really into it. But I started by removing/unbolting some plastic console trim pieces to gain access to four bolts that hold the shifter assembly to the floor. Other than a temporary hold up when I thought I needed a deep 10mm socket to get the bolts off — which I don't have — it all went pretty smoothly.
Then I encountered the transmission shift cable. The guy in the video just disconnected it with a pry tool, easy-peasy. But I couldn't get ours off, at least initially. This was where I thought our Charger's shifter might be different. Our cable attachment point was buried up inside the housing. There was no way I could pry it off. Eventually, I figured out the problem was of my own doing: I had left the tranny in Neutral. Once I moved the lever up and into Park, I had access to it.
I ran into more problems, however. First was unhooking some plastic electrical connections. The guy in the first video just breezed over them as if they were no big deal. But if you've worked with these, you also probably know that no connecter is the same, and I didn't want to risk breaking little bits of plastic. The cigarette lighter plug (which needed to be removed to get enough clearance) was particularly curse-inducing. Thankfully, I regrouped and watched another video, and in this one the guy making the repair gave more detail about how to get them undone.
Both videos at this point said I could just pull the shifter unit out. But ours seemed hung up on a rear bracket of the center console. It just didn't have enough clearance. Eventually, I went back to the internet to learn how to remove more of the center console. Thankfully, I only had to remove four bolts to slide the console rearward, and that gave me the clearance I needed.
Now it was just a matter of repairing it. Contrary to what we first believed, it was not the pink plastic piece visible in the first photos. It's the other pink plastic piece that's in the unit itself.
I had ordered this metal replacement part off of Amazon.com. $17.67 plus free two-day shipping thanks to Prime.
I wasn't fond of either video's approach to what to do next, so I watched another video on that. This entailed using a screwdriver to pry apart the case.
Finally, I got the broken pink piece out. See the indicated spot? That's where a spring normally attaches. If the hook breaks and snaps off, which ours did, then there's no spring tension and you can't shift out of park anymore.
I installed the new Bowman part and put some white lithium grease on the pivot point, as instructed. I then put the case back together. The shift lever seemed to move properly, so I reinstalled everything. Per usual, this always goes a lot quicker since you know what you're doing. The moment of starting up our Charger and having the shifter easily slide into Drive was pretty gratifying.
So, we're back to normal with our Charger. From start to finish, it took me about 5 hours. But that included calling the Chrysler recall hotline and multiple breaks to do more internet video research. Overall, it was nice to save some money and build up some extra affinity for our Charger.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 79,935 miles