My VW Bug has a bug (Automatic: Stuck in park)

July 29 , 2006

Once upon a time…

I went to meet my friend Julie for lunch. My VW beetle wouldn’t get out of “Park” Its an automatic, turbo, circa 2001. Just so I can paint the story correctly, at least it was in the parking lot but, in 95 degree F weather. I was parked on a downward slope without the parking brake on. I started calling my two car friends, “Chewie” and David. One suggestion was to rock the car back and forth to get it the transmission “unlocked.”  I now have directions on how to get it out of PARK!

Chivalry is not dead!

A random guy walking toward my car, stopped and said, I like your license plate. I stared at him, smiled and then asked can you help me out? I explained and he said, well I work for Papa John’s and I can ask the drivers to come help. :) Finally some luck. My response, “Thank you, thank you!” So picture this, three Papa John drivers trying to rock my car up so I could get it unstuck. No dice. :( I thanked them and then Julie called AAA (American Automotive Assistance). It was going to take an hour for them to show up.

VW Roadside service

I came up with the idea to look in the owner’s manual. I had to call VW road side service number. I found in the front of my owner’s manual. The woman on the phone first asked for my phone number (in case we got disconnected). Then, if I was in a safe location. got my VIN, my address, name, type of car, where I bought the car, when I bought the car, this took about 10 mins… She said I might be able to get the cost of the car being towed reimbursed. I asked her instead for help to get it unstuck out of park.

So here are the directions on how to start my car to get it unstuck until Monday (the first available time VW could get me in) since today is Saturday.  So for those of you whose VW Beetle gets stuck in Park and won’t shift I am posting the directions for you! Keep in your glove compartment so you to can learn to do this little dance.

The Hokey Pokey dance to get it out park

  • 1. I have to turn it off
  • 2. Pump the car’s brake 5 times and hold it for the 5th time all the way down
  • 3. Turn the car on completely
  • 4. Wait 5 seconds
  • 5. Then turn it off
  • 6. Turn it 1/4 turn (no lights on the dashboard of the car)
  • 7. Then I can turn the shift in between Neutral and Drive
  • 8. Then turn the car completely on to turn it completely on to shift it into drive

Any thoughts?

I have to do this EVERY time to move the car.
I am hoping this is an easy fix. I’ll post the update on the car. Please dear god let it not be a lot of money…..

The original part and the wrong one that is listed at Advanced Auto Parts

VW Beetle Stoplight Switch (the wrong part)


Sat Jul 29, 2006 at 05.54 pm

Daniel Morrison

Ooh, that doesn’t sound fun.  At least you have a way to move it until you get it fixed.


Sat Jul 29, 2006 at 07.09 pm


The really interesting thing will be whether VW determines it is a “fault” in the car itself… thus their expense… or whether you have done something to cause this.. and therefore YOUR expense.

Let’s hope it is THEIR problem!


Mon Jul 31, 2006 at 01.39 pm


Ok, so its a $15 part (or so..).
I found this link on how to install stop light switch It’s rather detailed so check it out.  The guy at the dearlership warned me that it was complicated to install and most people call twice to get the part again. Hopefully I can do it on one try.


Fri Aug 4, 2006 at 12.21 pm


Hi - I’m a first time poster and decided to “de-lurk” because your site is fun and enjoyable. :-) (I came across your site via Veerle’s blog.) 

Quick question: did you get the stop light switch to install successfully?


Fri Aug 4, 2006 at 01.12 pm


Thanks for asking and welcome!
Actually, yes I did. I put the old part in since that directions for installing it said it was tricky to put it in without breaking the internal mechanism. The old part actually worked. So now I am the proud owner of an extra stop light switch .


Fri Aug 4, 2006 at 04.16 pm


Hi Cindy -
Good thing you got your car to work! You’ll want to add something to your wishlist like “Learn how to change my own car’s oil to save money”. :)

BTW, I noticed you mentioned sign language (SL) and martial art (MA) on your “learn to-do list”.


I was surprised to see them on your list because I’m hearing-impaired and SL is my preferred communication even though I can speak. MA…well, that’s another story. ;)


Sat Aug 5, 2006 at 11.06 am


Changing the oil isn’t that big on my list since there is a really good mechanic around where I work and they only charge $14 to do it and they are really great.

I have to many things I’d like to do but hopefully I get a lifetime to try them right? ;)


Mon Aug 7, 2006 at 12.21 pm


*lol* Yes, you certainly do get to try many things on your list in this lifetime!


Mon Aug 7, 2006 at 12.57 pm


I’ve actually got a friend that wants to teach me how to change the oil so I’ll post pics of that.


Mon Sep 25, 2006 at 12.50 pm

Tom Murphy

I was fortunate to have Volkswagen replace the faulty switch, under warranty, when I went in for one of the normal service calls. 

But guess what, the NEW switch went bad within about 8 months, but they refused to replace it for free this time, said it was just normal wear and tear and againg.  So this second time it cost me $133.81.  Of that, $12.81 was the part, the labor was $110.00 and $11.00 for what was labled “Customer pay shop charge for repair order”. 

Now you tell me if Volkswagen is ripping me off or what !!#@$#!

They will never see another VW in my garage again, I can tell you that!

Good luck to the rest of you who have had warranty switches installed, I hope the new ones last longer for you.



Mon Sep 25, 2006 at 08.26 pm


On my way home after visiting my sister on South Padre Island I pulled over for a moment, put my 2000 Jetta in park and was stuck for over an hour in the dark some miles north of Waco TX. After uncounted attempts - and failures, I ripped apart the plastic around my car’s shift lever and using a very dim flashlight I figured out how the thing worked, pushed the solenoid plunger with a piece of coat hanger wire I found on the side of the road and made it home. The next day at work I found your post with instructions on how to get the thing to go into gear without destroying the interior or using the lock-pick technique I was using to get around.

Thank you so much for the post. I used your procedure for a few days while I found out what to do and got the part to fix the problem. In my case,  a bad brake switch which has an installation story/procedure of it’s own. I now carry a copy of your procedure in my owner’s manual (where I feel VW should have put it in the first place) in case it happens again.

Thanks Again,


Constantly, trying to learn new things, and on the way I get to meet some amazing people with my camera by my side. XOXO!

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