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Chrysler Repair/Town and Country '98: P/N safety switch adjustment


My 98 Chrysler town and country won't start unless you mess with the gear shifter and sometimes you have to almost have it in gear to start it. I was told my transmission does not have a neutral safety switch. Any Ideas?

Hi Stephanie,
Inside the transmission there is a multiposition electrical switch that has detent positions of P,R,N,OD,3.L and which is operated by a cable that is attached at the rear end to the shift lever in the cabin and the front end to a lever arm that is attached to a vertical rod that goes into the transmission and which rotates the multipostion switch to its various positions. It might be that the internal switch is worn mechanically but more likely the connecting cable aimply needs to be adjusted/tightened at the lever arm of the transmission in the engine compartment. So that is a very easy sort of adjustment/tightening to do and should only take a few minutes. Then notice if the starter is activated more reliably. The illuminated gear positions on the dash should accurately report to you when you are in P or N if the internal multipostion switch is not wearing out. If however you find that is not the case, then the switch may have to be changed out by opening the transmission and remove/replace it. That is much more costly to do then simply to check/adjust the the cable to shift lever are attachment.
Have you compared how the starter can be activated in Neutral as compared to Park? If it is about equally difficult the chances are it is the cable adjustment, while if it is more tricky in P vs N or vice versa then the chances are it has to do with wear on the switch itself. If the latter, then use the one that is easier to deal with.
If you open the hood and look in the engine compartment at the front side of the engine and transmission unit you should be able to see at the transmission end the cable and lever arm I described if a helper simply moves the gear shifter in the cabin while you look. Try adjusting/tigntening the cable to lever arm attachment by noticing the way the lever are rotates when the helper puts the shifter in the the Park position. Then you can by hand rotate the lever arm as far in that direction as you can, then loosen the adjusting screw for the cable, remove any 'slack' in the cable and retighten the screw. A competent mechanic can do this in 5 minutes. If that doesn't solve the problem then it may be a matter of removing the switch from inside the transmission which is a job that might requir an hour of labor.
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Roland Finston


Get a Free Fast answer to your repair question about a Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth car, minivan, SUV, or truck. Problems with electronically controlled engines and transmissions as well as body wiring problems are my specialty. This free troubleshoot advice forum helps you diagnose faults, minimize repair costs or do-it-yourself.

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