By on June 8, 2016

GC Shifter

As a six-and-a-half-foot tall red-blooded male who’s driven in demolition derbies and owns John Deere machinery, I naturally gravitated to a big, rear-wheel drive, future Junkyard Find sedan when it came time to replace our family car four years ago. Settling on a Pentastar-powered 2012 Dodge Charger, one non-negotiable item was FCA’s 8.4-inch uConnect screen. The other was ZF’s eight-speed automatic.

As we know, hapless drivers have failed to put their ZF-equipped cars in Park, confused by the spring-loaded shifter’s design, which always returns it to a central position no matter what gear those drivers select. The NHTSA started an investigation and FCA voluntarily recalled over a million 2014-2015 Grand Cherokees and 2012-2014 Chargers/300s.

I got my recall notice in the mail yesterday, which provided me with two things: a “Visor Tips Card” and a good belly laugh.

FCA Visor Tips Card

Remember the Ford ‘park-to-reverse’ mess of the early 1980s? In that case, a design defect reared its ugly head in the transmissions of just about every Ford built between the mid-1960s and 1980. A worn detent between Park and Reverse caused vehicles to slip out of gear and roll away. Faced with financial annihilation through the potential recall and repair of 23 million vehicles, Ford deployed intense legal wrangling, resulting in a pseudo-recall wherein Ford agreed to mail warning labels to all owners of these transmissions instead of actually fixing them.

FCA Recall Letter

Rather than a peel-n-stick label, FCA issued me a Visor Tips Card, approximately the size of an iPad Mini, festooned with graphics of my shifter and emblazoned with admonitions to ALWAYS VERIFY YOUR VEHICLE IS IN PARK and to APPLY THE PARKING BRAKE. The latter exhortation caused me to chuckle as FCA chose to deploy a pump-and-dump release for the foot operated e-brake in the 2012 Charger and not a pull-to-release handle. Some underling deep within the bowels of Auburn Hills had the unenviable task of describing how to use it in terms concise enough to fit on a Visor Tips Card.

Try to describe the process of disengaging a push-to-release e-brake to someone who is totally uninterested in cars and driving in general. Go ahead, give it a shot.

“Um, push down on that lever with your foot.”

“But you just said that’s how I engage the brake.”

“Yes. Now you need to push it harder to make it stop working.”

“That makes no sense.”

“Trust me.”

*car rolls into a school bus filled with disabled children*

If certain drivers can’t figure out how to put the bloody thing in Park, they certainly won’t be able to comprehend the legally approved description of how to disengage a pump-action parking brake. I’m sure members of the B&B can disengage such a parking brake in their sleep, but the chance of confusion is absolutely real in a world filled with oblivious drivers who, directed by their navigation systems, routinely drive into the sea.

Unlike Ford’s debacle, there is no mechanical problem with my Charger. FCA’s transmission is working exactly as designed. What FCA didn’t count on was bewildered mooks who would fail to see the illuminated capital P on top of the shifter and on the freakin’ dashboard right in front of them. Perhaps a big red STOP button, as seen inside some test mules in spy shots, would suffice.

Not many Ford owners back in the ‘80s actually slapped the goofy pseudo-recall stickers onto their dashboards, which makes FCA’s suggestion to place this Visor Tips Card “ideally, on your visor” all the more amusing. Rumour has it that if the Card ends up in my glovebox, Sergio himself will pay me a visit, affix the Card to my sun visor with pop rivets, then force me to launder several of his black sweaters.

The accompanying letter informed me FCA will contact me again with a follow-up recall notice when an actual remedy is available, which it suggests will be sometime in Q4 of this year. My money’s on some sort of software upgrade that’ll loudly warn of impending doom if I open the driver’s door without the car being in Park. I highly doubt they’re going to retrofit all these vehicles with the redesigned ZF shifter that started appearing in FCA products last year. Wager on an electronic parking brake appearing in the next Charger/300 refresh, whenever that happens.

At least I’ll get a set of wheel chocks out of the other recall.

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125 Comments on “Adventures in Recalls: FCA’s Shifter ‘Visor Tips Card’...”


  • avatar
    JimZ

    “If certain drivers can’t figure out how to put the bloody thing in Park, they certainly won’t be able to comprehend the legally approved description of how to disengage a pump-action parking brake.”

    if “certain drivers” have that much difficulty figuring that stuff out, they should have their licenses revoked.

    • 0 avatar

      Tell that to the FCA workers who’ve accidentally shifted into Park – or Reverse and weren’t 100% sure until the vehicle jerked.

      The problem is that the detents are too soft and when I learned to drive in Driver’s Ed on that pathetic little Honda Civic, I learned that putting the car in Reverse is supposed to produce a profound *feeling* that lets my body know – without staring at the cluster – which drive mode I’m in.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        I’m talking about the parking brake comment. it’s not like a ratcheting mechanism like a push-on/push-off parking brake is rare. If you can’t grasp the function of a parking brake pedal, then I wonder how it is you’ve managed to get a driver’s license in the first place.

        • 0 avatar

          I NEVER EVER EVER EVER was taught how to use an electronic parking brake – nor a standard parking brake.

          Shift the shifter to “P” and that was it.

          I’ve driven several dozen cars.

          Don’t blame the driver on this one.

          This is purely a design issue.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            My Golf SportWagen has a handbrake, but my X5 had an electronic parking brake (with auto hold; that was nice). I only recently started using the parking brake. I just pull it before I shift the gearbox into park. Doing so takes a lot of the stress off of the parking pawl in the transmission.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Don’t worry about the pawl, you won’t break it, even banging it on a steep driveway/street. Setting the parking brake will put needless wear on your brake pads or shoes, because you will eventually forget to release it, even if it’s just for a few yards.

          • 0 avatar
            Kendahl

            By not engaging the parking brake, you are relying on a little piece of metal, called a park pawl, to keep the car from moving. You can get away with this on level ground but you may run into trouble on a grade. In that situation, the vehicle’s weight is resting against the pawl. A guy I knew managed to snap his off trying to force the transmission out of park. The transmission had to be opened up to remove the broken piece and install a new pawl. Even though the warranty was still in force, Chrysler refused to fix it for free. In their opinion, the failure was the customer’s fault, not the vehicle’s. The moral of the story is to use the parking brake. That’s what it’s for. After the brake is set, put the transmission in park.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            I’ve been trying to break parking pawls for almost 30 years. I drag “automatics” up ramps, down ramps and across parking lots. Thousands upon thousands. Anything’s possible but the parking pawl is the absolute toughest part of any auto trans. Think about what that little stout part is responsible for.

            I don’t blame Chrysler for refusing the claim. You’ve gotta do something really crazy to break it. And I’ve slammed cars into Park at relatively high speeds too.

        • 0 avatar
          MrKiwi

          Forget about the parking brake comment; that’s just a side line. The linked articles are all about the shift mechanism, and that’s the real fail here. It’s not intuitive, it’s harder to comprehend, and it doesn’t bring any additional benefits, so why bother with it in the first place?

          BTSR is spot on; it’s a stupid design, and (as sirwired mentions further below) is a solution to a problem that didn’t exist. It’s needlessly complicating an important part of the driving process for no good reason.

          Put it another way; the difference between being in Park versus Drive versus Reverse is arguably the most critical part of the driving experience to get right, bar none. And FCA took a design which helped you know with certainty that you had made the appropriate selection, and made it more obfuscated. Errr….why…?

          • 0 avatar

            “nd FCA took a design which helped you know with certainty that you had made the appropriate selection,”

            AUDI had this first in their A8. It’s a ZF system and I’m not sure who designed the actual shifter.

          • 0 avatar
            SP

            I think I know why they made the shifter this way. Detents cost money. They need to be aligned properly.

            This dopey spring-loaded thing was probably $2 cheaper.

            And some dope probably got a bonus for coming up with it and saving FCA $1,000,000.

            Oops.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            +1

            It’s not about drivers being dumb. It’s about “Is the design good?”

        • 0 avatar
          RHD

          They don’t test for parking brake pedals on the driver’s test. If you can signal before changing lanes, don’t speed or run a red light, you’re good to go.

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            That’s true of state driving tests. A good driving school WILL tell you about the parking brake, how to use it and when to use it. Maybe a certificate from a driving school should be needed to take the state driving test.

            As for the “E” brake, there was a mechanical version – I had one in my 1963 Rambler Classic. If you really stomped on the parking brake to set it, you had to quickly stomp it even harder to release it, so it wasn’t as easy as it sounds, if somewhat illogical. The E brake may be different.

            All the shifters today are electrical, so it’s time to bring back instrument panel buttons, or a simple column shift mechanism. Most people need more space on the console for their Big Gulp anyway.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “That’s true of state driving tests. A good driving school WILL tell you about the parking break, how to use it and when to use it. Maybe a certificate from a driving school should be needed to take the state driving test.”

            For some states, like mine, it is a requirement for all new drivers. (You get grandfathered in if you were licensed out of state and still possess that license.)

      • 0 avatar
        dwford

        So true. As you move the shifter, you feel the detents, but the transmission may not actually have shifted to the desired gear. It’s just like so many other electronic devices. How many time have you pushed a button, felt the click, but not gotten any action from it? Happens all the time.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        Yeah, agreed! This style of slush box shifter is counter intuitive as hell and I think the worst offender is Mercedes and that shifter that disguises itself as turn signal stalk. This style shifter also doesn’t lend itself to quick maneuvering.

        I’ve never been a fan outside of the older designs that featured a good range of movement in conjunction with a positive feeling detent as you moved through the gears or the gated style seen in European and Japanese cars (on occasion).

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      I watched a guy fail his state driver’s test because he couldn’t find the hazard flasher.

  • avatar

    I BLEW THE WHISTLE ON THIS YEARS AGO.

    It was a good looking shifter but HORRIBLE EXECUTION.

    The biggest problem I had in both my Jeep SRT was that nudging it would take you out of D and put you in N. This forced me to quickly depress the button and pull back to D.

    The button should be required to shift from any gear to any other gear.

    The other problem with all the cars was that the shift paddles didn’t have lockouts (off switches) and since they look cool, they’d most likely be played with, take the car out of gear and then cause the driver to panic – not knowing how to go from 1,2,3 or 4 back to D.

    My Hellcat fixed both problems with a shift lockout and a traditional shifter.

    • 0 avatar
      eamiller

      Every car built in the last 30 years+ has let you go from D to N (and most from N to D as well as R to N) without depressing the button. That’s federally mandated so that you can easily disengage the engine from the wheels in an emergency (runaway throttle, engine malfunction, slippery roads). This is why all the “runaway Toyotas” were such a dumb situation. In every case, a quick flick of the gear selector to N would have disengaged the engine from the wheels, no button or brake pressing needed.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @eamiller – agreed. When the whole UA Toyota mess occurred my wife and I had bought a Toyota Sienna. I looked at the floor mat and it had “hooks” to anchor it and a simple nudge on the shifter would put it into neutral.
        My F150 also had carpet “hooks” but the column shifter was a tad more mechanical to move to neutral.

        Most shifters now are drive by wire but there is a tactile benefit to ensuring the shifter has a mechanical feel to it.

    • 0 avatar
      statikboy

      Of course, the real solution to this problem is the manual transmission.

      • 0 avatar
        Hydromatic

        But that’d mean the driver would have to do all the work and we all know how lazy today’s drivers can be.

        Maybe Chrysler should go back to using push buttons, like the ones in the Lincoln MKC. Make them nice and big and illuminated so all the idiots out there can see what’s where and hopefully not roll themselves up a tree or into a ditch.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I don’t understand what’s so hard to understand about the FCA shifter. The placard is a good idea, I guess, although that serif font at the top is difficult to read.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    It is ridiculous to think that people can fall victim to such seemingly simple gagetry. Remember though, every product warning you have ever seen, some containing warnings of peril the average person would find inconceivable…..are a result of some idiot doing exactly the behavior warned against.

    One of my personal favorites was an old hand towel dispenser that used an actual towel loop. In the front it dispensed clean towel. As the machine was rolled, the dirty towel was taken up and rewound on the back of the machine(presumably to be washed and replaced at a later date). A large warning said “Do not put your head between the rolls”. The picture of some guy bending over, sticking his head between the rolls for whatever reason, slipping and subsequently strangling himself to death is Darwinism at its finest.

    Sometimes we just have to let nature take its course. If the Chrysler shift lever doesn’t kill you, it will probably be some laundry detergent pod you mistake for candy.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      If this issue was confined to an occasional drooling moron on TV complaining when his car rolled into the local quickie-mart, I’d agree with you. But the issue has been widely reported (here and elsewhere) as being something that happens with disturbing regularity.

      If you learned to drive with such a control, it’s probably no issue at all. But somebody used to a traditional A/T shift lever is not conditioned to look at it, or the dash, to check what gear the thing is in. (And moreover, it shouldn’t be necessary; this was a Solution In Search of a Problem.)

      This would never happen to me because I’m a fanatic about always engaging the e-brake when parking, but plenty of A/T drivers don’t, and lots have been bitten by this terrible design.

      • 0 avatar
        thegamper

        I will not discount the probability that it is a poor design but the NHTSA info released back in February indicated roughly 340 complaints in “well over 100k vehicles affected”. So that is a third of a percent. Break it down further to the amount of trips the affected cars have taken and you are in an extremely small number of failures.

        So, I will concede that it is likely the drooling morons being targeted by poor design. I will also concede that the poor design could result in drooling morons injuring others which is always unfortunate. My intent was never to say Chrysler is without fault just point out the total lack of personal responsibility when nearly 100% of owners manage to operate it correctly.

        • 0 avatar
          dukeisduke

          Just because only 340 people registered complaints on NHTSA’s site doesn’t mean that aren’t more that have had problems. Just seeing the picture, it looks like an idiotic design, even worse than their rotating knob setup.

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        It’s called unnecessary change for the sake of change. There was no reason to design the shifter this way other than trying just to be different.

        The rotating knob isn’t much better, especially in the 200 where it resides near other similar knobs. I often times nearly twisted the gear shift instead of the volume or something else. Maybe a lockout once the car is moving from being able to turn the knob would be a good idea.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      You can crack wise until a roll away vehicle kills or injures someone you know.

      This is a conceptual design flaw pure and simple.

      As a guy with some experience with Trans selector design, I can say a good design should always be intuitive, require no card or coaching, and give positive feedback when selecting a function. Looking at the prindle to see your selection should be a secondary aid but not mandatory.

      If NHTSA has their schmidt together, they should require a component change. If we see just a new buzzer or sticker campaign, we will know NHTSA still suffers from regulatory capture.

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatist

      I bought a universal TV remote, and the manual duly warned me that failing to follow directions could result in “injury or death”

      I also bought some velcro tie wraps that warned me to use approved safety glasses.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    Viva la manual transmission! Viva la column shifter!

    Hey wait! I’ve solved modern motoring.

    Viva la three on the tree!

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Aside from some trucks and commercial vehicles (and really, I don’t know about those), any modern column-mounted shifter is probably going to be the monostatic, electronic type…like the ones Mercedes-Benz (and Tesla) or Rolls-Royce use. So you’d likely have the same issue with user error.

      A manual gearbox, however, leaves little room for error once you learn the shift pattern.

      Side note: we had a 1973 Chevrolet C10 Custom with a three-on-the-tree manual shifter for much of my childhood. Only my father and my grandmother could drive it. I wish it was still around so I could learn how to drive one of those. I can’t remember which engine it had, but it was either the 250 ci I6 or the 292 ci I6.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        That new Phantom Coupe with GPS road monitoring linked directly to transmission mapping is quite impressive. And will break.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          Absolutely. I think the Wraith was the first car to have that, though. It was rolled out with Rolls-Royce’s implementation of the then-latest (NBT) version of iDrive, which hit BMW models for 2013 / 2014. Interestingly, Rolls-Royce’s NBT configuration has a custom skin that diverges even further from the BMW one than the CIC version did. That’s also when Rolls-Royce got its own suite of warning chimes and sounds, which are similar to the BMW ones, but a little more heavy and formal-sounding.

          There’s only so much shifting and gear-priming you can do, so I doubt it adds much stress at all to the transmission, but road topography does change. I just don’t understand how the data is maintainable.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            It could have been the Wraith, the current crop of Rolls models outside the sedan Phantom get pretty mixed in my mind. Vicki from Fifth Gear was driving it on the video I saw. I don’t typically watch her in things because I find her voice grating, and her jokes poor.

            It could just do the data in radius blocks around the car, and write over it as you go along. I wonder if you entered an area with no GPS coverage in a tunnel/mountain etc. if the transmission would default to a standard setting in a noticeable way.

      • 0 avatar
        davefromcalgary

        I think you’re right, that most column shifters these days lack any mechanical linkage. That said, the old school PRNDLol shift pattern is probably the most familiar and easy to use for those rather car disinterested, compared to the FCA device above.

        Growing up, my grandpa stored his 75 F100 at my parents place, 3 on the tree and 300 I6. Thats the first manual vehicle I ever learned to drive and actually practiced parallel parking with it! Really learned to handle a big ungainly vehicle from a young age, we used it for chores and yardwork on our 2 acre lot.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          “PRNDL” is obsolete. When we had 3- or 4- speed transmissions, it might have made sense. now that transmissions have 8, 9, 10 speeds, what then is “L”?

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            I was wondering what “L” did in the Sentra rental I had (yup, more warranty work). It seemed to just hold the CVT at 4000 rpm in all cases.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            L should still work for engine braking in steep, slow driving. Right?

            (Traditional trans, not CVT.)

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            On my brothers Sierra (6AT), which has a really nice to use (in a solid feel sense) column shifter, L is actually M, to engage the gear selecting toggle.

            Which makes sense.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            “L” is basically required by law. Any automatic equipped vehicle must have a shifter position that increases engine braking. Once they broke through 5 gears the shifter quadrant got too big and the went to having just the L position.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        Column-shift manuals are pretty easy once you memorize the shift pattern. Been a long time for me, but IIRC it’s R and 1 towards you, 2 and 3 away from you.

      • 0 avatar
        WynnBear

        Benz doesn’t have this issue because it automatically shifts to Park if you open the drivers door.

        • 0 avatar
          NexWest

          I just read up on this and it is causing some problems. I had previously thought that there should be some kind of seat occupancy sensor that puts the car in park. We have all seen the vids of the cops jumping out of their vehicles during a chase and watching the cars drive away on it’s own. There was two cases where workers got out of their vehicles and went to inspect something. In one case the worker was found under the car the next morning, dead. In the other case the worker was crushed against a gate with the vehicles still running.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @Kyree S. Williams – I thought my 2010 F150 with column shift was drive by wire until some slush got up into the frame and jammed the linkage.

  • avatar
    tsoden

    FCA needs to take a look at how Toyota successfully implemented such a shifter in the Prius. The Prius has had this style of shifter since Gen 2. The biggest difference is that the Toyota shifter is gated with a visual of the gate (a sticker really) on or near the shifter as well as an illuminated indicator with the same gate shifter graphic on the dashboard. The shifter is spring loaded and returns to center position when a gear is engaged like the FCA varient, but Toyota includes a couple interesting features with its version: If the shifter is in neutral and the car rolls back, a message flashes with a warning beep to push on the brake or shift into park. If you have the car in “D” and you hit the engine go button to turn the car off, the car automatically shifts to park.

    The Toyota shifter is a real simple design that just works. I can see how not having gates could cause issues in the FCA version. However one would think that an illuminated shift indicator on both the shifter and the dashboard should be MORE THAN SUFFICIENT.

    • 0 avatar
      IAhawkeye

      You said it yourself though. The Toyota gives you feedback plus gates and has a safety that automatically puts it in park if you turn the car off. That’s more then what FCA’s had.

      Yeah there are the shift indicators. But quite honestly I can’t remember the last time I looked at one in a car/truck that I was familiar with. True, if you own one of these cars you should just get used to looking at the indicator. But it still doesn’t excuse the poor design that obviously needed thought through a little further.

  • avatar
    BigOldChryslers

    Apparently there was some problem with the column shifter on RAM pickups in the mid 2000s, whereby some people didn’t shift all the way into Park and the truck slipped into reverse.

    Their solution was to add programming to the computer as follows: If the vehicle is in reverse, the brakes are not applied (foot brake nor parking brake), the driver’s door is open and their seatbelt is unbuckled, then blast the horn repeatedly like a backup alarm (only really loud!).

    My ’07 has this “feature”. It startles me every time I’m backing-up and I need to open the door and lean out to get a better view, e.g. backing up to a trailer or backing into a campsite and trying to avoid trees etc.

    I think that either they fixed whatever the REAL problem was by MY2007, or this problem only affects worn ans sloppy mechanisms and mine isn’t worn out enough yet, or people are oblivious to the feeling of the detents on the shifter.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      BigOldChryslers – those column shift Rams also had a nasty habit of dropping out of gear on a rough road or crawling over rough terrain. It happened to every guy I knew with a Ram HD automatic column shift. I was with my brother once and it happened several times heading out to a logging show.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I have to admit to shutting off my Optima Hybrid while stopped, but still in Drive.

    With that car, there is no engine sound when stopped, and therefore no audible clue that it needs to be placed in Park. Removing your foot from the brake means it won’t go anywhere if on level ground.

    My former Leaf had a self-centering shifter like the Jeep, but it would ‘creep’, unlike my hybrid, if you tried to walk away from it. The hybrid, however, tells you that it has been shut off when you try to get out, but it’s not super obvious.

    So I’m sympathetic to the issue here, and agree with BTSR about the design.

  • avatar
    BigOldChryslers

    A coworker of mine has a 300 with this shifter. He seems to be fairly car savvy. He said this problem has tripped him up a couple of times, so now he glances at the dashboard to make sure he’s in Park.

    This shifter may be functional, but it sounds like it has poor ergonomic design. The owner of a vehicle with a regular shifter with mechanical detents and a unique position for each gear will get used to the action of the shifter and know what gear it is in without needing to look at the dashboard.

    This shifter doesn’t provide that feedback. Even if it did something like vibrate the handle briefly when shifted into Park, that would provide some tactile feedback.

  • avatar
    dchturbo

    I had a 300 as a rental in Florida. Great car for a rental, especially with three friends.

    There were two things that infuriated me about this car. One was auto-lock feature that would pinch your arm if you had it on the windowsill.

    The other was the shifter. It was difficult to tell what gear you had put it in, and more than once I had backed out of a spot and was there playing screw-around trying to get it into drive. I get in the car and turn the key and get moving almost all in one move. This car prevents that. It’s almost like it was designed for old people who take an hour to get moving anyways.

    Looked nice, but was incredibly FRUSTRATING.

  • avatar
    06V66speed

    Shifter woes, huh? Lol

    I remember when I engaged the wrong gear using a column shifter.

    I was a freshman in high school at the time, and the vehicle in question was an early 90’s Chevy pickup (GMT400 IIRC).

    I was “pulling blockers” at the car dealership I was working for, which… basically is a sloppy/fast way of saying move a few of the cars on the lot to a position which blocks entry/exit into the car lot.

    Any who I put my foot on the brake (after starting the truck of course) and moved the column shifter into drive. Or, so I thought. So I moved it around a little bit more, and waited until I felt a gear engage (which I thought was drive).

    Of course, I pushed the gas much, much too hard and not knowing it was in reverse (!!) gave the car parked inches behind the Silverado a good bump. A REALLY good bump lol.

    The owner of the lot just thought it was hillarious and we carried on with our evening. I also had an irrational fear of having to drive the “big scaaary” pick-ups for the next 6 or so months lol (I was all of 14 at the time.)

    I guess what I’m getting at is the gear indicator needles on the steering columns of column shifter-equipped vehicles never did quite line up just right, yet no one gave two sh*ts about sending out literature highlighting such and issuing massive recalls for that. Just sayin’.

    • 0 avatar
      Compaq Deskpro

      My old CVPI’s column shifter was off by a good half letter, and required a really HARD tug to move it. Would sometimes land in between gears and stay neutral until I got used to it.

      • 0 avatar
        06V66speed

        Oh yeah. Case in point.

        My ’99 Suburban still utilizes a column shifter and I subconsciously seem to wait until I feel the “thump”, then depress the gas pedal to make its big ass move. But only after feeling that notable thump first.

        #oldcarproblems

      • 0 avatar
        RHD

        The first-generation Chrysler minivans use a piece of string, not much more than a thread, to move the gear indicator. If any work was done on the steering column, that bit of string would easily get misadjusted and the indicator would be off by at least a full letter. A ten cent metal wire with a glob of solder to fit into a notch would have prevented this problem.
        Realigning the pointer with the correct letter required undoing a lot of work. I imagine there are lots of Voyagers and Caravans that had that problem before they went to the crusher.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          The good string set ups actually have a little adjusting wheel so you can dial it in perfectly. Many older cars with that set up just had a little U clip that slipped over the shifter collar and that was a pain to make sure that it was in the right position so that the pointer landed in the middle of the letter.

          • 0 avatar
            redmondjp

            I’m an expert at fiddling with those ‘string’ PRNDL indicators – I adjusted them on every car that I had.

            To really do it correctly, you first loosen the shift rod at the transmission and put the transmission into a known gear. Then you put the shift lever into the same gear. Tighten rod, and now the shifter and transmission are in sync.

            Once that is done, then you finally adjust the PRNDL indicator to match.

            Typically, I would find that the transmission-to-shifter adjustment was out of sync by about half a position, and the PRNDL indicator out by the same amount.

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        My ’95 F-150 used a spring-loaded pointer (the spring pulling it toward Park), with a little cable with a loop on the end, that hooked onto the shifter mechanism, pulling against the spring. It had a plastic thumbwheel setup on the cable housing, that you could turn to adjust the position of the pointer.

        Every once in awhile I’d have to reach under the column to turn the thumbwheel and move the pointer, owing to the vaguery in the mechanism.

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    While I’m not advocating that dopey design, I can’t understand why people have so much difficulty with it. Don’t they have muscle memory? When my car is in D, my leg automatically keeps the brake pedal mashed, when I put it in P, my leg muscles relax, without thinking about it. I have driven a Grand Cherokee with that shifter, it still lurches when it goes into gear and relaxes when its put and park, just like any normal auto trans, just like my right leg.

  • avatar
    roverv8i

    I understand the confusion this shifter could cause. When certain controls are not “standardized” it can cause confusion for the operator when first having to use them. I had this issue with a lawn tractor once that had the fake hydrostatic drive. I had only ever used manual or hydrostatic models. It took me a moment when I realized that letting off the go pedal would not completely stop it even on level ground. You still had to use the brake but it was mounted high over the go pedal on the right side when most hydros have it on the left. So my muscle memory was confused with what to do. Also, in a true hydro you could have simply hit the reverse pedal to stop it moving forward. With this “fake” one you have to manually shift it into reverse. The mower creeped up and hit the garage door I was trying to park very close to with enough force to keep pushing and dent it in. Now, yes I did learn my lesson and did have this issue again.

    I have not driven a vehicle equipped with this shifter so it makes me wonder about specific scenarios this issue can happen in. For instance, cars that use a key to start and stop and have an automatic transmission almost universally require the shifter to be in park before you can remove the key. I have had old cars that did not and I new this so it was not typically an issue for me. However I had an 88 XT6 that did not have the park interlock. I came back to the car once or twice and was glad it was still there because I had not shifted it to park. I believe the parking brake was on as I have always had that habit regardless of transmission. (Never fun to be driving something with a worn parking pin and you can’t get it out of park on a hill because you did not engage the parking brake) I had an expectation that an 88 model car would not let me take the key out without it being in park so was not as careful as I would be in one of my classics.

    So, my point is, just as the Clutch, Brake and Gas pedal are in the same place on all cars and trucks in the modern world, it could be argued there needs to be a certain standardization of other controls that are safety critical. There is certainly room for some variation but it still needs to meet a basic expectation to prevent confusion. While you can make comments about the operators abilities if they have used the sifter for a long time it does not change the fact that even the B&B can be initially confused by or not think of certain scenarios in which they should check they are operating something correctly.

    Regarding the parking brake, unless I am missing something, it works just like the one on every Camry for years now. The simple fix for all of these problems is to teach every driver to use the parking brake. It not 1955 anymore when it may have gotten stuck on in certain situations / it’s a service item stupid, keep it in working order.

    It like it’s 1910 again and controls are completely not standard as we make the shift ( ha,ha) from mechanical to electo-mechanical controls. This is no excuse for not using basic expectations of how something works when creating a new design.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

    I went to show my mom how to “pump-and-release” the parking brake in the 2012 Taurus a day after she got it. “I know.” and she demonstrated. “I figured it out.”

    (She is not a habitual parking brake user like I am.)

    This is the woman who honest-to-God did not realize her 1997 Sable was a 4-door until I opened the back door two days after they bought it. I guess the body-color door handle and “4-door-coupe” styling got her? Or she was just used to my brother’s 96 Mustang? This woman has never had a sip of alcohol nor anything stronger in her life, she’s just that illiterate about cars and she got it lickidy-split.

    • 0 avatar
      06V66speed

      Is a parking brake *really* all that necessary with an automatic transmission?

      I mean if you’re on a grade, I can certainly understand engaging your parking brake to ease any additional strain being placed on the transmission. BUT, that being said… every automatic transmission-equipped vehicle I’ve experienced has a slight “roll” once the car is in park and your foot is off the brake. In turn, wouldn’t you have to put the car in park AND engage the parking brake to prevent the car from rolling the quarter of an inch or so to really and truly ease the strain on the transmission?

      Whew. That was challenging to convey!

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        “In turn, wouldn’t you have to put the car in park AND engage the parking brake before the car rolls the quarter of an inch or so to really and truly ease the strain on the transmission?”

        That should always be the procedure, though. Even on a flat grade – car in park, left foot (or your arm) does the parking brake, then you let off the pedal.

        • 0 avatar
          06V66speed

          Suppose I’m one of those ‘Muricans that don’t use parking brake.

          All seriousness, I thought that notion was fairly widespread (putting it in park without applying parking brake).

          Btw, thanks for the clarification. That makes sense.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            RE: Mericans – I think it depends on where you do most of your parking. Even in my driveway there’s a slight angle where I park the Cadillac, so I got used to using it. I find myself putting it on for any incline at all. If you don’t, notice how hard it shifts when you put it into drive after parking it at an angle.

            Now, if you’re in the car with my mom you’d have to specifically say “You need the parking brake in this situation.” and she would go “Oh, okay.” For some people it simply does not register as a thing to do.

  • avatar
    70Cougar

    Instead of a recall, Takata will issue a visor tip card that says, “1. Don’t crash. 2. If you think you might crash, wear armour.”

  • avatar
    solo84

    If you’ve never been in an FCA product with this transmission, I can see why it would be hard to comprehend the issue with it. Having driven several Chargers and Grand Cherokees with this shift lever, it is WITHOUT A DOUBT one of the worst lever designs I’ve ever encountered.

    Need to get from DRIVE to REVERSE?

    NOPE!

    NOT TODAY!

    NOT EVER IN YOUR LIFE!

    10 out of 10 times, you’ll put it in PARK.

    Instead of a recall, they should carry out a complete overhaul.

  • avatar
    greenbrierdriver

    I ALWAYS use the hand brake, but then, Corvairs never had a “PARK” position on the automatics. I don’t even think about it anymore, even in my other vehicles. As for the string-based indicators – my 97 explorer has that – the little clip that holds the adjuster wheel tends to break, then the pointer is usually 1 or more letters off. A few minutes with a screwdriver and a small zip tie fixed that issue.
    I don’t like push-button start/stop buttons or electronic shifters. I just don’t like them, Sam I am.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      Yes, the parking brake is a must in any Powerglide-equipped ‘vair. I’ve always been a parking brake user, so I didn’t have a learning curve when I bought my ’66 Monza.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    I hate the pedal parking brake in my old Thunderbird, it’s really stiff (because I don’t really use it) and the pedal travel is so far that it always surprises me (push pedal practically to the back of the footwell to engage the brake). Plus, since it’s not a handbrake, I can’t do J-turns!

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      That makes you appreciate James Garner’s talent all the more, seeing all those J-turns he did in Firebirds (with a pedal type parking brake).

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        Wow, old Firebirds didn’t have a handbrake? That’s news to me, I thought the pedal type was a fairly recent invention.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          J-turns, or “Rockfords” require YOU NOT use the parking brake, nor service brakes. Just crank the wheel, crank it back. If you haven’t been able to do one, you just learned something.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            DenverMike – agreed. I used to do them all of the time in the winter on icy roads or parking lots.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            I guess that Top Gear episode where they used “handbrake turn” and “J-turn” interchangeably was wrong then. Huh.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            The “J” turn is done by driving in reverse up to a certain speed, then neutral, turn the wheel, stop the spin and forward. Quick and easy…especially with a manual because all you have to do then is hit the clutch and spin the wheel. You can shift into second and drive out while the nose is still turning.

            A “handbrake turn” does require stopping both rear wheels and forcing them to slide past your nose in the spin, then release and drive out.

            Easy, but takes a while to master on dry pavement.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Yes Top Gear was wrong and definitely not the 1st time. NO BRAKES are involved! You keep the momentum going, or you stall the spin, and it never rotates all the way around, 180 degrees, and you stop briefly.

            Look up, “Reverse 180”

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “You keep the momentum going, or you stall the spin, and it never rotates all the way around, 180 degrees, and you stop briefly.”

            When done right, which means done smoothly, there is no reason the vehicle should stop even momentarily. I suggest you look up some of the old automotive thrill shows on video where teams of drivers were doing this sort of thing in formation with brand-new cars. I’ll grant that I am years out of practice, but the reverse 180 was so easy that I was doing it with an automatic transmission shifter on the column. The handbrake turn was more difficult because that car had one of those brake handles that pulled out of the dash and you had to twist and push to release it. At least it wasn’t a foot pedal.

            My point? It’s all in how smoothly you can do it. Such driving takes a lot of practice.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            The Late Jame Garner did his own stunt driving in “The Rockford Files” and was ‘the real deal’. “Top Gear” actors had stunt drivers do their on-camera drifting, etc.

            Jame Garner graduated Bob Bondurant Driving School and was passionate about doing all his physical stunts too, despite numerous injuries.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            ” “Top Gear” actors had stunt drivers do their on-camera drifting, etc.”

            Not all, if any, of the Top Gear ‘drifting’ was stunt driving. That was painfully obvious if you bothered to watch the in-car cameras while they were driving instead of gluing your eyes to Jeremy’s face. Remember the time Jeremy blew the tire on the Mercedes out on their track with all that drifting? You got both an inside and outside view of that blowout when it occurred.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            The J-turn is difficult, even for some pros. Most I’ve see on TV series’ and movies are poorly done. I don’t need to look them up, the J-turn, Rockford is one of the few things I’m actually good at. It’s either “smooth” or fail. It’s a very specific, simple ‘recipe’. With a convertible, I’d let my hands and feet go to ‘work’, while I stared up at the stars, watching them snap-spin. The G-forces are incredible, the faster you do it. It’s worth learning, just for safety sake.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Top Gear UK never really hid the fact. When you go slow-mo, frame by frame, you’ll clearly see different drivers, not the stars of the show. They were all done with several cameras, cuts and splices. Just the simple fact they continued the casual, in-car conversation, all while drifting 1/4 million dollar cars at very high speeds, should tell you all you need to know. The show’s for kids mainly.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Denver, I suggest you read what I wrote again. I suggest you watch the shows again. While I might accept that “The Stig” may have done much of the more extreme driving, Jeremy, Richard and James May are clearly behind the wheel doing at least some of it. Again, the spins are obvious from the in-car camera if you only bother to take your eyes off their faces and look out the windows… as is the smoke and yes, that blown tire on the track (and I don’t mean their Virginia road trip.)

            No, I do not take everything at face value. Maybe that’s why I see more deeply into things that others who believe everything they’re told.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            The stars were allowed some relatively, low-speed hi jinks, it’s true, but any advanced stunts, especially drifting, or sliding around a shopping mall, were clearly done by stunt drivers, with the stars spliced in.

            It’s no different than any TV show or movie, the “magic of Hollywood” etc. Surely you’re not so gullible to believe it’s the stars behind the wheel, except for very few exceptions.

            I know you saw him do it, but do you think Leslie Nielson really pilots airliners???

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Thank you for proving my point, Denver. You ARE one of those who takes things at face value.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            If you slow-mo the show where Hamster reviews the GT500, his stunt driver is a tall 200+ lbs guy. Clearly. The one where Jeremy is in the Fiesta at the mall, his stunt driver is a short 140 lbs guy, or there about’s.

            Top Gear UK has never gone out of its way to ‘camo’ or CGI the stars of the show *performing* impressive stunts behind the wheel. Although sometimes the stunt driver’s face is blurred a bit.

            Yes I’m OCD about any and all stunts in shows and movies. Pause, slow-mo, frame by frame, repeat.. Annoys the hell out of my friends.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I bet you’re great fun at a movie theater!

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Again I suggest you read what I originally wrote in response to your comment. I did not deny the possibility of stunt drivers, only that the boys did do a lot of their own driving as well. You can usually tell the difference.

            I would note that this week’s TG episode (Extra Gear) had the presenter clearly state that for insurance purposes, he was not allowed to drive the McLaren F1 over 70mph. So you know they’re not going to let anyone but a pro (or the owner) drive any faster in it. Especially on a rain-wet track.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            STOP THE SHOW, THAT WASN’T KEANU!!!

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Right. They’re not pro drivers, they’re entertainers. Let’s 1st agree on the distinction. Pro drivers usually suck at entertaining. It goes both ways. If there really is one or two that can truly a excel at both, TG couldn’t afford them. They’re probably not for sale.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Sorry if they’re your heroes, but they were just way too nonchalant while executing some hairy, high speed drifts of often 1/4 million dollar sports cars. What’s wrong with handing off the keys to a pro, when it’s time to beat on them at the track, and saying, “Hey, we’re just some overpaid entertainers, and leave the pro stuff to the pros.”??

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Again, Denver, stop locking your eyes onto their faces and look out the windows.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Yes there’s in-car footage, but why assume it’s shot the same instant? Clearly it’s not. The obvious substitute drivers tell all. Then it’s all spliced together to look seamless. They assume they only have to fool 12 year olds. Look closely if you want. Or just keep believing. Sorry if I ruined it for ya. Great show, btw. Awesome cinematography, camera work/angles/extreme close-ups/etc and story telling.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Again, LOOK OUT OF THE WINDOWS. It’s kind of hard to fake tire smoke when the car is moving and they’re talking. It’s kind of hard to fake a blown tire when the car is moving with tire smoke outside. Not ALL of their driving at speed was done by professional drivers. And over the years those three DID get pretty good at driving since they are Professional auto reviewers.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            A little Hollywood “Smoke”?? That’s all it takes to fool you? They’re not even getting thrown around the cabin, no G-forces visible. Their hair remains perfect, and they never stumble the script, all while high speed drifting 1/4 million dollar cars???

            That’s all part of the “joke”. I can’t believe you actually fell for it.

            The outside shot, “sideways” track action, never matches the inside, in-car shot. When shifting sideways (drifting), the “face shot” background should shift accordingly, *sideways*, not showing where the car has been (on the curved track). No, it should show the outside of the course, where there’s no trail of smoke.

            Ask any 12 year old, if you don’t believe me.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            If you want to blind yourself to the truth, I can’t help you, DM. You’ve proven yourself wrong so many times over the years one would think you’d be embarrassed to even comment any more.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            List/link episode footage that proves your point. They’re all laughable, they’re so fake!

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            I’ve already listed one specific point multiple times. I’m waiting for you to prove it’s fake.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            You made a “point”? Could you be a little MORE vague?? I gave you 2 specific, totally *doctored* scenes, and you can’t come up with one that’s real???

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            No, you described two scenes of which ONE I acknowledged might include some professional driving but you have NOT proven that ALL out-of-car scenes (in those high-end cars) are professionally driven. You also have NOT proven that the blown tire scene I described was fake.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            I’m talking about impressive driving by the actual Top Gear “cast”. A blown tire? Could you point to a specific “blown tire” season/scene?

            Here’s the Fiesta/mall scene. Slow-mo and stop at 2:27 and 2:32. The *other* driver is a small guy with dark, short hair, obviously, and they partially blurred his face, but he’s sitting low in the seat and could easily wear a big, cowboy hat.

            In other cuts with Jeremy, his hair is touching the headliner. Obviously different drivers.

            youtube.com/watch?v=7e7R3y-qwZ0

  • avatar
    Frylock350

    Are people really that incapable of figuring something like this out? This is what holds back progress folks. “Waaahhh this is different than what I’m used to and I can’t learn it in 10 seconds”. If you can’t figure this out you have no business driving a car. Nobody wants to put forth any effort learning how to use anything. Granted its not the most user friendly design I’ve ever experienced, but I never had any confusion about what gear I’m in. This is why iPhones have a toddler UI, why my DSLR has all sorts of stupid “scene” settings outside of the PASM that I need on the dial, etc. The irony being that we live in an age where self education is very easy and accessible. I’m not just a car enthusiast, I educate myself on any tool/device/etc that I acquire/use. Turn the Kardashians off for 10 minutes and read something informative… rant over…

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Yes, Frylock, people are that bad. People have gotten used to having everything handed to them on a platter and much of today’s automotive technology is centered around continuing that. They don’t want to have the responsibility of taking care of themselves when they can more easily blame someone else for their mistakes. Honestly, that’s why we’re getting so much closer to personal transportation being fully autonomous; because any crash can be blamed on either the other driver (in the event the other car is manually driven) or the car itself and all responsibility is taken off of their shoulders.

  • avatar
    IAhawkeye

    https://youtu.be/MF9Ms21g_-c

    ^that’s a video by Mopar I just watched that was fairly informative since I’ve never actually used one of these before. Besides the guy in the video using his left foot to hold down the brake, does show you how to use it well.

    Still seems silly that you would need an instructional video made to use one of the most important pieces for controlling your car. Also, it doesn’t really seem like there’s any feedback for when you get to park. I don’t know if it goes up and clicks at the very top to get to park or not, but safety wise that seems like a pretty big flaw. At least the BMW shifter gives you a button for park so you know for sure its there..

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    Considering all of the problems with this shifter……

    D/S

    Means Dumb Sh!t

  • avatar
    Moparmann

    “A manual transmission. This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or random as a torque converter; an elegant weapon for a more civilized age.” :-)

  • avatar
    maserchist

    Pro drivers, stunt drivers, regular drivers, colonically challenged drivers, real drivers, fake drivers; It just may take the REAL Mythbusters to actually get to the bottom of this well of hell.

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