Jeep “Vehicle Not in Park” Message: Causes and Fixes

You’re out driving. So, you stop the Jeep, put the auto-transmission into “Park,” and get out for a moment, leaving the engine running. On coming back, you can’t get the vehicle to drive forward! 

The shifter smoothly moves into “Drive,” but nothing happens when you depress the gas pedal. Before you know it, a message displays on your dash: “Vehicle not in park.” If you’re in this or a similar frustrating situation, we will tell you the common triggers of the problem and how to fix it below. 

What Triggers the Jeep “Vehicle Not in Park” Message?  

The Jeep “Vehicle not in park” message has many possible triggers. They range from low batteries to malfunctioning sensors or transmission valve bodies. Sometimes it’s a simple software error or due to leaving a door open or ajar. 

It’s difficult to tell with certainty. Sometimes it’s easy to fix the issue yourself, but there are times when visiting a dealer is your best bet. Let’s now discuss these causes in detail:

Possible Cause #1: Door Open or Ajar

Modern Jeeps use smart features to enhance your safety and others on the road. One of these features is the Auto Park. The feature will engage if some conditions are met. For example, if you try to leave your Jeep while the driver’s door isn’t closed and the gear shifter is on Drive. If it engages, the computer will warn you that the transmission is “Not in Park.”

Similarly, the Auto Park sensor will detect when you (the driver) aren’t in the seat or have opened the door. To ensure safety, it may disable the throttle to keep the vehicle from moving when there’s no driver. A couple of people reported encountering the “Vehicle not in park” message when their door wasn’t shut all the way, and they were on the “Drive.” So, the same might have happened to you. 

Quick Fix: Ensure you’ve closed the driver’s door properly. After that, move the shifter back to “Park,” release the foot brake, and turn the vehicle off. Turn it back on and wait for all the dashboard lights to turn off. Finally, shift to “Drive.” Everything should start working well again. 

Possible Cause #2: A Random Software Error

A software error can interfere with the proper functioning of the Jeep’s Transmission Control Module (TCM), resulting in the “Vehicle not in park” message in the display. The TCM constantly communicates with various components in your car to ensure seamless gear and speeds change. 

These components include the Powertrain Control Module (PCM). This communication will break if there’s an error in the PCM or within the system. Consequently, your vehicle’s transmission will fail. 

How to Fix: Reset the PCM and help clear the error. To do that, remove the battery’s negative terminal for 15-45 minutes. Things will return to normal once you reconnect the power. 

Possible Cause #3: The battery is Low or Completely Flat

Electronic components on your Jeep, including the TCM, require power. Without enough supply, they will run erratically or stop functioning altogether. 

You may have encountered the Jeep “Vehicle not in park” message due to low battery. That’s especially true if the vehicle has been sitting in the garage or parking for several days. The usual parasitic draw (of the various electronics in the car) has probably drained the batteries after such a long sitting. 

Also, batteries deteriorate over time until they can’t serve you anymore. A typical car battery has a lifespan of about three years. Your battery may be low because it’s nearing its end.  

How to Fix: First, try to recharge your main battery and see what happens. If that doesn’t work and your Jeep is under warranty, visit your dealership for a battery replacement. Alternatively, you can buy a new battery and replace it yourself. 

Note: Consider using a battery maintainer when leaving your Jeep parked over long periods. A maintainer is a small charger that inputs small amounts of voltage to a battery. It will allow your car’s main battery to retain its full charge even after long periods of inactivity. A good battery maintainer can also extend your battery’s life significantly. 

Possible Cause #4: Bad Sensors

The shifter has a transmission position sensor that communicates its position to the Jeep’s computer. Like any other electronic device, sometimes this sensor can malfunction. When that occurs, it may provide false status to the computer.

Another essential part is the door sensor. It sends signals to the computer about the position of your door compared to that of the shifter. It works with the Auto Park System to ensure you don’t shift into gear with the door open or ajar. If one of these sensors gives false information, you’re likely to encounter the “Vehicle is not in park” message. 

How to Fix: Take your Jeep to an authorized dealer or reputable mechanic. The specialist will make accurate diagnoses and repairs accordingly. 

Possible Cause #5: Defective Transmission Valve Body

The Transmission Valve Body (TVB) is “the brain” of an automatic transmission. The system works along other valves to ensure smooth clutch and shifting engagement at the appropriate time. These include the kick-down, shift, throttle, and pressure regulator valves.

The TVB can fail; when it does, you may experience problems, such as gear slippage and the shifter upshifting or downshifting on its own. Sometimes, the problem will trigger the “Vehicle not in park” message.  

How to Fix: Take your Jeep to a dealer for a transmission valve body replacement. After replacing the part, the specialists may also reset the TCM and PCM.

Note: The problem could also result from the shift cable being out of adjustment or not functioning properly. Your dealer is the best person to handle some of these issues. 

Final Thought

We have discussed the common causes of the Jeep “Vehicle not in park” message and a solution for each. As mentioned, you can fix some issues yourself, but you’ll need the help of a specialist to handle the complex ones.

If your Jeep’s warranty is still on, contact your dealership. But before you call them, ensure it’s not a door-ajar issue or anything you can fix without interfering with your warranty. Good luck!

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