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2003 VDC Subaru Outback 3L H6
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Habari Gani (Kwanzaa) and best wishes for the New Year to you and your families!

Started our 2003 Outback VDC 3L H6 111K miles, and shifter was locked - stepped on brakes and couldn't shift shifter back to Drive after shifting to the right from Park. And every time I moved the shifter to the right from Park, I heard a click from the steering column - my guess is that's a solenoid in the steering column that controls the shift lock.

Then I checked the brake lights - not working when the brakes are depressed. I think the brake lights and shift lock are likely on the same fuse. What do you think - most likely cause is blown fuse?

Hoping that the Shift Lock Release with a screwdriver works so I can drive the car to the garage - any tips on engaging the Shift Lock Release? Looks pretty simple.
 

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2021 MGM Outback 2.5i Premium with Tungsten Grey seats
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2,853 Posts
Shift lock is likely tied to the brake light switch, not the fuse.
 

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2003 VDC Subaru Outback 3L H6
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235 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
most likely cause? will manual shift lock override work?

Thanks Hallux - what do you think is the most likely cause? Brake light switch? And will I be able to engage the manual Shift Lock Release under the circumstances? No point trying until a garage is open Wednesday morning.
 

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Shift lock release should get you where you need to go. Screwdriver or spare key does the trick.

I've seen threads like this where the problem turned out to be a damaged bulb socket in one of the brake lights, or a broken wire in the bendy boot that goes between the rear roof edge and the liftgate.

Hope that narrows it down.
 

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2003 VDC Subaru Outback 3L H6
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
thanks; BTW, happened after heavy rain

Thanks Rasterman - I will check those. By the way, the problem surfaced after two days of torrential rains when the car was parked outside. Perhaps water got somewhere it wasn't supposed to.

Will the Manual Shift Lock Release work even if the brake switch is out?
 

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Yeah it's a full mechanical override. You get full authority over the shifter at all times, use it wisely.

And keep in mind with no brake lights you have a dangerous moving violation, so be careful!
 

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The most common cause of the shift lock not working is that the fuse for the stop lights is blown. It's fuse #16 (20 Amps) in the in-cabin fuse panel to the left of the steering column.

The stop light circuit is connected to the shift lock control unit. When the brake pedal is pressed, 12 V from the fuse is connected through the stop light switch to the stop lights (at the back) turning them on, but at the same time, the 12 V is connected to the control unit, signalling that the brake pedal is being pressed. That's a prior requirement for the control unit to release the shift lock.

A defective bulb or socket, could have caused the fuse to blow. Sometimes it's "on the verge" and moisture or water exacerbates it and "poof".

I'd try replacing the fuse with another of the same Amperage (or slightly lower) and see what happens. If it blows when the brake is pressed, there's a definite short. If it doesn't blow, at least not right away, it could have been water that got into a socket. That doesn't mean there's nothing to fix, but it will get you going, with stop lights, until each of the four brake light bulbs and sockets at the back can be looked at more closely, hopefully, sooner rather than later.

Here's another thread with the same symptoms, traced to the rear stop/tail bulbs in several Outbacks:
http://www.subaruoutback.org/forums...ts-dont-work-wont-shift-out-p.html#post420247
 

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2000 Outback
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Thanks this just popped up for me today while I was out driving around. It was a pain to keep jamming the key in the slot every time I got back in the car. Scary knowing that I was driving all around without any brake lights. Quick fix replacing the fuse at 16 behind the coin tray. Thanks for the thorough explanation.
 

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2003 VDC Subaru Outback 3L H6
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235 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Shift lock was due to Brake Light Switch failure

So turns out the Shift Lock was due to the Brake Light Switch failure, which also burned out the brake light. Total cost parts and labor: $80. According to our excellent indie garage head, it's a problem he sees fairly often on Subarus and several other makes including Honda.
 
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