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Discussion Starter #1
I read a couple forum and couldn’t find a direct answer..

So my dad’s 1997 Toyota Avalon is having intermittent issue where it won’t allow him to shift into gear to leave our house or his work. It is just stuck in park. I have checked the brakes and all the lights come on when applying pressure to the brakes.

What do you guys recommend to do? I’ve read that it may be the brake switch (but being the brake lights come on should that be factored out?) or the shift solenoid but I don’t know..

Is there a direct fix to this issue?
 

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Is the gear shift lever on the floor in the console, or mounted on the steering column?
 

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Discussion Starter #5
The gear shift lever is on the floor in the console. It has the button on the left side of the shifter where you thumb kinda rest
 

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From your original post, it sounds as if the brake light switch is working. Just to cover all the bases, you might check the fuses that apply to the brake lights and maybe a separate one for the shift lock mechanism.

If you don't have an owner's manual to show you the fuse numbers and locations, you can download a manual, once you register (free) at the Toyota Owner's site:
Click on "Join now," enter VIN
My Vehicle: Car original specs and service history (dealer service done)
Parts & Services: Maintenance Schedule
Resources: Manuals and Recalls

If the fuses are all good, check to see if the solenoid/shift lock is trying to work. With the key in Run but engine off and your foot on the brake, can you fully depress the chrome pushbutton at the top of the shift lever? Is there an audible click in the dash or console when you do this?

If it won't depress more than halfway in and there's no click, you probably have either a wiring problem to the shift lock control unit (mounted in the console) or a problem with the control unit itself.

If it does depress all the way and there's a click, then something mechanical is wrong between the shift lever and the transmission selector (mounted on the side of the transmission and turned when you move the shift lever.) There is a bushing at the base of the shift lever that causes problems for Toyota automatic transmission owners... but that's usually a sloppy lever and/or difficulty in starting, because the sloppy lever doesn't move the transmission selector to P or N, thus disabling the starter.

If you have a small cover at the top left of the trim plate where the shift lever is, you might have a manual lock-release under the cover. You have to pop the cover off with a padded screwdriver or small trim panel remover. (I don't know the Gen1 Avalons... we have one of these access holes on our 03, but I don't want to pop it off to see what's under it because it's 23F and I don't want to break the plastic.) There's no problem activating the manual release if you have one, but of course you have to use it every time after you've put the car in Park.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
From your original post, it sounds as if the brake light switch is working. Just to cover all the bases, you might check the fuses that apply to the brake lights and maybe a separate one for the shift lock mechanism.

If you don't have an owner's manual to show you the fuse numbers and locations, you can download a manual, once you register (free) at the Toyota Owner's site:
Click on "Join now," enter VIN
My Vehicle: Car original specs and service history (dealer service done)
Parts & Services: Maintenance Schedule
Resources: Manuals and Recalls

If the fuses are all good, check to see if the solenoid/shift lock is trying to work. With the key in Run but engine off and your foot on the brake, can you fully depress the chrome pushbutton at the top of the shift lever? Is there an audible click in the dash or console when you do this?

If it won't depress more than halfway in and there's no click, you probably have either a wiring problem to the shift lock control unit (mounted in the console) or a problem with the control unit itself.

If it does depress all the way and there's a click, then something mechanical is wrong between the shift lever and the transmission selector (mounted on the side of the transmission and turned when you move the shift lever.) There is a bushing at the base of the shift lever that causes problems for Toyota automatic transmission owners... but that's usually a sloppy lever and/or difficulty in starting, because the sloppy lever doesn't move the transmission selector to P or N, thus disabling the starter.

If you have a small cover at the top left of the trim plate where the shift lever is, you might have a manual lock-release under the cover. You have to pop the cover off with a padded screwdriver or small trim panel remover. (I don't know the Gen1 Avalons... we have one of these access holes on our 03, but I don't want to pop it off to see what's under it because it's 23F and I don't want to break the plastic.) There's no problem activating the manual release if you have one, but of course you have to use it every time after you've put the car in Park.
I think we are back to step one.. so it’s been working for a while and then it decided to stop. This time with some knowledge of the issue when it was actually stuck in park he looked back and saw that the tail lights was not coming in when the brake was pressed down. Checked the Tail fuse and nothing was wrong with it.. is there possibly another fuse I’m missing and need to check? What is next?
 

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Check the brake light switch on the brake pedal?
 

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^ +1 BMR
If it's the switch, and it works some times and not others, the switch may either be on its way out, or it needs to be adjusted. It's barely possible the brake pedal pivot has worn, causing wobbly side to side movement.

I can refer only to the 02 Factory Service manual, but it is pretty likely (but not 100% likely) that they key measurements below are the same on your 97.

Per the 2002 Factory service manual:
turn off engine, push pedal repeatedly until all vacuum assist is gone.

Stop light switch clearance, 0.5-2.4mm (0.02 - 0.09 in.) -- this is how far you can push the pedal in before the brake lights come on.

Other things to check if the switch is adjusted correctly:
Pedal free play (how far the pedal can be pushed in before resistance is felt), 1-6mm (0.04 - 0.24 in.)
Pedal height (top of pedal pad to the carpet) should be 153j-16i3 mm (6-6.4 in.)... technically, they say to the "asphalt sheet", which is under the carpet... I haven't looked, so there may not be carpet right under the pedal.

The stop light switch clearance is adjusted by loosening the locknut on the switch, turning the adjusting nut, then re-tightening the locknut. Hold the adjust nut when you re-tighten the locknut so the adjustment doesn't change as you tighten the locknut.
 
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