4 Symptoms of a Bad Neutral Safety Switch (And Replacement Cost)

Turning the key in your ignition and… nothing. No crank, no start. This, or other no-start issues, are frustrations most of us will experience at some point. But rather than an expensive starter or battery issue, the problem could be an inexpensive part many don’t think about, the neutral safety switch.

Keep reading to learn the common symptoms of a bad neutral safety switch, what this little part does, and how much you can expect to pay to replace it.

What Is a Neutral Safety Switch?

The neutral safety switch is a critical yet often overlooked component in vehicles with automatic transmissions. Its role is to prevent the engine from starting when the gear selector is in any position other than Park or Neutral.

How it works is that for you to start the engine, the transmission gear needs to be set to Neutral or Park. Most drivers will already have the gear in Park from when they previously parked the car. No problem there.

However, automatic transmissions have a built-in safety mechanism to stop the engine from starting if the gear selector is accidentally moved to Drive or Reverse before starting up. This safety component is the neutral safety switch. It serves the dual purpose of also operating as the backup light switch. 

For example, if the gear selector is accidentally bumped or left in Drive before you start the engine, the neutral safety switch will block the engine from cranking over. This way, the car won’t suddenly roll forward when you turn the key.

Where Is the Neutral Safety Switch Located?

The location of the neutral safety switch varies between vehicle models. In modern vehicles that have a floor-mounted shifter next to the driver’s seat, the neutral safety switch is often located underneath the shifter mechanism.

For vehicles with column-mounted shifters, it’s typically found in the steering column. Some vehicles instead have the switch directly mounted on the exterior of the transmission case.

Manual transmissions have a similar safety component installed in the clutch pedal to prevent starting unless the clutch is depressed. It’s often referred to as the “clutch starter safety switch”.

Common Bad Neutral Safety Switch Symptoms

If you have a bad neutral safety switch, it could cause irreversible damage to your engine and/or transmission. That is why you need to recognize the symptoms of a bad neutral safety switch. Then you will know when to bring your vehicle to a mechanic so that they can replace your faulty switch.

1) No Crank When in Park

starting car key in ignition

If you have set the gear to park in your automatic transmission and the engine does not crank after you turn the key in the ignition, then you probably have a problem with your neutral safety switch.

Of course, you might not recognize this problem as being directly connected to your neutral safety switch because the same symptom can occur from a bad battery or starter motor.

2) No Crank When in Neutral

Sometimes the engine might crank in park but not in neutral. This is another possible symptom of a neutral safety switch problem.

The switch itself might still be in good shape, but it could be loose in the transmission or there could be an electrical issue that is preventing the switch from receiving power.

3) Can Crank in Any Gear

transmission in reverse

The most obvious symptom of a bad neutral safety switch is when you can crank the engine in any gear. You could have the gear set to Drive or Reverse and still be able to crank it.

If the engine is running, you will be able to crank it again too. This could lead to a serious car accident if this happens while you’re driving.

4) No Crank When in Park and Neutral

If your neutral safety switch is having serious electrical problems, then your engine will not crank in park or neutral. The starter relay relies on the switch for receiving power. If it can’t receive this power, then the starter motor will not be able to crank the engine.

Neutral Safety Switch Replacement Cost

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neutral safety switch replacement cost

The replacement cost of a neutral safety switch is anywhere from $200 to $350. The parts cost will be around $50 while the labor costs will be between $150 and $300.

As you can see, this is usually a very affordable replacement job to get done. The cost of the part is cheap and since it doesn’t take long for the mechanic to perform the replacement, their labor costs will be cheap too.

Diagnosing a Bad Neutral Safety Switch

If you suspect your vehicle’s neutral safety switch may be faulty, there are a few steps you can take to diagnose the issue and confirm whether the switch is the root cause of the problem or to move on to another component.

Check For Proper Operation

Attempt to Start In Various Gears:

  1. With the vehicle in park or neutral, attempt to start the engine. If it starts normally, go on to the next step.
  2. Shift the transmission into Drive or Reverse (with your foot firmly on the brake pedal) and attempt to start the engine. If the engine starts in any gear other than Park or Neutral, the neutral safety switch is likely bad.

Listen For Clicking Sounds:

  1. Turn the key to the “Start” position and listen for a clicking sound coming from the starter solenoid.
  2. If you hear a click but the starter doesn’t engage, the neutral safety switch may have failed.

Test With a Multimeter

Continuity Test:

  1. Locate the neutral safety switch (check the owner’s manual or look it up online).
  2. Disconnect the wiring harness from the switch.
  3. Set your multimeter to the continuity setting.
  4. With the transmission in Park or Neutral, connect the multimeter probes to the switch terminals. The multimeter should indicate continuity (a closed circuit).
  5. Shift the transmission into Drive or Reverse and repeat the test. The multimeter should show no continuity (an open circuit). If the readings deviate from these expected results, the switch is likely faulty.

Resistance Test:

  1. If your vehicle’s service manual provides resistance specifications for the neutral safety switch, you can test it using the multimeter’s resistance setting.
  2. Compare the readings to the manufacturer’s specifications to determine if the switch is within the acceptable range.

35 thoughts on “4 Symptoms of a Bad Neutral Safety Switch (And Replacement Cost)”

  1. I have a 2005 gmc sierra my truck doesn’t go in reverse n will go in drive when it’s in reverse but I’m thinking its range sensor cause it wont shift into 4th gear n then it will act like there is nothing at all just revs up in every gear but let it sit for awhile n it will go in gear

  2. I have a 00′ GMC Sonoma, not sure if its my transmission or the Soliods. but it doesn’t want to engage into any gears and it wont start in neutral but it will start in park

  3. My 2004 sierra pickup will not start. It has a 4.8 engine and a automatic transmission. I turn the key on and all the lights, radio, windows, bells and whistles work buy when I try to start it everything quits working. Let off the key and everything is working again, I have replaced the battery and the starter relay fuse and have tested the starter which is working. Any thoughts?

  4. My 7.3 diesel won’t start in park but in neutral it starts periodically and once truck starts it will start in park and neutral. Have replaced neutral safety switch and is aligned correctly. Help any suggestions as to what is causing this????

    • It still sounds like an issue with the neutral safety switch. Could there be a problem with a ground or in the wiring? Is the problem intermittent?

  5. Depends on whether it is auto or manual but it is typically fairly cheap to fix. 1200 is too expensive in my opinion.

  6. my wife has a 1998 transam automatic transmission , the car will start but the shifter will not move . could this be the neutral safety switch or the switch behind the break pedal which i have already replaced .

  7. I have a 2008 Nissan Altima automatic the check engine light pop up and got it check out and it read Neutral safety switch it start in parking and runs i dont understand can somebody tell me im very corcern the miles in that car is271000miles high milage

    • Might be a wiring issue, or you might need a new neutral safety switch. Sounds like something that would be releatively inexpensive for a transmission shop to help you out with.

  8. I have a 2004 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS. I can’t seem to get a straight answer from anyone. I know that it needs a new Neutral Safety Switch. While the part is inexpensive, I have been told that it would cost up to $1200.00 to replace. I’ve been told that it is in the transmission and that they would have to drop it to fix. Then I have been told that it is on the outside. Can anyone tell me up straight?

    • If it’s a 4t65e trans 2000 to 2004 or 5 miss is in transmission my 2004 Impala has the same problem but I jiggle my shifting lever around it will start also the transmission doesn’t have to be removed

  9. I have 1998 chevy s10 4.3 liter 6 cylinder engine had the engine rebuild when i brought it to him my indicator shift light was working can see when you put it in park or drive now it eliminate but no steady light to see when i shift .. I had the cluster looked at and said it was good.. I was told at the shop could be be neutral switch near the transmission the problem. The truck starts and runs well just the light not working when you shift. Could that be the problem?

    • In a standard transmission it should be located near the clutch pedal assembly. On an auto, it’s usually near the shift lever. If you google your make and model, you will probably find a helpful adjustment video on YouTube, or a walkthrough in a forum.

  10. I have a 96 Toyota T100 4×4 6 cylinder automatic transmission the plug that plugs into the neutral safty switch has become so brittle that the wires came out of the plug housing. What’s my alternatives on fixing this problem??

  11. Had the same issue on my 06 f250 6.0l .The root cause was the o-rongs on stand pipes and dummy plugs(located inside of valve covers)were worn causing too low of oil pressure to fire the injectors so truck will not start back up after being shut off till oil can get cool and thicken up to cause higher oil pressure to fire the injectors. Eventually it’s going to get to where it will not start at all if not fixed.

  12. Have a 1987 300 sel mercedez
    Had the petrol pump replaced also a couple of other little things
    Having to start my car in neutral sometimes prompted me to get a new safety switch hard to get though.
    Haven’t had it installed as yet.
    But can a faulty switch give trouble starting as if there is no petrol ?

    • A faulty neutral safety switch could cause the vehicle not to crank. Usually when you’re out of gas you can crank but won’t be able to start.

  13. I just got a 2002 Mazda mvp and when I turn it off the is stuck in the ignition. The only way to get the key out is to disconnect the battery. What would be the problem? Please help

  14. My f250 super duty starts fine the first time but after driving for awhile and turning off it will not start again until it cools off, could this be the problem also this started about the same time my shift indicated broke

    • My dad had same problem with his truck..2002 f250 7.3.. i changed icp sencor crank sensor ipr sensor..glow plug solenoid. inspected fuel for water in it.. check my plug on neutral safety switch…Still wouldnt start after it was warm and he shuts it off.. Last thing i dit was clean his battery cables both sides positive and grounds.. And its been starting up every time since.. Still baffles me but i dont know bro try cleaning cables esprcially thegrounds on block …kick a tire. any tire you want and give a try…

    • Sounds like your starter is overheating, happened with a Trans Am I had and the remedy was to wrap the starter in a heat wrap. Apparently the starter was right next to the catalytic converter and would only start cold

    • I just worked on a bread of my truck just like that with the same issue and it was his IPR which is your ignition pressure regulator and there’s also a sensor there could be a problem too right next to it which regulates and senses the oil pressure and your truck so if it like this needs 500 lb of pressure I believe too 500 PSI to start the engine and if it drops below that then it’ll automatically shut off so that’s necessarily like either your oil is low or it’s thinned out thin enough to the point where you don’t have enough in there and then it shuts off until it thickens back up to Black roughly about 500 PSI again so it’ll continue to run

  15. Can in make your car go into neutral while going down the road and want go back into you stop turn off Car. I have a 2004 Honda Civic and looking for a answer why my car is jumping into neutral after motor warms up? Anyone ever had this problem?

  16. Just a thought… Adjustment of the switch? If it is not accurate then ALL the lights will be either off or on part time as the contacts are slightly off? I own a Mazda but have not had this trouble (YET). The fact that Park is off permanent and the others are intermittent makes me pretty sure that is the problem. Imagine the parts in the switch not able to make full contact in the park position- then as you move into other positions they may only just make contact, bump in the road may make it go on and off as you say it does in D.

  17. I had my Neutral Safety Switch replaced on my 2013 Mazda 3 Mazda car. Symptoms were, car would not start; had to put it in neutral to start it and my “P” for Park would not illuminate in the dashboard to show me it is in park.

    Current problems. I believe the dipshit mechanic did not do the correct adjustments on my NSS or it is a faulty/bad NSS. Why I believe that? The car starts fine now. HOWEVER, the P for Park will not illuminate sometime, the R for Reverse will not illuminate most of the time, and my D for Drive will blink in and out when driving sometime. The check engine light NEVER come on. How can I find out if these three things are connected to my NSS? What could be wrong with my car?

    • My car drove fine as far as the transmission went but when I put it in Drive the ‘D’ did not show up in the little lcd window on my dash. The dealer replaced the switch – I never even knew there was such a thing. I did not you could not start your car if it was not in park or neutral. The dealer also greased my shifter, so my gear shifter shifts really nicely now. It was a very expensive fix, I think they ripped me off as far as the price went but hopefully I will no longer have any transmission issues. My trans has like 250,000 miles on it, still the original transmission. I mostly did highway driving and although I did not change out the transmission fluid as frequently as I should have, I did change it.


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