The first car I owned had a four-on-the-floor, and I learned how to shift gears even without touching the clutch pedal, and I absolutely loved to do that since most of my friends couldn't. And when the clutch disc was finally completely gone, that skill saved me. That's how much I was into manuals. But as the city traffic started to look more like a giant parking lot, I started to reconsider the automatics.
At that time, I had already driven over a hundred cars with automatics since I was already an automotive journalist. The first car I owned with an automatic was a Mercedes-Benz C-Class (W203) with a 5G-Tronic tranny. It is reckoned as one of the most reliable automatic transmissions that came from the three-pointed star brand. But, God, that was slower than slow! I tried to put it into manual mode a couple of times. Yeah... it wasn't faster by any means. I could've eaten a Big Mac between the first and second gears.
But once I found myself, and my car, stranded about fifty miles away from home with a dead battery. To add insult to injury, it was parked in such a position that I couldn't jump-start it without 30-ft-long leads, which I didn't have. Nobody does, actually. So, the only solution was to switch it from P to N, push it, and get the engine running. Still, the parking brake was foot operated, and I could release it. But then I needed to use the shift-lock trick to release it from Parking mode. Fortunately, I had the special, Z-shaped tool needed to release the gear lever and put the gearbox into Neutral.
So, if you end up like me, you need to know where the automaker hid that shift-lock button. There's no rule on where to place them. Some have them hidden deep under the cup holders and may be reached only with a special device provided by the carmaker.
The X5 from BMW, for instance, has an L-shaped red tool that should stay with the car next to the battery, which is located in the trunk. Get that tool, reach the cup holders at the bottom of the center stack, and remove the rubber lower cap from the left side. Underneath it, you'll see a squared hole where you can insert that special tool. Next, rotate the tool in the direction indicated by the arrows on that plastic piece, and it will pop out. Only now can you reach the shift-lock release mechanism, which is located even lower. You'll need that red tool again to fit it into the squared hole lower, turn it anti-clockwise.
If you own a Ford Mustang (congrats, but sorry about that!), you have to work harder than I did on my Merc.' First, in front of the shifter is a small rubber tray, which you have to remove. Then, use your natural levers (aka fingers) to pull up the chromed trim surrounding the gear selector, but pull gently. That shiny trim will pop out. Hopefully, the small plastic tabs that keep it in place won't brake. Then, look closely at the bottom of the shifter; in front of it, you'll notice a white plastic piece that has to be moved forward. If you don't have a screwdriver, try to do that with the metallic key that's hidden in the key fob. After you push that piece forward, you'll be able to switch the lever from P to N.
On the other hand, Nissan looks like it knows that things might go bad with their cars and placed a small opening next to the shifter. In the Rogue, for instance, you have to insert a screwdriver into that slot and push it down. Thus, the gear lever will be released, and you'll be able to move the car. This operation is also useful if the gear selector assembly is malfunctioning. Sometimes it happens, and you must keep your foot on the brake with the ignition in the first position (accessories) and only then perform the shift-lock procedure.
Now, tell me, do you know where is that in your car? Please leave a comment below saying the make/model you drive.