How to Shift Ford F-150 with Dead Battery

How to Put Ford F-150 in Neutral With Dead Battery [EXPLAINED]

Trying to push a parked car, let alone an over 2-ton F-150 truck with a dead battery, sounds like an impossible task unless you’re relatives with a certain Clark Kent.

Towing it, on the other hand, will just wreak havoc on the transmission and give you a plethora of expensive problems. Thus, shifting your F-150 into neutral really seems like the only way to do it safely.

But how do you even do that when your F-150’s battery is out of juice? There are actually several ways to go about it, and you’re about to find out exactly how right here!

How do you put a Ford F-150 in neutral with a dead battery?

Using its keys, you can still shift an F-150 with a dead battery into neutral by turning the ignition to unlock the shift lock.

Even without the keys, you can still try and unplug the F-150’s transmission cable under the vehicle so you can move the shifter into neutral.

Dealing with a vehicle with a dead battery can be a pain, as you obviously lose a lot of electronics that enable it to move, and that includes the gear shifter or gear selector.

Such is the case for the Ford F-150, where if the truck engaged the “park” gear the last time you used it, then you’ll also be stuck in that gear once the battery dies.

This can be pretty annoying, especially if it leaves you stranded in the middle of nowhere unable to even push the truck to the nearest mechanic. But the good news is, there are still some methods you can try to get out of this situation!

How to Put F-150 With Dead Battery in Neutral With Keys

One method to put an F-150 with a dead battery into neutral is to insert and turn the ignition key. Doing so may unlock the shift lock and allow you to shift to neutral.

However, this may not work for all F-150 models, as some may require you to physically release the shift lock itself by hand.

How to Put F-150 With Dead Battery in Neutral With Keys

When you have a dead battery on an F-150 with an automatic transmission, the shift lock (also called “shift interlock”) keeps the parking gear in place. 

However, depending on the F-150 model, you may still be able to trigger the shift lock to release by turning the ignition key to the “ON” position even with a dead battery.

Just in case this doesn’t work, then there are some extra steps that you need to follow, which still initially involve the keys:

1. Engage Parking Brake/E-Brake

Engaging the parking brake on your dead F-150 is an important safety precaution to do while you’re trying to put it back into neutral, as this will prevent the truck from suddenly rolling once you’ve successfully engaged the neutral gear.

2. Insert and Turn Key in Ignition

Some F-150 models with dead batteries cannot be put into neutral just by simply turning the ignition, though you will still need to keep the key in there for the next steps.

While turning the ignition key on its own will not unlock the shift lock right away, it is still a required step so that you can physically release the lock by hand later on.

3. Press Down on Brake Pedal

Press Down on Brake Pedal

After turning the key in the ignition, you will have to step on the brake pedal the same way that you do when selecting gears on your F-150’s gear shifter or gear selector.

You will have to press down on the brake pedal as you’re working on releasing the shift lock itself.

4. Locate and Release Shift Lock

The location of the shift lock on the Ford F-150 will vary depending on the type of gear shifter that a specific model of the truck has.

Ford F-150 models will typically come with one of three types of gear shifters, namely a column shifter, console shifter, or rotary shifter.

Column Shifter

Column Shifter

Earlier Ford F-150 models were usually equipped with a column shifter, which is attached to the steering column just behind the steering wheel. These can typically be found in the XL or STX trims of the truck.

F-150 models that have the more traditional column shifter will have their shift lock or “brake shift interlock” located underneath the steering lever boot attached to the steering shroud trim.

You will have to remove the boot and the top half of the lid by putting one finger in the lever boot hole and then pulling backward. As for the lower half, it will contain bolts or fasteners that will need to be removed to access the shift lock.

After that, press down on the brake pedal as we’ve discussed, then locate a small white disk within the uncovered column and pull it towards the right of the vehicle (passenger side). This will release the shifter and allow you to go into neutral.

Console Shifter

Rotary Shifter

Some Ford F-150 models will have their gear shifters or gear selectors located on the center console, which is one of the most common types of shifters on different vehicles.

The F-150’s console shifter, also called a “floor-shifter” in the owner’s manual (p.221), has an access panel covered by a rubber mat, both of which need to be removed in order to access the brake shift interlock.

You can use a screwdriver to gently pry open the attachment points of the access panel to remove it and reveal the gearshift components inside.

The brake shift interlock for an F-150 console shifter will look like a small white lever made of plastic. Once located, push that lever down using your finger to release the shift lock.

In the 2015 and newer F-150 models, you will only need to remove the small container and plastic flap at the right side of the shifter to reach the white lever. It will be a slightly harder reach, so we recommend using something like a screwdriver.

Rotary Shifter

Rotary Shifter

Rotary shifters are more modern gear selectors that are in the shape of a dial. These kinds of shifters can also be located in the F-150’s center console, technically making it a replacement for the typical console shifter.

To access an F-150 rotary shifter’s shift lock, you need to open up the center console. Afterward, insert a screwdriver in the hole in the console.

As you do this, you will notice the lights on the compartment start to illuminate. To go into neutral with a dead battery, step on the brake pedal while inserting the screwdriver into the hole at the same time, which will allow you to turn the dial to neutral.

You may hear a faint clicking noise as you’re trying to do this, which will be rotary shifter’s own shift lock mechanism unlocking.

Shift Into Neutral Using Gear Shifter and Brake Pedal

Now that you’ve successfully unlocked the shift lock on your F-150 gear selector, you will be able to shift into neutral by stepping on the brake pedal even with a dead battery.

This will apply whether you have a console-type, column-type, or rotary-type gear shifter on your F-150, as this is a safety feature that’s used in the majority of automatic transmissions.

How to Put F-150 With Dead Battery in Neutral Without Keys

To put a Ford F-150 with a dead battery into neutral without the keys, you’ll have to place some tire stoppers on your wheels, engage the parking brake, and disconnect the transmission cable from under the truck.

Just in case you don’t have the keys to your F-150 at the moment, then there’s still a way to get it out of park and into neutral even while the battery is dead.

The Ford F-150 has a transmission cable located somewhere underneath the truck, and simply disconnecting this cable will also release the shift lock and let you shift into neutral.

But before you even attempt to go under there yourself, you should first follow the steps below to avoid any potential safety hazards while working on your truck:

1. Place Tire Stoppers/Wheel Chocks on Wheels

Place Tire Stoppers/Wheel Chocks on Wheels

Trying to put any vehicle into neutral while not having direct access to the brake pedal is a pretty risky job, especially if you’re under the vehicle yourself, so this is where tire stoppers come in handy.

Tire stoppers, also called “wheel chocks” are small ramps that are designed to keep your vehicle from rolling freely by acting as a barrier for the wheels.

Hence, before you disconnect your F-150’s transmission cable, be sure to firmly wedge in some tire stoppers at the center of your wheels against the direction that the vehicle may possibly roll towards. 

Even if you’re on an even surface, we would recommend placing two wheel chocks under each tire (one at the front and one at the rear of each tire) to prevent the truck from rolling either forward or backward.

2. Engage Parking Brake/E-Brake

If the vehicle is still unlocked, then another safety precaution that you should do before disconnecting the transmission cable is to simply engage the parking brake or E-brake of your F-150.

If you already went as far as putting tire stoppers on your wheels anyway, then it wouldn’t hurt to add another level of safety by engaging your vehicle’s built-in parking brake when you can.

3. Locate Transmission Cable Underneath Truck

Locate Transmission Cable Underneath Truck

After going through the necessary precautions, you can then start locating the transmission cable underneath your F-150. You may need a flashlight for this part to make things easier.

The best place to start looking for the cable would obviously be on the transmission itself, which will be a large space shuttle-looking mechanical component located towards the front of the truck.

The transmission cable will be at the rear of the transmission and attached to a long metal piece on one end. This metal piece would then be attached to a silver lever that serves as the gear selector itself.

4. Disconnect Transmission Cable

Once you’ve located the transmission cable, you need to unplug it from the end going to the silver gear selector lever we discussed earlier.

You can disconnect the transmission cable by hand, but if you’re struggling to do so, we recommend using a pair of pliers (preferably the needle-nose kind) to get a better grip on the cable before pulling it off.

Shift Into Neutral Using Gear Selector

Now that the transmission cable has been disconnected, the shift lock on your gear selector would have been released or unlocked already.

At this point, you will now be able to shift the gear selector from park into neutral, allowing the wheels to move freely and roll. This is useful when you need to get it towed or transported to the mechanic for a new battery.

How do you put an F-150 with a dead battery into neutral mode?

An F-150 with a dead battery can be put into neutral mode by accessing and physically releasing the gear selector’s shift lock, which will vary in both location and appearance depending on the specific model and type of shifter.

Column Shifter Neutral Mode

F-150 models with column shifters can be put into neutral mode by first moving the steering column fully down and back toward the direction of the driver’s seat, and then taking off the gearshift lever boot.

The top half of the boot will have a hole that you can put your finger in to pull it up, forward, and off. The bottom half has three fasteners to be removed to gain access to the shift lock.

Once you’ve removed the covers, the shift lock will be a white disk that you’ll have to pull toward the passenger side.

Afterward, you can then go into neutral by stepping on the brake pedal and moving the column shifter to the neutral position.

Console Shifter Neutral Mode

If you have a dead battery on an F-150 that has a console-type shifter, then you can still engage neutral by removing the access panel and mat that’s right next to the shifter itself using a screwdriver, then looking for a small white lever.

This small white lever is the brake shift interlock, and pushing it forward will release the shift lock and allow you to shift into neutral as you normally would.

Rotary Shifter Neutral Mode

A Ford F-150 with a rotary shifter (dial shifter) will require a different procedure to get it into neutral while the battery is dead due to its more modern design.

Just like other shifter types, a rotary shifter in an F-150 will have its own shift lock that’s also located within the center console, which needs to be opened up.

This time, however, opening up the center console will reveal a small hole where the shift lock is. Inserting a screwdriver or anything similar in this hole will cause the lights on the compartment to illuminate for a few seconds.

But to release the shift lock, you’ll have to insert the screwdriver in the hole while also stepping on the brake pedal at the same time. While the lights are still flashing, turn the rotary shifter dial to select neutral. 

How to Tow a Dead Ford F-150 Without the Keys

An F-150 with a dead battery can be towed even without the keys by mounting the truck’s drive wheels on self-loading dollies.

The F-150 drive wheels will depend on whether it’s front, rear, or all-wheel drive, so be sure to confirm that before choosing which wheel to mount on a self-loading dolly.

How to Tow a Dead Ford F-150 Without the Keys

Just in case you’re tasked to tow an F-150 that has been sitting for a long time with a dead battery and no keys, then there’s a way to do it safely without even needing to get the truck out of park and into neutral.

Like most vehicles, you can tow an F-150 by mounting its wheels on what is called a “self-loading dolly”, enabling you to move the vehicle even if the wheels are locked in place.

However, before you use self-loading dollies on just any of the wheels, you need to consider the drivetrain layout of your particular F-150 model, as the dollies need to be mounted specifically on the drive wheels to avoid damaging the transmission.

For instance, if your F-150 has an RWD (rear-wheel drive) system, as most F-150 models do, then the rear wheels will be its “drive wheels”. Thus, you should mount the dollies specifically on the rear wheels.

As for actually putting on the self-loading dollies safely, you can follow the step-by-step process below:

How to Use a Self-Loading Dolly:
1. Position the metal bars of the self-loading dolly on both the front and rear of your vehicle’s drive wheels (the wheels that receive power from the engine).
2. Position the wheels of the self-loading dolly on the outer side and inner side of the vehicle’s wheels.
3. Insert a metal bar into the hole of the dolly and crank it until the wheels lift off the ground. Depending on the dolly design, there may be a built-in lever that you can crank by using your foot.
4. Ensure that each of the self-loading dollies is clamped properly and securely on the drive wheels.
5. The self-loading dollies will now allow you to safely tow your vehicle without straining the drive wheels and transmission.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)