I had that happen to me. It had a bad sensor in the transmission causing the service engine soon light to come on. And every time the light came on the car would shift really hard (even while driving) They tried to replace the sensor but couldn't. Turns out they had to replace the transmission. It was a $1300 job, luckily the transmission was still under warranty.
the linkage on this car needs to be lubed often wd-40 works realley well. it was not the tranny.Best_My 1996 Olds Aurora had a very similar, if not the same problem.Separating a connector in the area that is directly beneath where the ash tray is, solves the problem.Disassemble the center console by removing the 4 screws in the center console ash tray, removing the 4 screws on the top of the glove box and one screw on the driver side inside the glove box bottom, and the circlip on the front side of the shifter grip, (use a narrow screw driver to pry out) and lift the shift off the stem and disconnect the Trans Power connector. Remove the face plate around the radio and forward air ducts. The entire center console lifts out enough to separate the electronic connection closest to the driver side central console.
With the key turned on, (do not start the engine) the shifter should now release from being locked in Park and permits the shifter to be moved to a drive gear allowing the wood grain console/ash tray and glove box to pop out and away. Identify the connector under the ash tray area and separate. Finally tape, or zip Tie it off.
Put everything back together. Not as hard as you think, be sure to reattach the electronic connection closest to the driver side central console, and snap all the pieces back into place, replace all screws, reconnect the Trans power connector and reattach inside the shifter grip. The shifter is not seated until the circlip is reinserted correctly.
Congratulations, you will no longer need to step on the brake or wrestle the shifter to get it in gear.or get the car out of Park, and manual shifting will be smooth and effortless.. (Note: The vehicle Park/Lock safety feature is being bypassed and is not to be considered child safe with the engine running.)
Check the fluid level. If the fluid level is OK, put the van in reverse on a parking lot and drive it around in reverse. Then try it to see if it will shift into 2nd. If it does shift then, it may be just a clogged filter. If it still will not shift into 2nd you may have to take it over to Cottman and have them check it out.
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