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Q: Ignition switch won't lock - can't remove key on 1997 Mercury Tracer

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Ignition switch wouldn't lock - couldn't remove key. Shifter assembly release at ignition column (solenoid?) slips out of position.
Locksmith located problem, couldn't fix -- not a locksmith issue.

Problem started when car was towed to shop for repair -- shifter wouldn't release to move out of park. Shifter release was fixed, but now ignition won't lock.

The brake light pedal switch also needed a new spacer/shim -- lights always on.
Are these problems related, and can I just disable the release mechanism?
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All your issues sound interwoven to be sure.
You cannot disable the shift interlock. You do absolutely need to make sure the shifter is securely in park before the ignition cylinder will lock in full. A good iinspection is in order for your concern.
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