Ford Escort Shifter problems

I own a 1998 Ford Escort, 4cyl, automatic trans. There is an extremely intermitted problem with the shifter button. When the car is first started, in the morning; the shifter button will not
press in. Thus I can't shift into drive or reverse. Usually if I continue to try to press in the shifter button; it will eventually press in after a few seconds. But sometimes it does not press in at all. The shifter button works fine thereafter once I get it to initially press in. The same symptoms occur if the car is parked for a few hours after a being driven a lot.
The problem seems to be temperature dependent. It only happens when the car is cold then started. Plus, the shifter feels a bit sluggish at first.
I took the car to 3 different mechanics. Two out of the three mechanics were not able to reproduce the problem and thus were not able to give a definite diagnosis of the problem.
Thus far I had the brake light switch, and shift actuator replaced; but neither repairs solved the problem. One of the mechanics speculated that it could be part called the "gear select release solenoid"; but I did not get that repair done.
Can someone offer advice?
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Horusprim wrote:

One of the biggest causes of this that I've seen is soda pop. Yep, if someone has ever spilled soda (or anything containing large amounts of corn syrup) on the console it finds it's way into the shift interlock mechanism and turns to sticky goo causing the symptoms you describe. Remove the center console and inspect the shifter. There is a solenoid and lever that moves when you apply the brake. This releases the shifter. The solenoid can become stiff and need replacement, but if the parts are sticky you have soda pop syndrome (obviously not an official name). If you don't clean it, it will come back later to haunt you. Most solvents won't dissolve it, and the goo laughs at WD-40 and the like. Soap, hot water and a brush will remove it. You will need to remove the shifter, clean it in the sink with Dawn dish detergent and HOT water, blow it dry and relubricate it. If the parts aren't sticky, the solenoid may be weak or stiff. Once you look closely at thr shifter you will see how it works.             Hope this helps, Tom
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