View Full Version : replaced shift cables-still won't shift

09-03-2006, 07:26 PM
Ok, I'm posting this because it's my car, and my husband is frustrated with this and I want so much to help him. I am a little mechanically inclined. So my explanation my not use the proper terms I'm sorry.
Car is a 97 Saturn SL, 5 speed with around 90,000 miles. I got it used last year. I changed the oil in Dec. Not due, but the weather was nice. Everything had been fine, great mileage, no problems. Then I noticed kind of a chirping,squeaky noise. I had a box full of avon & brochures, thought it was a bag, or some products rubbing in their box. I parked, dropped off brochures, came back & put in reverse backed out, put it in first, but it went in too easy. It flopped between 1st & 2nd, no normal resistance at all. I had one gear and from the feel of it when I let off the clutch it was 2nd. Came home at 25mph, hubby checked broken rubber grommet & retainer clip. He replaced the shift cables. Now it won't go into 3rd, 4th, 5th, or reverse. It will go into 1st & 2nd, kind of floppy though. But something is wrong. He thinks it has something to do with the cable on the passenger side, the one that goes to the top connector thingy on the under the hood side of the firewall. The rod thing that goes into the transmission.
I spent 4 hours on this board last night and copied and e-mailed him a lot of links, he doesn't think any of the links I sent are the answer. We have a Chilton's which does't give any pictures of what the transmission looks like under the cover held on by 4 bolts. He is hesitant to take of the cover with the 4 bolts under the hood. I am guessing from reading the board, the original problem was the broken rubber grommet, but didn't know we could just replace that (wish I found this board sooner) so we got cables from a salvage yard that had a good rubber grommet thingy & retainer clip. Did I explain this well enough for anyone to have any idea what else it could be? I feel awful he is having to be so frustrated. Maybe if it is something simple, I could run out & check or do it while he is at work. I don't mind if I understand what to do.

09-03-2006, 08:23 PM
savvy, I like your profile. Since you are in need of some quick ideas, I am going to throw a bunch of old threads at you, and you & hubby can sort out what might be meaningful. OK?

I will just include one with this post, as I think that it has the pic that you are seeking.


Hope that this all helps somehow.


09-03-2006, 08:32 PM
savvy, some more for you:



http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/Saturn-Stickshift-Shifter-Cable-Bushing-Not-Plastic_W0QQitemZ8038807352QQcategoryZ33736QQssPag eNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem




cowgirl, if you come up with a specific problem to be solved, post back and somebody who has experience with this will probably help.

Good luck,

09-03-2006, 10:20 PM
http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/Saturn-Stickshift-Shifter-Cable-Bushing-Not-Plastic_W0QQitemZ8038807352QQcategoryZ33736QQssPag eNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

I don't too much like that idea. If your shifter cable breaks, you'll need to replace the entire shift tower, too.

Anyway, to try to answer your question, cowgirl...

I have had to replace that shifter cable twice now. Both times, I had the same symptoms you are describing.

My best guestimate is to make sure that cable is installed correctly. Things can get tricky at the transaxle end. Especially the metal retaining clips that hold the shifter cable to the bell housing. They are a PITA to get back on properly. Otherwise, they can fall right back off and leave you stranded.

Lastly, I really DON'T think the problem lies underneath that 4 bolt cover you describe. It's name eludes me atm but if anything is wrong under there, you're looking at some major transaxle repair (replacement).

09-04-2006, 01:25 AM
Thanks Stu & DeCaff. Well, so far we took off the cover with the 4 bolts, and he checked the dogs & springs. Springs looked good. He saw the one metal piece that looks bent & about croaked. I looked at it, looked at the pics Stu referred me to and told him it was fine, he looked, started breathing again and agreed. I put lithieum (sp?) grease on the ball thing (I read that in another post). Without the plastic retainer over the cables inside, it seems like it comes closer to going into gear. And once it did. The cables we are using came from a used Saturn 95. I told hubby about the napa link bushing, and the autozone toyota wiper bushing fix and copied the directions. I kind of want to try my old cables which were not broke, just no bushing thingy or rubber grommet. I am thinking maybe it is these cables. So, if Napa or Autozone are open on Labor Day, we will try that. Thank you guys so much. It just feels like it is binding and won't pop into gear and I don't want to try to force it. What is a shift tower?
Happy Labor Day. :usa: If we get something to work, I will post it.

09-04-2006, 01:35 AM
The bushings that everyone talks about are for the "fore-aft" cable. But if you can get from 1st to 2nd and back, that cable is probably okay now. Sounds like your problem is with the "left-right" cable (indeed, the one on the passenger side of the shifter). Do you still have the console off? Does the shifter even move left to right, and feel the way you expect? If so, when you do, what does that cable do?

09-04-2006, 01:44 AM
Nope, can't get in 1st or 2nd. I was stuck in 2nd before we replaced the cables, now can't usually get it in any gear. Console is still off. When I move the shifter side to side, I can see the cables move. When I try to move it into gear, it's like they want to move forward and go into a gear, but they won't. When I had the plastic retainer off (the one that is inside the car, not the one under the hood, it seemed like the shifter moved a bit eaiser. And once it did pop into a gear, maybe 3rd. It seemed like the passenger side cable ball moved more after I put the grease on it, but I didn't put any grease on the under the hood cables ends. Should I have? Thank you Madpogue.

09-04-2006, 02:03 AM
Oh, so it was originally going from 1st to 2nd. Hm, so even though it doesn't engage any gear, the left-right movement seems normal, eh? Does the shifter simply refuse to move forward or back at this point? Well, you'll need the huz for this - do the left-right movement and observe what happens under the hood at the tranny end. ONLY the "left-right" cable, and the link it's attached to, should move.

Then, try removing the "fore-aft" cable from the tranny end, and try moving the shifter forward and back. Again, have the huz watch the tranny end of that cable. If the shifter now moves smoothly, and the tranny end of the cable moves, then either it wasn't attached to the link properly, or the link is jammed.

With that end of the cable removed, you *might* be able to move that link coming out of the tranny by hand. Whether, and how smoothly, it moves, might tell you something. If you do get it to move, you'll probably hear the gears engaging and disengaging.

09-04-2006, 07:34 AM
This may sound like a stupid and obvious question, but anychance he has the cables attached to the wrong arms on the transaxle? (Its a 50/50 chance if he was'nt paying close attention) That would result in the exact symptoms you are describing...

09-04-2006, 10:36 AM
if im reading this right, it sounds almost exactly what my 94 sc2 did. I had taken my car out one night with my girlfriend and got stuck in the mud, i continually shifte from reverse to 1st, note: DONT DO THAT!!, i made that mistake because my gf was yellin at me and gettin mad and i got frustrated and started doin that. A few days after that incedent, my car would not get into gear and it was a pain to drive, i tried getting it into gear, in any of them for that fact, it just wouldnt go. Through days of pain and agony, i figured out (with the help of everyone here) that it was my slave cylinder assembly. It was an easy fix and only cost $120 at autozone (they had to order it but it only took a couple days). All you have to do to fix it is remove the airbox and battery, and it just twists out.
I hope this helped, sorry if it didnt lol.

09-06-2006, 08:40 AM
Before you go replacing hydraulics, will the car shift okay with the engine off? If not, the problem isn't hydraulics.

09-07-2006, 10:41 PM
Whoo WHOOO!!! You guys are HEROS! :grnjump:
I read everything posted and suggested, and thought about it. It wouldn't shift engine on or off. Before we replaced the cables, at least I had 2nd gear. So I got the original cables out of the trash and did the toyota windshield wiper bushing fix I learned about on this forum on those. Hubby put original cables with windshield wiper bushing in, and they worked!!! Right off the BAT! I drove it today, and while I was on gravel roads so only made it up to 3rd gear, it shifts peachy keen AND I have reverse! You all are just wonderful! There must have been something wonky with those cables we got. I am back on the road! Thank you again SO much!! I am so happy I think I am going to try to put a new radio in it WITH a CD player.