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Old 04-13-2019, 09:35 PM   #1
GSmithFL
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2000 SW2
Default 98 SL 5spd Stuck in First!!

A few days ago my '98 SL (252k miles) started having a hard time getting into 2nd. It would grind lightly and not go in, pop-out, or just not go in at all. The shifter felt rubbery.

I drove with 1,3,4,5 for two days, but then I couldn't get it into reverse either. I pulled out the console to check the bushing, but that's fine. I tried greasing the cable ends. 4th gear started to become hit or miss around that time also.

Yesterday, I could get 4th no more, but drove with 1,3,5.

Tonight, I couldn't get it out 1st, managed to get it into 3rd once, and then when I had to downshift I couldn't get it out of 1st again. I limped it back to a family member's house.

The clutch and slave cylinder are only about 1.5 years old (15k miles if that)

The center console is still out, and I can see that when I attempt to shift front to back (1 to 2), the front-back cable bends inside the car in the short stretch between the shifter and the spot where it's "clamped down" before it goes behind the climate control and through the firewall.

So, in my estimation, the cable (which was still allowing me to move out from 1, 3, 5 until an hour ago) seized up? Or there's something wrong with the spot (the tower?) where the cable connects to the trans? How can I tell the difference?

Kinda stuck 70 miles away from home until I fix this. Any ideas how I can diagnose? Anyone have similar experiences?

...
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Old 04-13-2019, 09:55 PM   #2
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Default Re: 98 SL 5spd Stuck in First!!

I would disconnect both cables out at the trans end and see if the levers on the trans can be moved easily/smoothly by hand. Also, see if the shifter inside the cabin seems to move the cables OK when they are disconnected from the trans. That is not as good of help as I would like to be able to offer, but I understand you are avidly waiting for some kind of reply!

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Old 04-13-2019, 10:16 PM   #3
GSmithFL
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Default Re: 98 SL 5spd Stuck in First!!

billr, thanks for the reply!

If I disconnect the cables and cannot move the levers, is that something that can be easily fixed/replaced? I don't even know what that part is called (I've heard "tower" and then now the "levers".

...
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Old 04-13-2019, 10:16 PM   #4
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Default Re: 98 SL 5spd Stuck in First!!

I agree with billr. Disconnect the cables at the transmission and see what happens. Also with the cables off you should be able to shift by hand easily with the transmission levers.

Good luck!

...
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Old 04-13-2019, 10:24 PM   #5
GSmithFL
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Default Re: 98 SL 5spd Stuck in First!!

Bryan, I know how to replace cables, but what if it's not the cables but the levers? What kind of repair job is that?

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Old 04-13-2019, 10:30 PM   #6
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1998 SC2
Default Re: 98 SL 5spd Stuck in First!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by GSmithFL View Post
billr, thanks for the reply!

If I disconnect the cables and cannot move the levers, is that something that can be easily fixed/replaced? I don't even know what that part is called (I've heard "tower" and then now the "levers".
Levers the cables are attached to are mounted on the gear selector tower. The gear selector ha lockouts in side of it and they do waer out. If you can not select any gear by manipulating both levers the clean top of trans a lift off the tower and se if the shift selector tabs are lined up in neutral or one is stuck in gear. See link for pictures. The forks are shown in the 3rd pix down: http://www.differentracing.com/tech_...sassembly.html

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Old 04-14-2019, 12:21 AM   #7
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Default Re: 98 SL 5spd Stuck in First!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by GSmithFL View Post
Bryan, I know how to replace cables, but what if it's not the cables but the levers? What kind of repair job is that?
It's 4 bolts and a gasket.

http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...9&postcount=70

You would need one from a junkyard car.

...
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Rebuilt at 204,067 September 2017
Engine, subframe, diff pin mod, brake lines, headliner, alternator, and so on!
'98 SC2, 5SP bought 2018

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Old 04-14-2019, 12:32 AM   #8
GSmithFL
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Default Re: 98 SL 5spd Stuck in First!!

Thanks, Old Nuc! I will try this at first light. If the lockouts are worn, I guess I'll have to find another SL/SW in the junkyard and replace?

...
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Old 04-14-2019, 09:05 AM   #9
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Default Re: 98 SL 5spd Stuck in First!!

Okay, first light reveals, with the cables disconnected, that the cables do move on their own, the fore-aft cable took a moment to loosen up. It appears to have fraying on.

With the clutch depressed, I can move the fore-aft lever, but not the side to side.

I'm off to the junkyard to see if they've got a manual trans Saturn. UPullAndPay's website lists the cars, but not the trans type.

...
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Old 04-14-2019, 09:06 AM   #10
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Default Re: 98 SL 5spd Stuck in First!!

The shift selector is held to the trans by 4 bolts and is generic 91-02 so all you have to look for is an intact low mileage car. First you will probably have to cycle each of the actual shift fork tabs under that selector. Keep in mind you may find you have to rock the car back and forth to get the blocking ring lined up so the gear will actually select.

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Old 04-14-2019, 09:32 AM   #11
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Default Re: 98 SL 5spd Stuck in First!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by OldNuc View Post
The shift selector is held to the trans by 4 bolts and is generic 91-02 so all you have to look for is an intact low mileage car. First you will probably have to cycle each of the actual shift fork tabs under that selector. Keep in mind you may find you have to rock the car back and forth to get the blocking ring lined up so the gear will actually select.
See This:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBue8XTbcog Way more info than you probably need.

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Old 04-14-2019, 10:03 AM   #12
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Default Re: 98 SL 5spd Stuck in First!!

I'd pop the levers off the transmission now, and see if the mechanism is hosed. You should be able to slide it into gears by moving the selectors in the transmission by hand, using a screwdriver or something similar.

...
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Old 04-14-2019, 10:20 AM   #13
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Default Re: 98 SL 5spd Stuck in First!!

You still end up rocking back and forth in the gear group to line up the blocker in some cases. gear groups= 1-2, 3-4, and 5-R. Selecting R requires a quick snap of the fork tab or you will not flip the reverse idler into engagement.

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Old 04-14-2019, 06:12 PM   #14
GSmithFL
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Happy Re: 98 SL 5spd Stuck in First!!

Thank you, thank you, everyone!

Since the skies were threatening rain, we drove to the Pull and Pay junkyard and got a set of cables and the shift control tower out of a '96 SL1. It wasn't low mileage, but it was in really, really, really good shape (sad that it was junked, probably because it was purple & stickshift and no one wanted it? That, or they didn't check the oil?)

Once I had my shift control tower out, I moved the levers back and forth inside the trans with a screwdriver. Everything moved into place except 4th gear, but then I remembered what someone said about rocking the car. I had the front wheel up jacked up to get to the screw in the wheel well for the battery tray, so I just rotated the wheel and then all the gears moved just fine.

A quick test drive confirms the "new" cables and tower feel tight as when new. I'm driving home (70miles) in just a few minutes. Thank you, Thank you so much!!!

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Old 04-14-2019, 06:51 PM   #15
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Default Re: 98 SL 5spd Stuck in First!!

Nicely done!

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Old 04-14-2019, 07:11 PM   #16
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Default Re: 98 SL 5spd Stuck in First!!

It is very difficult to jam this design of transmission into a single gear due to an internal fault and not be able to get it out and there will be no doubt in your mind when it happens either. From the description I suspected it was an external shift system failure due to old age and wear.

You should now be trouble free for the remaining years you own the car.

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