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Old 12-14-2017, 08:17 PM   #1
Veridian
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1999 SL1
Default No Reverse or 5th gear on start-up - 99 SL1, 5 spd. mnl.

On start-up, yesterday (22 F), went for reverse and the shifter felt strange and would not allow the shift lever to push off of center and slide down into Reverse gear. Then, while playing around with it, found that 5th gear was also unreachable.
From sitting in driver's seat, with console removed, the cable end connections seem ok and 1st through 4th gears engage as normal. Clutch seems fine, as well. The car will move forward in these other gears, when releasing clutch.
Not knowing what to look for in the shifter mechanism, it was getting cold, dark and getting up in the years the eyesight isn't what it should be to see and find things like I used to. Any ideas of what to look for and where would sincerely be appreciated. Thanks guys.

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Old 12-14-2017, 09:10 PM   #2
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1998 SC2
Default Re: No Reverse or 5th gear on start-up - 99 SL1, 5 spd. mnl.

You have to inspect the shift selector in the car for full motion and both ends of the shift cables for wear. Depending on what you find determines how you fix it.

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Old 12-14-2017, 11:05 PM   #3
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1998 SC2
Default Re: No Reverse or 5th gear on start-up - 99 SL1, 5 spd. mnl.

How to remove the center console: http://www.saturnseries.net/DIY%20Gu...Trim:_Console_

Inside shift selector operation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-GbBDRjVs7I

To check the cables at the transaxle requires someone inside the car to move the stick while you look att he selector out under the hood. Might have to remove the air intake tube to get a good look at it.

You have lost motion between the inside selector and the transmission selector levers and the lever is the likely point of failure.

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Old 12-18-2017, 10:41 PM   #4
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1999 SL1
Default Re: No Reverse or 5th gear on start-up - 99 SL1, 5 spd. mnl.

Thank you, OldNuc, for getting back so quickly and for the advice.
The console has been removed and can not see any obvious trouble - nothing that would be apparent to an untrained eye. It has been mostly overcast and good daylight is needed to really to see what's going on. The old trouble light and flashlight won't do it for these eyes anymore.
Was able to roll the car out of the driveway and take it out for a few miles and 1st through 4th gears engage fine - just no reverse or 5th gears. ALTHOUGH, , the entire shift selector seems as though it were now tipped over an inch, or more, to the right (passenger side). In other words, now it feels as if when the shift lever is in 1st and 2nd, it would normally be in 3rd - 4th. This is what was noted when first going to start up the other day and the shifter felt odd, then realizing there was no reverse or 5th gears.
By the way, there was no hint, or lead up to this trouble. If one didn't know better, one could be led to think some genie snuck into car when parked and bent the entire shift selector assembly an inch over to the right, disabling 5th and reverse gears in along with the mischief.
The selector rods/cables and knuckles appear fine. The right side, longer rod seems to move freely fore and aft the full length, while the shorter rod on the left (driver side), barely moves at all. Assuming the shorter (driver side) rod/cable is for reverse & 5th?

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Old 12-19-2017, 02:36 AM   #5
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2001 SC2
Default Re: No Reverse or 5th gear on start-up - 99 SL1, 5 spd. mnl.

4 bolts and the shift tower comes right off. I recommend cleaning it as best you can first, to reduce the amount of debris that can fall in. I'd do this after determining the cables and interior cabin parts aren't the issue, with the tower off the shifter should move pretty freely though probably not as much as having the cables disconnected.


What the cables should look like on the shift tower



The only time I've been locked out of 5th and reverse was when I pulled the passenger seat to fit a 32" wideish screen CRT in a '96 SC2

Hopefully it's just a case of a missing u-clip that isn't in picture #2, they're roughly 6" towards the center of the car.

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Old 12-19-2017, 09:33 AM   #6
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1998 SC2
Default Re: No Reverse or 5th gear on start-up - 99 SL1, 5 spd. mnl.

The white cable end and tha lever it is attached to is where your problem is located. There is a round pin that runs in that grease and gravel filled collar that selects the gear groups (1-2, 3-4, 5-R) that round pin wears 2 nice flat spots that allow a loss of motion. On the bottom side of the pivot for the lever ther is an aluminum cap and it will pull off easily, do not crush it, by turning and pulling while holding it gently with a pair of pliers. Once that is off you will see the snap ring that hilds the lever into the rest of the assembly, remove clip and lever, do not lose clip. There is or was an o-ring seal betwen the lever pivot pin and the housing, if it is gone get a new one at the big box store. As to that round pin. Grab the 2 worn flats with a pair of vice grips and turn the pin 90 degrees, that will get rid of the slop. reassemble and clean the rest of the gook off of that selector lever area. This should fix it and you will be impressed with how well it shifts. You can go to the JY and get another tower to rebuild as they are all worn and just swap yours out with a fresh one. Do inspect the condition of the shift cable ends for worn out of round pivot holes.

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Old 12-22-2017, 05:51 AM   #7
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1999 SL1
Default Re: No Reverse or 5th gear on start-up - 99 SL1, 5 spd. mnl.

This is really good information to work with. Thank you both, Old Nuc and Fetchitfido, for going over the top to provide this. Alas, a picture to get an idea of what's out of sight, underneath!
Now, , a decent day of sunlight and some reasonable temps to allow getting at it. As clumsy as I have gotten, the cold doesn't help hanging onto circlips, pins and small screws.
It does drive well enough to get to the grocery and hardware stores, as long as it is remembered to park with the nose pointing out.

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Old 12-22-2017, 09:19 AM   #8
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1998 SC2
Default Re: No Reverse or 5th gear on start-up - 99 SL1, 5 spd. mnl.

The hard part is cleaning off all the collected gunk so it does not end up in the transmission. Best bet is about 3 cans of whatever brake cleaner is on special today.

There are several photos of what is involved with that collar selector lever but it is a simple as it sounds to get apart and fix. Take the assembly off the top of the trans, lay a shop towel across the open hole and cart the rest into the house to work on.

As it still sometimes works a good cleaning may fix it for now.

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Old 12-26-2017, 04:29 PM   #9
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1995 SL1
Default Re: No Reverse or 5th gear on start-up - 99 SL1, 5 spd. mnl.

I've had this happen once after having the center console off for something. I was getting 5th on the way to work, but barely. I went to back into a spot at work and couldn't get 5th or reverse.

Long story short, the console itself wasn't fully seated and had pressure on the shift boot frame (the plastic part under the boot) in some manner. After looking at the cables on the tranny end, I went to move the console to take a look and got an audible "click" as I shifted the console over. All gears worked fine again. I never really bothered to dig into what wasn't seated properly, but the tranny end wasn't messed with other than to check the cable connection.

Maybe you'll get lucky with the same thing. If not just for reference I have cleaned up the shift tower without much hassle on the car. A few rags and some cleaner, some lube and back to smooth function. I've also found that on my car the tower doesn't like light lubes like WD-40. Real rough and hard to find a gear. Lithium grease or heavier works like a champ. YMMV.

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