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Shifter Parts & Cables

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Shifter Parts & Cables

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What is the shifter and where is it located? 

Cars with both manual and automatic transmissions have shifters.  Manual transmission shifters let you shift the transmission through its different gears, and also into reverse and neutral.  Automatic shifters allow you to put the car in park, neutral, reverse, drive, and sometimes a low gear.  This shift pattern is sometimes referred to as PRNDL or prindle for short.  The shifter is usually found between the front seats, mounted into the center console.  Some older cars, as well as some trucks, vans, and police vehicles have the shifter mounted to the steering column.  This configuration often has three forward gears and is called “three on the tree,” to distinguish it from the “four on the floor” that was once the industry standard. 

The shifter refers to both the stick that you move around to change gears as well as the mechanical parts that shift the transmission.  Underneath the stick are linkages and gear selectors.  Bushings and bearings help these parts move smoothly to give you a smooth shift-feel.  These moving parts are protected by a leather covering called the shifter boot.  The boot keeps dirt, dust and moisture inside the cabin from reaching the gear selectors or the transmission.  If you are having problems shifting, it’s often possible to replace just the part causing the problem without replacing the entire shifter assembly.  Various kits exist to replace different parts of the shifter.  These exist for both manual transmission shifters and automatic transmission gear selectors.  There are repair kits to replace the shifter knob, the shifter boot, and internal parts of the shifter such as the base and bushings. 

How do I know if I need to replace shifter parts?

Fixing worn shifter parts can improve your driving experience by making shifting feel better.  With simple use, parts like shifter linkages and their bushings can start to wear.  They will make the shifter feel loose in your hand, which can make it harder to accurately make your shifts.  If your shifter feels loose or sloppy, replacing the shift linkage or bushings may help you shift crisply again. 

Some parts can also help protect the mechanical parts that make gear shifts happen.  The shifter boot can wear from use, or might get torn by sharp objects or an angry ex with a spare key.   A torn shifter boot will allow dirt and debris into the shifter linkage.  A new boot will help protect the linkage and keep your shifter working smoothly. 

The shift knob might seem all that important, but a new shift knob can do a lot to make the shifter feel better in your hand. 

Can I replace shifter parts myself?  

The difficulty of replacing shifter parts can vary a lot from one kit to another.  Replacing a shifter knob, for example, is quite easy.  You just have to twist off the old knob and twist on the new one.  Replacing a shifter boot is more complicated and will require you to remove the center console.  Replacing internal shifter parts is the most complicated task of all these and may require some prior mechanical experience and recourse to a repair manual.  

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