Gear Shift Tightening
Fixing a sloppy gearshift
Is that manual transmission in your front-engine/rear-drive import requiring a lot more movement than you care to expend in order to select a gear? For instance, are you ramming your fist into the radio controls to find 1st and 3rd gears? And also committing what might be interpreted as an act of aggression on your front-seat passenger's left thigh when engaging Reverse? Unless this is somehow working to your benefit, you might consider the following simple repair.
While the vehicle being featured for this article is a well-worn mid-'80s Toyota Celica GT, other vehicles, including small pickups with similar powertrain layouts, can be repaired in just about the same fashion.
The cause of this excessive gearshift free-play is a part known as the gearshift selector bushing, or some other comparable name. It exists to dampen vibration otherwise transmitted to the gearshift selector lever, while still allowing for a positive feel when shifting gears. It's made out of a very durable nylon, or other longwearing plastic. But, since all good things must come to an end, its usefulness for said purpose does as well.
Not to worry: The repair is pretty straightforward, although things can get messy if you're not careful, since you'll be working inside the car, from the driver's seat (or the passenger's if you're a lefty).
Just a few basic hand tools are needed, generally speaking: Two sizes of Phillips screwdrivers, maybe a 1/4-inch drive ratchet, extension, and a couple of metric sockets (8 thru 12 mm) to go with them, and a pair of slip joint pliers. As usual for most repairs, having the appropriate service manual is highly recommended, and its guidance should be carefully adhered to.
Step one is to remove the center console, if so equipped. Actually, it's probably better for you if it does have one, because then you won't have to go through the hassle of clearing the carpet from around the base of the gearshift boot-retaining ring, which is the next thing that will need to be removed.
At this point, you have the option of removing the gearshift knob, so as to facilitate removal of the gearshift boot. This will make handling the gearshift lever easier, when you finally remove it from the top of the transmission. Most knobs are secured to the lever with right-handed threads, so utter the mantra "lefty loosey" and unscrew the thing. It might take a firm grip, initially, in order to break it loose and get it turning.
After removing the boot, it's a good idea to loosely reinstall the knob for safety reasons that should soon become obvious. The next step is to remove the gearshift lever-retaining ring. The gearshift is often spring loaded under its pivot ball, so be careful in removing the retainer, lest the lever behave as a jack-in-the-box in the direction of your face! Wearing safety goggles and having reinstalled the gearshift knob makes this procedure safer.
Now you can remove the lever and observe the bushing end, probably minus the bushing. The pivot area will have grease on it; so, here is where you'll have to be neat, or the consequences will be bad for the interior upholstery. Fish out any pieces of the old bushing if they're within view around the transmission selector assembly.
Don't sweat it if all evidence of the old bushing is gone. The bits are now residing at the bottom of the inside of the transmission. If it makes you feel better (hey, it's actually recommended), drain and fill the transmission with the appropriate lube before returning the vehicle to service.
Install the new bushing on the ball end. It's probably safest if you find a way to carefully mount the lever in a vise, so it can be securely held while you are installing the bushing with gloves or a shop towel. Now, all you have to do is reverse the order of disassembly, taking the opportunity to replace any other worn parts encountered along the way.
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