This whole procedure only requires 1 or 2 end wrenches and some time.
You can't really do any damage so don't worry about that, but also
don't feel like you have to settle for "barely good enough", when "just
right" may be achievable.
Let me make the terms I'll use clear first.
shift lever = lever inside the car with shift knob
tranny lever = the *actual* shift lever directly attached to the top of
left = counter clockwise - when I'm talking about tranny lever
right = clockwise
First warm the car up with a drive so that it slips in and out of gear
smoothly or as smoothly as you can get it given whatever shifting
annoyance you're having.
Now the best way to sort all this out is to get a good feel
(literally) for how the tranny lever works.
To do this, first pop the cover off the shift lever opening
inside the car, and loosen the bolt that hold the side to
side centering spring. We'll get back to this later.
Put the car in 3rd gear. This is done first so that the centering
spring doesn't have ANY influence on the natural positions of
the tranny lever under the hood. Ultimately the goal is
to make it so that the natural position of the tranny lever
is the same as the centering position of this spring, and there's
enough clearance that reverse and 5th engage without hitting
the stops in the shift lever box.
Set the ebrake because you'll be taking the car in and out of gear.
Now go back under the hood and reach down and grab the tranny lever
and wiggle it until it pops out of gear. It should now be sitting in the
neutral position between 3rd and 4th gear. Here's the
gear positions. From this neutral spot they are as follows.
pull up and left - 5th
straight left - 3rd
straight right - 4th
push down (just a little) and left - 1st
push down (just a little) and right - 2nd
push down a lot (all the way) and left - reverse
You should be able to sit there and move the lever up and down
and left and right and get it into every gear, sometimes requiring
a little wiggling to coerce the gears to mesh. It's easier if
the tranny oil's warmed up. Go through all the gears so that you
understand where they are all the time. Shift it into a gear, and then go
look at the shift lever in the car and see if you got the right spot.
Finding 1st is the trickiest because it's between 3rd and reverse
and you'll notice that there's no real resistance to getting into
reverse, unlike at the shift lever where it blocks you out..
You'll also notice an arm just underneath the tranny lever that swings
forward and back when you pull or push the lever up or down. You'll notice
a bolt attaching that arm to a cable. That's the first adjustment
bolt of interest. Loosen it.
With that loose, when you move the tranny lever up and down, you'll
find that the shift lever in the car no longer moves side to side,
or only does so at the ends of the throw.. Be prepared to tighten
and loosen this bolt a couple times.
Ok, here starts the fun. Put the tranny lever into 3rd gear again.
neutral -> left
Now go into the car, and you'll find the shift lever is
forward but freely swings back and forth. Put it so it's basically
straight up side to side, but still forward in 3rd gear. Go tighten
the bolt under the hood, and move the tranny lever to 5th gear.
Back inside look, not at the position of the lever itself,
but at the nylon stop on the bottom end of the lever. The problem I'd
been having was that when I went for 5th gear, sometimes it
hit the stop a bit early so I'd occasionally hit 3rd instead. What you
want to see is a little gap between the bottom of the lever and the
stop on the left. (top of the lever goes right, bottom goes left)
Gently push the lever further to the right and make sure that gap doesn't
completely close, or it does only with more pressure.
If there's no gap, or it closes with light pressure then it means
your shift lever is starting a bit too far to the right. Go put
the car back in 3rd from the tranny lever, loosen the adjustment
bolt and then move your 3rd gear shift lever position a bit further to the
left than before. Tighten the bolt, put the car in 5th and check your
clearances again. When it looks decent, now go back and put it
in reverse using the tranny lever. (I say to use the tranny lever so that
you don't have to fully tighten down the adjustment bolt each time)
Now the shift lever should be full to the left, but again, it
should not be touching anything on the left or right (bottom of the lever).
Again push it to the left a little and make sure it doesn't hit
anything right away. If it does, then you may have a problem finding
reverse, and it means the shift lever is a bit too far to the left.
Repeat the steps for finding your 5th gear clearance but reversed.
When it feels right, try 5th again, reverse again and so on.
When there appears to be adequate clearance on both sides, and
the 3rd gear shift lever position feels natural (straight forward)
go tighten the adjustment bolt under the hood all the way.
It sounds complicated but it's not. You should get it in no more than
about two adjustments.
Now put the car back into 3rd. You may have noticed that
the little bracket that the shift lever centering spring is on
has been sliding back and forth since you loosened that bolt. Jiggle the
lever side to side while you're still in 3rd and try to get the bracket
centered in the middle of the slop (there's always a little slop).
Tighten the bolt holding the centering spring bracket. Now you should
find that the lever moves very smoothly into 3rd and 4th with no side to
side motion of the shift lever at all. If it moves a little as it goes
into gear, loosen the centering spring again and edge the bracket a little
so that it lines up with the in-gear position. Try to make it
so that the throw into 3rd and 4th is perfectly straight.
Now try all the gears.. 3rd and 4th should go in straight, 1st and 2nd
some resistance from the spring, and there should be a clear resistance
and easy movement to the side for 5th (originally 3rd and 5th were
sorta hard to tell apart). If you feel that two gears seem to be
confused with each other, move the center spring a little away from
Now go drive the car.
You may find that things shift a little bit as soon as you drive it.
Make sure reverse, and 5th are both reachable and engage positively with
no argument, but with some spring resistance. I just took my wrench along
and stopped once to adjust the centering spring and then it was perfect.
If you can't get it into reverse or 5th, then start over, but I promise
it'll go *very* fast the next time around.
All told this shouldn't take more than about 20 minutes, and we're
talking a grand total of 2 bolts, so this is definitely a DIY job.
When you're all done double check to make sure that both bolts are
tight, especially the one under the tranny lever.
Stay away from the forward and back adjustment bolts unless you're having
a serious problem with them, like popping out of gear or something.
There it is.
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