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Q: Transmission shifter.

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I had to run to grocery store tonight. Pulled into parking space, but couldn't quite fit. Put car in reverse to back up a foot or two, put it back into drive, and it went backwards. Thankfully I was able to reverse into a parking space behind me. The shifter moves freely, absolutely no resistance. A family member using my car earlier today, mentioned that it seemed loose when she shifted it. I assume it's just a cable, but I'm obviously quite concerned. It will not engage in any gear, just moves like it's not connected to anything. I've used your mechanic 5 times, I believe. 4 out 5 experiences have been terrific.

My car has 159000 miles.
My car has an automatic transmission.

Hi there. From the description you have provided, it does sound life the shift selector cable is broken or disconnected. The shifter mechanism could be at fault. Proper diagnoses should be performed to avoid unnecessary repairs. I recommend having your vehicle’s shifter moves freely be diagnosed and repaired by a certified technician, such as one from YourMechanic.

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Something has clearly broken in the shift system. It can be anything from the cable at the shifter to the cable connection at the transmission. It could even be a problem inside the transmission itself. The only way to determine where the break has occurred is to systematically disconnect the shift cable at various points. Sometimes you can simply have someone move the shifter inside the car and watch the cable under the hood where it is attached to the transmission. If this doesn’t reveal the break, I would begin by disconnecting the cable at the transmission, be sure the parking brake is set firmly and working, have someone inside the car with their foot on the brake, start the car and move the shift lever that is attached to the transmission. If you can put it into the various gears this way, you have eliminated the transmission as the possible failure. You will need to have the the transmission in neutral or park to get the motor to start. So you may need to put it in each position until it will start.

From there, remove the cable end from the shifter inside the car. This will require some center console disassembly, which can be tricky. So if your not inclined to take on complicated projects, I would avoid this one. If you decide to do it yourself, remove the center console so you can access the point where the cable attaches to the shift mechanism. Once it is removed, move the cable inside of its housing. It should slide easily. If not, you need a new cable. Also, move the shifter through the gears as well. If it doesn’t work as normal with the cable disconnected, you will need to look deeper to figure out what is going on.

If you should require further assistance with this project, I recommend the following inspection. Car is hard to shift inspection

Good luck!

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