Shift Linkage Repair Cost | Should You Do It Yourself?
Your shift linkage is an integral part of your vehicle’s transmission. If it breaks, stretches, or otherwise stops working properly, you will need to have it repaired as soon as possible. But, how much will this job cost you?
In general, a shift linkage repair will cost you somewhere between $350-$450. The cost is generally the same for both automatic and manual transmission cars.
However, the price may be lower or higher depending on your car’s make and model, as well as the mechanic you visit.
Do you know how to tell when your vehicle’s shift linkage is damaged and needs repair? If not, keep reading to learn more about what exactly a shift linkage does and how to tell when it needs to be replaced.
How Much Does Shift Linkage Repair or Replacement Cost?
If your shift linkage no longer works properly, it will likely have to be replaced with a new cable. This job is done best when completed by a professional mechanic, and will likely cost you anywhere from $250-$450.
The replacement cost and process are similar for both manual and automatic transmission vehicles. However, manual transmission cars often have more than one shift linkage to accommodate horizontal and vertical gear shift movements.
What is a Shift Linkage?
Your shift linkage is a long, stiff piece of metal that’s responsible for putting your vehicle in the proper gear.
It connects the gear shift to the transmission and is responsible for communicating any gear shift movements to the engine.
Typically, an automatic transmission vehicle will have just one shift linkage cable that runs directly from the transmission to the shifter assembly.
As you move the gear shift, the linkage is pushed and pulled in different directions to put the car in park, reverse, drive, or neutral.
A manual transmission vehicle, on the other hand, usually has two shift linkages. This is due to the design of manual gear shifts, which require both vertical and horizontal movements.
In some 6-speed manual transmissions, you may even find three-shift linkages!
Your shift linkage is usually located in your car’s transmission tunnel and accessed by going underneath the vehicle. While it is not difficult to replace, it is tricky to access if you don’t know exactly where to look.
Can You Replace a Shift Linkage Yourself?
Fixing a shift linkage is not a very complex process. However, it is still a difficult task that requires a lot of work and careful movement.
Unless you have a significant amount of experience doing transmission work, this job is best left to the professionals.
Certain parts of your cabin will need to be removed to access the cable, and it will need to be removed at the correct points.
To replace a shift linkage, the mechanic will first need to disconnect the cable from the gear shift. This often means removing your car’s entire center console in order to access the necessary mechanical parts.
Next, the cable will need to be disconnected from the engine control arm. Once the mechanic has detached it from both points, they can install the new cable. Finally, all the parts that they removed can be replaced.
As you can see, there are not a lot of steps involved in replacing a shift linkage. However, it is still a very laborious job that needs to be done right to ensure everything works properly in the end.
How Can You Tell if Your Shift Linkage is Bad?
There are many signs to look for that will tell you that your shift linkage is bad. Once you’ve determined that there is a problem, the shift linkage will need to be replaced as soon as possible.
Knowing what to look for will help you diagnose the problem so you can make a plan of action.
Below, we will discuss a few of the things that signify the need for shift linkage repair.
Your Vehicle Will Not Turn Off
Your shift linkage communicates with the transmission to tell it what gear your car is in. However, a bad shift linkage may not recognize when your vehicle is in park.
Most cars will not allow you to turn the key unless the gear shift is in park. If your transmission does not recognize this, it will prevent you from turning the car off.
Not being able to turn your car off is a clear problem. You need the key to lock your vehicle when you get out, and leaving your car running leaves it at risk for theft.
If your car will not turn off, drive straight to the mechanic to get the problem diagnosed and fixed.
The Indicator Light Doesn’t Match the Gear Shift
Every vehicle has a light on the dashboard that tells you which gear the car is in. If this light does not match the gear shift position (i.e., it says “Park” while you are in “Drive”), it’s likely a problem with the shift linkage.
Your shift linkage stretches over time due to general wear and tear. If the light and shifter do not match, it often means that the cable has stretched to the point where it no longer moves to the correct position.
Your Gear Shift Will Not Move
Your gear shift should move easily when manipulated. If it’s hard to move or will not move at all, the shift linkage could be broken or severely stretched.
This does not give the transmission the leverage it needs to change gears, so you will not be able to drive it until it’s repaired.
Your Vehicle Starts in Another Gear
When you turn your vehicle on, it should start in either neutral (for a manual transmission) or park (for automatic transmission). If it starts in any other gear than park or neutral, the shift linkage could be the culprit.
However, this could also signify a problem with the shift interlock solenoid. Because there is more than one cause of this problem, you will need to have a mechanic diagnose it before any work begins.
In some cases, both the shift linkage and the shift interlock solenoid will be the issue.
Noises from the Transmission
A humming or buzzing noise coming from your transmission could indicate a problem with the shift linkage.
This is a less obvious sign and could be caused by several problems. If you notice a sound like this coming from your vehicle, have it promptly diagnosed by a mechanic.
A Burning Smell
A burning smell coming from your car is never a good sign. Although this can be caused by any number of things, it may be due to problems with the shift linkage. A lack of lubrication or worn-out bushing could be the cause.
No matter what the problem is, this is not something to ignore. Always get any burning smells that are coming from your vehicle checked out as soon as possible.
Why Do Shift Linkages Go Bad?
In the most basic way, a shift linkage is just a long length of metal cable. Because of this, it is very vulnerable to wear and tear over time. As you drive, it may stretch, develop a kink or bend, or break completely.
In some cases, the existing shift linkage can be repaired. However, if you notice any of the problems listed above, the shift linkage has likely stretched or broken beyond repair.
This stretching occurs more often in manual transmission vehicles. These vehicles require more frequent movement of the gear shift. This makes them much more vulnerable to this type of stretching and wear.
You can increase the lifespan of your shift linkage by shifting more gently. This is especially important if you have a manual transmission. Aggressive shifting will speed the stretching process up and create the need for more frequent replacement.
Can You Drive with a Bad Shift Linkage?
When your shift linkage first starts to go bad, you may not experience any problems. However, it is never 100% safe to drive with a shift linkage that is in need of repair.
You may not be sure exactly which gear you’re in, and you will probably not be able to turn your car off if it doesn’t detect that the gear shift is in park.
As time goes on, it will become harder and harder for you to drive properly. This creates a high potential for accidents and is dangerous to both you and others on the road.
Because of this, it is crucial to get a damaged shift linkage repaired as soon as possible.
The Bottom Line
A shift linkage repair is not an extremely expensive repair, but it is an important one. If your shift linkage is no longer functioning as it should, it will cost you anywhere from $250-$450 to have it replaced.
Be sure to always have this job done by a professional. There are not a lot of steps involved, but it is a labor-intensive repair. It needs to be done correctly in order for your car to run as it should.