shift linkage

How To Adjust Shift Linkage In An Automatic Transmission


August 10, 2022

The shift linkage connects the gear lever to the transmission, and if it is not in good working order, it might cause a variety of problems.

We will go over the mechanics behind the shift linkages, indications that it is failing, and how to repair them to help you solve your problem.

Continue reading this article to learn more about how you can save money on professional services!

What Do You Mean By Shift Linkage?

The shift linkage is located beneath the vehicle’s transmission tunnel.

It may be accessed from below the car, with the exception of the shift knob, which is on top.

Because the linkage is above the transmission, there is not much space to access the upper retaining pin.

The shift linkage shifts the gears to the required position, as seen in this illustration.

Neutral, first, second, third, park, drive, and overdrive are all possible gear settings.

The vehicle’s model determines which gears are available.

How Does Shift Linkage Work

When there is an issue with anything transmission-related, the internal workings of the powertrain experts immediately become concerned.

The fact is that most transmission issues are beyond the skills of a normal mechanic and must be handled by someone who specializes in the area.

Fortunately, the shift connection is simply a wire connecting the selector lever to the transmission.

You are physically moving the gearbox mode from park to reverse, neutral, and various forward drive settings by pulling on the shifter.

Symptoms Of Bad Shift Linkage

white mercedes benz car on road during daytime

Shift connections are problematic because, even though you can not get the transmission to respond to your instructions, it is still operating effectively.

1. Gear Shifting Problems

One of the most obvious indications of gear selection link failure is difficulties with moving the selector through all positions.

It will become more difficult to shift into drive or neutral as the problem gets worse. 

2. Mismatching Gears 

When the connection collet loosens or the cable stretches from years of use, it is possible that the distance traveled by the cable between positions is not long enough for it to engage with different gear ratios in the transmission.

For example, if you change from park to reverse without pressing the clutch or moving the gearshift into neutral, the car will not shift into reverse and merely sit in the park.

The idea is that your present gear is not linked with the gearbox’s current position.

3. The Engine Will Not Turn Off

Some vehicles have a safety feature that prevents you from turning off the car unless the gearshift is in the park or neutral.

Because gear mismatches are frequently caused by connection issues, when you put the vehicle in park, it may remain in reverse, making it hard to turn off the engine. 

4. The Engine Will Not Start

It is unusual for a vehicle to have a system that prevents you from turning off the engine, but almost all vehicles using automatic transmission will not allow one to start the car unless the gear shifter is in the park or rarely neutral gear. 

This symptom is the most difficult to detect since everything appears normal.

You might think the starter or an inadequate fuel pump is bad, but cycling the transmission through gears a few times may move it back into the park and start the car.

How To Fix Shift Linkage Problems

There are a few causes of shift linkage failure, but the two we can tackle at home are increasing the cable length and replacing the linkage collet. 

How To Adjust Cable Length

The procedure of adjusting the length of the shift linkage cable is straightforward yet delicate.

To raise the automobile safely, you will need to have a buddy move gear shifts while you do it from below. 

Step By Step Guide

  1. Before you begin, have your helper take a seat in the driver’s seat.
  2. Raise the vehicle’s front on jack stands and place the rear wheel chocks behind the wheels.
  3. Before going underneath, make sure the car is safely elevated. 
  4. Follow the movement of the transmission bracket while you set the gearbox into neutral with the helper.
  5. There are two nuts on a thread a few inches back from the bracket. Slightly tighten the nuts with two wrenches.
  6. Have the helper cycle through the gears once more and track the movement of the bracket.
  7. If the cable is still flapping about when you try to follow the gear selector movement, reset it in neutral and repeat.
  8. Check to see if the transmission bracket is fastened properly. If you overtighten the cable, it may break or snap the transmission bracket.

The following video has more information than you require, but it does a wonderful job of illustrating what happens when you pull on the gear selector lever.

How To Repair Shift Collet

A simple shift linkage with a tiny collet and heavy-duty cable shrouding is seen in the video above.

The collet (bushing) is placed between the cable and the transmission bracket, and it brakes when it cracks, allowing for enough clearance between the gears so that they do not synchronize or even cause the cable to come off and prevent shifting.

It is simply not feasible to buy a new collet and replace it in most cases since the majority of stores sell it as a complete shift kit that costs hundreds of dollars.

Instead, we will create our own with basic tools and supplies.

Step By Step Guide

  1. Raise the front of the vehicle on jack stands and place the rear wheel chocks behind the wheels.
  2. Make sure the vehicle is locked before going any farther. 
  3. Take a look at the connection between the bracket and the shift link. If your collet is worn or broken, you will need to order a new one.
  4. Measure the diameter of the linkage hole and that of the bracket mount. 
  5. A typical bushing is used to make the replacement collet. It is critical that it fits precisely on the bracket mount. 
  6. If the bushing is larger than the hole in the linkage, cut it to size with a scalpel.
  7. Insert a washer and a little bit of oil on the bracket mount.
  8. Place the makeshift collet in the shift linkage and attach it to the bracket mount, then slide it over the collet.
  9. Place the second washer over the collet to keep it from falling out.
  10. To keep everything in place, grasp the retaining clip at the end.

How Do I Adjust My Automatic Transmission Shift Linkage?

If your car’s gearbox is making a noise that sounds like a swarm of bees, or if the transmission doesn’t respond as fast as it should.

It’s time to inspect your vehicle’s shift linkage.

It’s better to identify the problems right away so they don’t get worse and damage the transmission.

Here’s how to replace the shift linkage in an automatic transmission.

This information is for cars produced between 1985 and 1995.

The auto-shift link, mechanical shift link, and lever assembly are used on these vehicles.

Why Would You Need To Adjust The Shift Linkage On An Automatic Gearbox?

The automatic transmission linkages must be aligned with the gearbox in order for them to function properly.

When the gear shift does not perform correctly or transfer to the appropriate location, it is necessary to adjust the shift connection.

The connecting links should be adjusted so that they are parallel with each other and correspond to the corresponding gear.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it possible to alter the gearbox’s shifting?

If you are having problems with changing gears because of the shift link, the problem may be resolved by either replacing or adjusting the component.

The transmission can only be serviced by a professional.

Is there a shift mechanism in an automatic transmission?

Yes, the shift linkage connects the gear lever to the housing of the transmission’s automatic transmission.

It enables drivers to switch between operating modes.

How much does it cost to repair a shift link?

Repairing a shift link is not difficult, so the cost of labor is reasonable, around $50 to $100 on average.

The shift linkage may cost anywhere from $50 to $200. 

What are the warning signs of a faulty shift solenoid?

If your shift solenoid has failed, there are a number of symptoms: the check engine light, the transmission warning light being delayed or skipping gears, and general shifting difficulties. 

Why is my gear shift coming free?

The shift linkage is a cable that connects the gear lever to the transmission.

The collet bushing will break with higher mileage and hard shifting, causing the cable to extend.

The shifter will not have a good connection with the transmission when this happens. 

How much do shifter bushings cost?

The bushing between the shift linkage and the transmission bracket is not pricey in and of itself, costing on average $10.

However, finding a bushing that fits is difficult because most are not sold separately and instead come as part of a whole shift link kit.  


Repairing the shift linkage is a straightforward procedure that requires finesse and patience.

Correcting the cable’s tension will take some trial and error, but if you take it slow and check all of the gears while monitoring the transmission bracket, you will have it working properly in no time!


Jeffrey Bryce is an experienced motorcycle rider with years of experience caring for motorcycles. His natural fondness for motorcycles have made him come up with, which is dedicated to answering and teaching you how to care for your bike with the care it requires. LetsGoForARide is the one of his important lifework in reaching out to communities of motorcycle enthusiasts on how to take care of their bike and choosing the correct spare part.