Just this morning, I got into my 1998 Saturn SL2 (Gold) and the stick shift was entirely loose. It is like the stick is no longer connected to anything. Any idea on what the problem is and how much it might cost to fix? Keep in mind, the car has almost 230K miles on it.
IIRC, this car has a cable-actuated shift mechanism. This means the shifter in the console is connected to the shifter shaft of the transmission with a pair of cables to transmit the motion. The cables are attached to the shifter and the transmission with brackets that hold the cable housings in place. If these brackets get loose, the cables will not transmit the motion, and the shifter will feel disconnected.
Alternately, one of the cables, or both of them, might have snapped. If the brackets are fine, the cables can be replaced to restore the shifter. Also, some bushings may have slipped, causing the cables to loosen up.
If you look to the top of the transmission, towards the firewall side, you should see the cables from the shifter mounted to the shifter shaft. To see the cables on the inside, you need to remove the console cover to expose them. With a friend, you should be able to see the problem as you manipulate the shifter. The rod ends should be the only thing that moves. The cable sheaths and brackets shouldn’t move.