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HELP - car won't shift into any gear at all / no symptoms prior / one car family

I say HELP because my daughter was born last night. We picked up my 18 month old son from our friend’s house and were getting ready to leave when it happened…so I need to figure out ASAP what’s going on. We have only one car and I live a half hour’s drive from work.

2002 Ford Taurus, 103,000 miles. No issues since I’ve had it (bought it with 84,000 miles on it), had it serviced three times since then. No indication that anything was wrong when changing from park to drive to reverse etc…the lever is in the steering column. I was leaving my friend’s house as I previously indicated when I pulled the lever down from Park to Reverse except it bypassed reverse entirely. There was no resistance at all. I could slide it through all the gears easily but it wasn’t “locking” in to any gear in particular. The car was started and running while I was doing this and I had my foot on the brake while attempting to shift into different gears. There was no sign that this was going to happen. I’d only left the hospital about 40 mins previously and changed from Park to Reverse to Drive with no issues. Checked the transmission fluid about 4 weeks ago and it was fine.

So…HELP! We very luckily have the help of some wonderful friends who loaned us their 2nd car for a few days. I have a guy checking it either tomorrow or Friday. It’s not under warranty. I really hope this is something reasonable to fix. My buddy thinks it might have something to do with “linkages.” The transmission itself isn’t making any weird noises and hasn’t either.

THANKS.

I’d agree that this is probably the linkage and not the transmission itself, which should be much cheaper to fix.

This does sound like a broken or disconnected shift linkage.

Thanks! I feel MUCH better hearing that. How much do you think it costs to repair that??

It is very likely the linkage on the lower column and I will assume that the Taurus steering column has changed little over the years and recommend that you shop around the salvage yards for a complete column assembly and a shop that will replace it. The linkage is another Rube Goldberg contraption that defies logic.

While it could be the linkage, and I am really hoping it is. Taurus of that gen also have weak transmissions… I was driving my mom’s 2000 Taurus back in 2002 or 2003 so it was fairly young at the time. We were doing 65 MPH on the highway, stepped on the gas lightly while passing someone, trans went to do a down shift… Then nothing… NO GEARS, like the trans was in neutral… pulled over to the side of road, and it was just like you describe move the shifter and it did nothing… Keep in mind this car was doing 65 not 2 min before… Had it towed to the ford dealer and they had the car for 3 weeks because the trans was on national back order due to failures. So while I have my fingers crossed for you on the shift linkage, start thinking about what you would do if it’s the trans itself… PS you know these things never happen when you are flush with cash, and all is good… ITS ALWAYS when something else just happened… PPS CONGRATS on the new baby girl, I have a 7 month old and a 4.5 year old and while it is exhausting its a blast !!!

It could be something very simple, like a linkage pin fell out, a $20-$30 repair…Sounds like the shift lever is no longer attached to the transmission…It can’t be THAT bad…

If it’s $20 to $30 I’m sending you a Starbucks gift card.

I had something very similar happen on my Taurus a couple of years ago. Although I don’t recall the exact problem it was a very cheap fix. Something came loose under the dash on the shift column if I remember right.

With the engine running, the parking brake set and someone keeping the brake pedal firmly depressed, the shift lever on the transmission can be moved through the gears. If you feel confident enough the car can be shifted to move it and drive it home or to the shop. But don’t try to move it if you don’t feel comfortable doing so.

I’d bet the linkage has come unattached somewhere between the steering column and the transmission. If you raised the hood you might see where it is unattached.

“I was leaving my friend’s house as I previously indicated when I pulled the lever down from Park to Reverse except it bypassed reverse entirely. There was no resistance at all. I could slide it through all the gears easily but it wasn’t “locking” in to any gear in particular. The car was started and running while I was doing this and I had my foot on the brake while attempting to shift into different gears. There was no sign that this was going to happen.”

I understood this to mean the transmission did not respond to shift lever movement…The two were no longer connected…

As usual I am just guessing what the problem is based on past experience but as is sometimes the case I have successfully cured this problem and although several regulars here could certainly handle repairing the linkage it is unlikely that a novice could even get the column out of the car. And few independents have ever dismantled a Taurus column… And dealers would likely be very proud of the labor and parts to make the repair. But most well equipped and qualified independent shops with Ford experience could replace the column with a salvage part. And, jhncny82, if you choose to buy a salvage column and make the purchase yourself, do not turn the key to release the wheel to turn. The wheel should remain centered until it is installed.

I have a competent mechanic recommended by a VERY trusted individual who is going to check things out and if it is what we hope it is, he’ll fix it.

You should not have to touch the steering column to hook up the shift linkage.

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“You should not have to touch the steering column to hook up the shift linkage.”

Unless it is the part in the column that is broken or came loose.

Hopefully the OP will get back to us with the conclusion to his problem.

I hope we find out!!

I have had three Taurus wagons (the latest is a 2005 with 87,000 miles) and have had this exact same problem TWICE. The first time it was a linkage problem which cost $20 to fix. However, last week I experienced the exact same problem and was told by the dealer that I need a totally new transmission, a repair which will cost $3,900. Good luck.

“last week I experienced the exact same problem and was told by the dealer that I need a totally new transmission, a repair which will cost $3,900.”

I really hope that you confirm that diagnosis with a well-reputed independent transmission shop.
The dealership’s diagnosis could be incorrect, but even if it is accurate a good indy trans shop will probably be able to beat the dealership’s price by at least a few hundred $$.

Incidentally, “independent”, “well-reputed”, and “good” do not normally describe chain operations like AAMCO, Lee Myles, Cottman, and Mr. Transmission. These places are likely to tell you that you need a new/rebuilt transmission, even if a far cheaper repair is possible. Look for a local shop that has been in business for at least 3 years. Ask friends, co-workers, relatives, and neighbors for recommendations.