Help--My Gear Shift Is Falling Apart

02 Cavalier with 178K, automatic tranny with the gearshift on the center console. A few months ago, I noticed there was a small slit tearing on the base of the gear shift knob cover everytime I shifted out of Park. I was more careful when shifting and this seemed to work for a while.

But now it’s been having trouble shifting out of park, reverse, drive. Been sticking at times. When this happens, I wiggle around the gearshift and swear at it until it works. And now I’ve noticed plastic shards falling out from the base of the gear shift knob cover.

How hard is this to fix? Is it just sawing off the knob cover and reattaching everything with a new one? I don’t want to get in there and realize I’m out of my depth.

Saws are generally not needed for this type of repair. You might wish to visit a “U Pull It” salvage yard and take apart a Cavalier shifter mechanism keeping the parts you may need and learning how to do yours without using destructive force…

You realize of course that the shifter is interconnected with the ignition lock and the brake pedal, making them FAR more complex than you may imagine…

If you’re planning on using a saw to repair this you’re probably already out of your depth.

The gear shift knob can be removed, but it is not done with a saw. If it is like my 1978 Oldsmobile, there is a little clip at the bottom of the knob that can be removed with a needle nose pliers and then the knob can be removed. I had to replace this knob at one time.

My gearshift consists of a metal shaft (which I’m not going to mess with), covered by a molded plastic knob cover with a horizontal button on it that you press when you shift. I was thinking that the knob cover is just a button with a few gears inside of it that change the direction of the force to press a rod in the metal shaft. Is this the case?

You are almost correct. There is a rod in the shaft that is depressed when you push the button. The button pushes a cam against the rod and forces it down. If you remove the knob, you can manually activate the rod by pushing it down with your thumb. This cam is made of plastic–it has broken and the shards are what you see falling out of the knob. You may be able to get a replacement knob at an auto parts store.