Shifting Problems - 99 Saturn SW2 manual trans

My 99 Saturn SW2 (155K miles and going strong) has been having shifting problems for a little while now. When stopped at a light or in traffic, you put the car in 1st gear, but when you start to move, its actually in 3rd gear (or higher). You have to take it out of gear, wiggle the shifter and put it back in gear (sometimes more than once). Had it to the transmission specialist who replaced the controller at the top of the trans and that worked for about 2 months, now its doing it again (note: had the transmission serviced and the problem cleared up for a while too…). The mechanic says…oh well…it could be this or it could be that but we wont know until we do etc etc…so we’re lookin at about 200 bucks in labor just for a diagnostic. Looking for some advice…as you can imagine…makes pulling out in traffic somewhat of an adventure.


How does the shift feel as you move it side to side? If it is rather stiff one of the cables from the shift lever to the transmission selector may be going bad. A good mechanic should be able to disconnect the cables at the transmission and get a feel for the health of the cables. Check out how much it would cost to replace these cables. It might be a cheap shot in the dark to just replace these cables.

Get the second opinion on this from your mechanic as to whether he thinks the problem might be related.

you can tell when its not going in to the proper gear as it feels very loose…then when it stiffens slightly, you know its going in to gear. The cables are one of the things that the mechanic (transmission shop) said they would check. There is a good reputable general mechanic in town where I get my maintenance work done…I will get a 2nd from them (if nothing else ive worked with him in the past).