How Much Does a Shift Cable Replacement Cost?

Did you know that you can reduce transmission linkage repair cost and prolong your shift cable’s functionality by having the shift cable greased during any transmission or selector maintenance? 

This is because the cause of your transmission linkage’s wear and tear is cable corrosion.

The price of shift cable replacement depends on your car model as well as the type of transmission your car has. Because it is one of those repair jobs that are easy to D-I-Y, you may want to check out repair costs in the market as well as the prices of replacement parts before you jump headfirst into your garage for your car’s repair.

auto gear shift cable

Service and Component Prices

A shift cable replacement service costs around $125 to $250, but it can reach as high as $930. Expect, however, that not all shops cover diagnostic fees when they quote their estimate for the replacement service.

Some shops may charge diagnostic fees for $40 to $50, but if you can diagnose the problem by yourself or have a trusted mechanic identify the problem for free, this will definitely save you a substantial amount of money.

There are cases when the diagnoses or second and third opinion turns out to be a loose linkage rather than a damaged shift cable. This is one of those opportunities where you can save money by tightening the linkage yourself. Although if you opt for a cable tightening service, some auto repair service providers charge shift cable tightening for $50 to $75.

Whether you opt for a shift cable replacement service or do the diagnosis and replacement yourself, it is still worth doing research the market price of the shift cable and accessories that you may need to use for the replacement job.

Your car may have a manual or an automatic transmission and shift cable for these types of transmissions vary from one another. Manual transmission shift cables have prices which are as low as $14 to as high as $435.

Certain cars like Porsche can have manual cables costing higher in the market, but if you can trace it to a dealer shop that sells straight from the manufacturer, then that will save you a lot.

Automatic transmission shift cables, on the other hand, are less pricey than their manual counterparts. These types of shift cable range between $40 and $60, and sometimes even as high as $120. From time to time, however, you may be lucky enough to find in the market AT shift cables that cost as low as $15.

Some shift cable replacement jobs may require a few changes in the bushing and other cable accessories. Repair kits contain accessories for cable replacement and linkage repairs which make them quite handy to have around in the trunk during emergencies especially on road trips. Repair kits cost from basic starter sets of $20 to complete sets of $280 to $850.

Itching to buy your shift cable replacement parts and accessories already? Before you do that, read on for a short review on your transmission shift cable.

Shift Cable and Transmission Linkage Basics

Transmission linkage, also known as shift linkage, is the assembly that consists of the transmission cables, the gear shift selector at one end, and the car transmission or transaxle at the other.

When the car user, such as the driver or the mechanic adjusts the shift range settings, the car’s shift cable gives the transmission access to a certain range of gears to move through; including the basic ones for automatic transmission like park, neutral, reverse, and drive.

Your car has either one or two shift cables used in the transmission linkage depending on the type of transmission your car has. Automatic transmissions generally have a single cable within the linkage, while manual transmissions have two – allowing the shifter to move both in the vertical and the horizontal axes.

As the gear selector is shifted, the shift cable is either pushed or pulled according to the proper amount required so that the transmission shift shaft is placed within the middle of that range of gear levels.

For automatic transmissions, this means that all gear changes after this point will be handled by the transmission itself so that the driver can focus on driving.

Some cars that have dual-clutch transmissions, as well as shift cables have the tendency for their transmission to base the shift lever position on the transmission position sensor rather than the settings created by the shift cable. The shift linkage, instead, becomes a secondary component; its functionality evident when a driver feels the resistance from the gear selector assembly.

Manual transmission shift cable

Wear and Tear

A bad shift cable can be damaged in three different ways – each of which has corresponding indicators that will remind you that your car’s transmission linkage needs to be swapped out soon:

First, the gear selector needs to be moved past the range needed rather than the exact range itself and second, the gear indicator needle does not line up with the gear selected – these two symptoms are caused by a stretched cable. The linkage is expected to break soon but your car can still function.

If you happen to have this symptom, you may want to check your transmission cable and have it adjusted or repaired; although replacement is still a better option.

Third, the shifter is hard to move or does not budge at all – a symptom of this type means that the shift cables might be experiencing corrosion within the shaft. It is better to have the transmission cable checked and replaced right away.

The following symptoms, on the other hand, will tell you that your car’s transmission linkage is finally broken and replacement must be done immediately:

  • The transmission will not move out of its current range;
  • The engine does not start when the car is not in park or neutral;
  • The car rolls forward even if the shifter is in the neutral position and parking brakes have to be applied, and
  • There is no resistance felt in the gear selector lever.

You may wish to make use of your car while the transmission linkage is still at “failing” status, but this is not advisable. At best, the shift cable breaks before you get to shift your car out of “park” mode, but this will leave you stranded which can be unpleasant if you happen to be far from any nearest tow truck or auto repair shop or while rushing on the way to a highly important appointment.

The worst case scenario would be when you are trying to shift your car with an automatic transmission into a different gear and your car suddenly gets locked in reverse, neutral or park when your gear selector shows that your car is supposed to be at a lower or drive gear.

Things to Note

Transmission shift cables are expected to fail at least at the average of 125,000 to 175,000 mileages. Some vehicle models, however, may have transmission linkage that is more prone to breakage.

This is especially true for those cars with poor shift cable sealing, binding issues at the gear shift lever or console or with an extremely bent cable design or arrangement. Such car models, however, will show symptoms earlier than other vehicle types and are expected to have their transmission linkage break down at around the 75,000 mileage.

Shift cables can be adjustable and non-adjustable. Make sure to stick to the kind of shift cable your car uses.

Get an adjustable type if your car was built with an adjustable shift cable; non-adjustable for a non-adjustable one. This is because any misalignment in reading the gear selector does not necessarily have anything to do with the cable replacement at all – it could be caused by a worn shift shaft bushing.

Cars that have shift motors installed in their transmissions will not make use of automatic transmission linkages because these are not what these cars use. If you happen to have such a car, have it properly checked by a trusted mechanic or auto repair shop.

If your car happens to have its transmission linkage that exits from the firewall behind the engine, always reseal the linkage by replacing the water sealing grommet that surrounds the linkage. This is to prevent any harsh, if not unhealthy smell from entering your vehicle.

Final Words

It pays to study the type of transmission your car has, the kind of shift cable it utilizes, as well as how the shift cable is placed in your car before you try to dismantle every component you want to be replaced. In this manner, even if you opt to have your car serviced rather than do the replacement yourself, you will avoid any hoodwinking from any unscrupulous service provider.

Always acquire services from a trustworthy mechanic or auto repair shop. Go for well-defined warranties and highly recommended service providers. In addition, note whether their repair service includes proper diagnosis or if the diagnosis is charged separately.

Care in choosing your service provider goes a long way, for, in the end, a job well-done costs less than multiple cheap but careless works.

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