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Automatic Selector Cable Replacement

In a manual transmission, the gear lever is what selects and changes the gear you’re in. In an automatic transmission, it’s the selector cable. Also known as an automatic selector cable, the automatic transmission still handles changing gears as you drive but the selector cable is what determines whether you’re in park, reverse, neutral or drive. 

What is a shift selector cable? 

Surprisingly, it’s a cable - usually made out of braided steel and insulated with plastic or rubber - that runs from the shifter inside the car to the transmission housing. As you move the shifter through the various positions, it shifts a lever connected to the transmission housing.

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Why do you need a shift selector cable? 

Without a shift selector cable, you’d be unable to shift the transmission from park into gear. As this would stop your car from working. It can also cause issues if the car slips from drive to neutral while running, due to poor locking and positioning of the selector.

How to tell if you need a new shift selector cable

If you can easily slide the gear shifter through the range but the car doesn’t shift into the gears, then there’s a chance something’s snapped or become disconnected. If you can feel resistance or the shifter won’t ‘slot’ into the desired position, then you may need a new cable. It’s best to trust your mechanics opinion on this matter. 

How is a shift selector cable replaced?

The mechanic will remove any trim that surrounds the shifter inside the cabin. They will then disconnect the selector from the shifter and from the transmission housing. The new cable will be fitted and aligned before testing all gear selections. The mechanic will refit all the trim and return your car to you.  

How much does a shift selector cable cost?

If it isn’t a small part of the cable assembly, it’s a niggly job which requires a lot of labor compared to the fix. Expect prices to start at around $150 and go higher than $500 for more complicated jobs. 

How often do I need a shift selector cable replaced?

Only when problems crop up, mostly it’s the insulation or connectors that fail before the cable itself. The cable will only ever get replaced if it fails, it generally doesn’t have a lifespan. 

Is a broken shift selector cable unsafe?

If it breaks then it’s just a nuisance because you can’t drive. If it breaks while you’re driving then it can be a serious problem. As such, it’s best to trust your mechanic to advise you when it needs replacing. 

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