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Why is my column shifter so hard to shift?       #: 878
 Moderated by: NoPower, Mike69, MaDMaXX
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 Posted: Fri May 25th, 2018 03:49 am
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wh23g3g
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This has been happening a long time on my 98 Ranger Automatic. I just think I'm ready to try and take care of it if it can be fixed. About 2+ years ago I had the shift cable replaced with a Pioneer shift cable. Ever since then the shifter has been really tight to shift out of Park. When the guy installed it I watched him and at first it was really loose. He tightened the clamp at the bottom of the shift tube and it got really tight. He left it where it felt normal for a brand new cable he said. Well it never slackened up over 2 years. It was so tight shifting that one night when I got back to a friends and put it into Park it actually broke the clamp at the end of the shift tube. I had to manually shift it into Park when I got back home. I went to the salvage yard the next day and got a couple extra shift tubes. I installed a new one and put a dab of grease on the bushings. It was still tight and eventually the shift knob finally gave way. So I had to go back and get some shift handles. I took the column back down and added some more grease on the sliding shift tube bushings. It's helped a bit but it's still not right. I'm afraid it's going to end up breaking another shifter handle. It's got to be out of adjustment or something sticking. I can't even move the shifter all the way into the 1 position. All other positions are fine. The actual transmission is fine and shifts good while driving. I believe I was told a long time ago on another forum that the Neutral Safety Switch is probably the entire problem. Any ideas?



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 Posted: Fri May 25th, 2018 01:42 pm
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the column shifter and cable to the trans are a pretty straight forward deal
With the cable unhooked from the transmission can you smoothly move the column shifter?
The "bushings" in the steering column are stiff plastic and should require no lube, make sure all 4 of them are in place and tight, there should be no up and down play

You said the trans shifter pawl moves through all the gears without trouble, so it is not inside the transmission

The cable length is adjusted at the transmission cable bracket with a large white plastic adjuster, pry it open and you can move the cable to and fro in order to get the correct length. The transmission should be in N and the column shifter in N then adjust the length and attach the cable.

If you have done all of this and it is still stiff let us know



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 Posted: Fri Jun 1st, 2018 04:29 am
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Yeah it was smooth when the cable was disconnected from the column. I haven't disconnected it from the transmission since the mechanic replaced the cable a few years ago. I watched videos on youtube with the identical problems which all seemed to be the neutral safety switch with corrosion. So I ordered a new one because it's never been changed.



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 Posted: Fri Jun 1st, 2018 01:59 pm
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The DTRS, digital trans ranger sensor (also called NSS sometimes)?? I have never seen one freeze up as they are plastic I have seen a rust parking pawl (the metal arm it attaches too) but didnt you say the trans is easy to shift
with no cable attached??

How does the column shifter move when the cable is detached from trans?



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 Posted: Fri Jun 1st, 2018 11:20 pm
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I haven't had it detached from the transmission since the cable was put on a few years ago but I remember it was easy when it was disconnected when we were installing it. I watched several Ranger videos with complaints of the same hard shifting out of gear where they installed nss which cured it. All the videos did mention corrosion and rust on the shaft. I'm hoping that's the problem with mine because it's been so hard a few times I actually broke two shifter knobs.



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 Posted: Thu Jun 7th, 2018 02:02 am
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I pulled the nss to change with the new one I got on ebay. It turned out the switch I got was wrong even though the part# states it was for a 4 speed automatic part# NS200 from Standard Ignition. It is not right. The shift shaft is much bigger than the NS200's plastic bushing so I had to return it. While I had the old one off I cleaned it really good as well as the shift shaft. It some light surface rust as it seems they all develop over time. I got shifter shaft all shiny again and dabbed some dielectric grease on it and the old NSS plastic bushing to see if it would smooth up the shifting. It didn't seem to change anything. My cable is properly adjusted. It appeared when I had the NSS off and was making sure the manual shift lever was in neutral it maybe the problem. It felt as if it was the culprit, slipping through the detents if you didn't go slow enough. It felt like how the gearshift lever acted sometimes smooth and sometimes taking some effort although it's never got stuck either the manual lever or the gearshift lever. How is that fixed? Another transmission?



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 Posted: Thu Jun 7th, 2018 01:13 pm
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No the shifter arm and parking pawl is a simple device, no need for another transmission
You can drop the pan and replace any part in the shifter mechanism
However from what you describe it sounds like the trans is shifting normal

After checking that the issue is not the column shifter, then make sure its not the cable, then it maybe time to drop the pan and have a look. But before you do this maybe try shifting another Ranger/explorer trans by hand with the cable disco and see if your truck feels the same?

Here is a pic of a shifter mechanism inside the trans. Everything unbolts and can be replaced quite easily IF that is where the problem lies



to reset the cable/column shifter
first detach cable from trans
Put column in N
put trans in N
Adjust length of cable under truck with the big white plastic clip so that it matches the N position on the trans and then re install.

The column shifter and cable should be really loose and easy to shift with the cable detached from the trans. If not your issue is in the cable or the column

Last edited on Thu Jun 7th, 2018 01:15 pm by 410customs



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 Posted: Wed Jun 20th, 2018 06:47 pm
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I just replaced the nss since I had already ordered it anyway. It's easy coming out of Park but shifting back to Park from Drive is almost as bad or worse than on the old Nss. It's almost impossible to get to 1st so a cable adjustment will have to be done. The Ford guide says the adjustment must be done in Drive with a 3lb weight hanging from the handle. What's the purpose of this? I'm not sure I have anything exactly 3lbs.



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 Posted: Thu Jun 21st, 2018 01:14 pm
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forget the manual
remove cable from transmission
put transmission in N YOU must make sure its in N!!!
Align DTRS (NSS) with the trans arm in N
Put column shifter in N
Under the steering column there is a white adjuster knob, now is a good time to get the orange needle to point directly in the middle of the N


Adjust cable at the transmission big white plastic cable adjuster
Attach to trans, and try again

No 3# weight needed.

PRND21
Neutral is right in the middle of the travel
YOu should have all gears when this is done

Last edited on Thu Jun 21st, 2018 01:15 pm by 410customs



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 Posted: Thu Jun 21st, 2018 04:19 pm
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I did everything totally correct. I even did it a few times. You can get to 1st but you really have to throw the shifter down. You can't shift it carefully from 1st back to P. You'll pretty much miss 2, D and end up in N. I'm assuming the hard shifting is going to be caused by something internal. It is easy with the cable disconnected. You can actually feel the stiffness in the manual control lever. You always miss a gear when turning the manual shift lever. But what inside would cause it? I have a spare 4r44e in my garage because last time there was no core so I could get the parts from it.

Last edited on Thu Jun 21st, 2018 04:21 pm by wh23g3g



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 Posted: Thu Jun 21st, 2018 05:04 pm
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YES!!! Pull the pan on your spare 4r55e and take the shifter mechanism out, this will show you how the detents work, there is a spring with a roller on it. Something in your shifter mech is bad and needs to be fixed. It (the transmission shift lever) should shift smoothly through the gears stopping at each detent, otherwise there is a problem inside.
Dropping the pan is not difficult, plus you can changeout 4-5 quarts of fluid and the filter at the same time which is always a good idea



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 Posted: Mon Aug 6th, 2018 06:00 am
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I'm planning on taking some time off for a week. During this time I'm going to take my Ranger to a shop to check this shifter problem because I've got a couple other things to get worked on too. He usually does pretty good on the prices. I will take my spare 4r44e with me so he can swap out the parts. It's time for a transmission service anyway. Is adjusting the bands recommended? I've never done it on any transmission. It's doing good other than stiff shifter. The guy at the shop does use a labor guide to give me a quote and usually gives me a discount. Is the swap out of the shifter parts going to be a lot of extra time after the pan is dropped? I doubt there will be a labor guide for swapping a spring out.



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 Posted: Mon Aug 6th, 2018 01:48 pm
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Takes about 15 minutes once the pan is removed
If the bands need adjusting then yes that is a good idea, If everything is shifting well I would leave them alone.
Consider adding a drain plug to your trans pan or buy a dorman pan they come with drains for like $40



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 Posted: Tue Aug 7th, 2018 01:03 am
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I'm sure I could take off what it is needed from my old transmission that's sitting in my garage. Although I've lifted it before to put it back on the stand I have it on. I'm not sure I could lift it by myself in the back of the truck without tearing myself up more than I already am from work. So I see the photo posted previously. What parts should I take out to have ready to take to the shop? I may go out in the garage later tonight and see if I can figure out what it might be that's binding in my transmission. I've been meaning to get one of the 4wd Dorman pans, just never got around to ordering one. I did take one off of a 4wd Ranger and add it, of course the proper filter too. The shift lever itself on the column is kinda sloppy but I know why. I've only got one spare left which I'll swap out before taking it in. I had to replace it once because of the binding in and out of park the plastic end broke off.



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