Automatic shift lever problems | Page 2 | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

  • Register Today It's free!

Automatic shift lever problems

I've been scammed. Help?

Quick question, how easy is it to get your shifter cable/lever loose? Reason being is that last night when I started my 96 Explorer, the transmission shift was so loose except for "P" and "1" and "2". I kept messing around with it with no success. Then less than 5 minutes later, a self-professed expert/mechanic magically showed up and offered to help (I was at a Target store parking deck in Atlanta). It took him less than 20 minutes to fix it and I believe he did exactly what was in this post. I say this because he layed on his back under the driver side dash and told me that he was tightening something. After that, he demanded $45 from my wife & I. I only gave him $23 since that was all the cash I had with me.

Did i just get scammed? I ask this because the guy seemed to know exactly what the issue was and just the coincidence of having this "expert" pop out of nowhere at the right time. How easy is it to get this thing loosened up? Is this a common problem with old Explorers? I got 177K miles on mine.


I just got a call from Target Security after I reported the incident to them yesterday and after they reviewed their video, they confirmed that there were men around my car and that one of them went under my car. The security guy also told me that none of them went inside my car prior to the accomplice getting "helping" me.

Now, I figure you guys could let me know what could these criminals have possibly done under my explorer to make the transmission shifter lever feel really loose. Is there a screw, switch, or lever under the explorer that you could adjust to loosen up the shifter? Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

Join the Elite Explorers for $20 each year.
Elite Explorer members see no advertisements, no banner ads, no double underlined links,.
Add an avatar, upload photo attachments, and more!

Hi Guys,

I joined the forum just to say thank you for the help with this problem. The Photo that 1qwikbird posted helped me locate the loose bolts. I used a t-30 head and a ratchet with a 3" extension to get the job done. It is a tight fit, but my 6'3 290 lbs self was able to repair the problem.

My truck wouldn't even go into reverse or park when this happened. I was able to shift by manually moving the shift arm on the automatic transmission body, but thats no way to drive down the road.

Thank you for saving me time and money!


I am so beyond impressed with this. I have been fighting this issue for months and I was just about to dreadfully replace the shift cable. I was thinking that it was worn out since I put a body lift on the truck 2 years ago and didn't bother to check the cable. Let me just say that having to slam it into to park and stll not having it fully engage, and having to put it into neutral to start it has truly sucked!! Having a remote starter in the dead of winter just made it even worse. Now after some late night browsing and just about ready to buy expensive parts, The problem is fixed at 1 am on the new year of 2013. Now my newborn worn't have to freeze the frst 10 minutes in the truck. I can't thank you guys enough!!!!!!!!!

Im guessing my Explorer has the same loose bolts

I don't think you got scammed. I think you made out. Also thanks for the info everyone. I am having the same issues on my 01 Explorer Limited that has 177,000. I'll be back to update if this was in fact my problem as well.

Very helpful info on here! I had the same problem, replaced the bolt, but there is also a pin between the two bolts that has fallen out and I can't get it back in!! It shifts to all gears now, kinda tight, but obviously the pin serves some purpose??? Please help!!

----Oops.. the pin won't go back in because it sheared off, broke it two.. Just curious as to what purpose it serves. As I said it shifts okay now, but will this cause problems down the road? Also, this forum is a lifesaver! I've been starting in neutral for 8 months. Had no idea it would be such an easy fix! Thanks again

To repair the shifter cable bracket:

1/4 ratchet
T-30 Torx bit socket
4 inch extension
and about ten minutes of your time, if you use these tools you will be able to access both bolts

The bolts are mounted vertically so the heads face the firewall. They are located above the steering column knuckle and back about an inch. The bolts are about 1-2 inches apart. I'm 6 feet and 200lbs so access isn't that bad. You will need to be on your back (on the floorboard) with a decent light source. Of note, there are two similar bolts below the steering knuckle that are likely the same size so if you need to size the torx bolt head use those for reference (they appear to hold the steering knuckle in place). I found that both were loose and a quick tightening cured the problem.

What if one of the bolts are missing? Does anyone know the size or part number?

2003 Ranger..slipping out of park and no low gear. Fixed!

Just want to add my bit and keep this thread alive to help the next guy...

So I had no Low "1" gear for at least a year. I never really used it and have plenty of other crap to do like everyone else, so I didn't bother to diagnose the problem. Then one day I had the "slipping out of park" problem. So I went through my chilton manual, and followed it's advice and got underneath and started messing with the linkage while my wife shifted. No matter what I did, I could not get it to stay in Low, and I was able to only slightly improve its ability to stay in park.

I gave up for the day, hoping the solution would come to me in a dream, and then I found this thread. Sure enough, I found that I have the two T30 torx bolts holding down a bracket under the steering column. One was almost 1/2" out (!!), and the other was about 1/8" (!) out. Not even close to secured. I cranked them down using my handy flex-shaft screwdriver adapter, which made this task a million times easier. Getting your arms in there to turn them is somewhat of a contortionist act. The shift lever now works like new. I have Low gear again, and I have no doubt it will stay in park now.

Unbelievable that there is no thread lock, lock washers, or any other sort of retention for the hardware in this area of the machine. I can't help but wonder how many people have replaced $100 parts for no reason and/or paid people hundreds of dollars to "fix" this problem. Not at all an obvious problem.

+100 points, and 1,000 thank yous to the one who discovered the bolt problem and shared it.

With a T30 I solved a big problem on my Ford Explorer sohc 4.0 limited 2000. Thanks very much guys!!!

Glad it worked...

Yes it seems that this is a flawed design...I suppose maybe it is done this way for ease of assembly or repair later on...good thing it is another easy fix on the exploder...I sold mine but do miss it...thinking of getting another. But hard to justify getting worse gas mileage than a Expedition or Navigator and having less power, less room and less towing capacity. Driving the Navigator now.

The loose screws was the issue with 2002 Explorer Sport with 83k miles. Tighten them up yesterday and it works perfect now.

Checked mine to-day (2001 Sport Trac 4X4 280,000 km) one a little loose. Pulled both out put on Blue Loctite tighten them both down should have no worries now

.....and still it pays to come here . Just today mine started not going into park. found this gold colored bolt on the floor. came home, read this 10 minutes~~~~~~~Thanks going to renew my Elite membership. No to change the shocks on my 2001 Mountaineer!

I've been having a problem similar to this on my Ranger. Lots of play in the shifter lever, occasionally won't engage park or 1st, problem got progressively worse. A tutorial I found on YouTube showed me the issue with the bolts on the cable coupling bracket, so I tightened those down with some Locktite on them, but the issue didn't go away. I finally got up the guts (none of my family is into cars) to pull my dash apart and drop my steering column and found that my forward shift tube clamp was busted all to hell and back and my bushings had disintegrated.

I found this really funny when I found it. The guy at the auto parts store tried to sell me a $75 neutral safety switch a few hours earlier, and I was pretty frickin sure
that wasn't my problem. XD


For future reference, anytime you have to rely on someone behind the counter at an auto parts store you will not get good information. Most of the people that work at auto parts stores make around $10 an hour and know very little about about vehicles in general (let alone your specific vehicle).

Glad it worked...

Yes it seems that this is a flawed design...I suppose maybe it is done this way for ease of assembly or repair later on...good thing it is another easy fix on the exploder...I sold mine but do miss it...thinking of getting another. But hard to justify getting worse gas mileage than a Expedition or Navigator and having less power, less room and less towing capacity. Driving the Navigator now.

and I bought another...the explorations continue.

I just spent a little bit of time reading this thread then noticed how old it was
I had the trifecta
Loose shifter bolts
The plastic bushings
And the little rubber bushing that goes where the end of the actual shift lever..arm