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New To Forums Need Help Shift Lever Off, Slips

Chad Gertler

September 23, 2018
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City, State
Centerburg, Ohio
Year, Model & Trim Level
1999 Ford Explorer XLT
I just bought a 1999 Ford Explorer XLT 2WD 4.0 SOHC in mint condition with only 118,000 miles and meticulously cared for. The only things I've done to it was aftermarket exhaust and synthetic oil. I had to replace the anti-sway arm bushings as well.
The only problem I am having is with the shift lever. When I got it I noticed that the gear indicator was off. I have to go past the letter or number. I could deal with that but after driving it a while I started to have problems where it'll feel as though it's going into neutral. But after I move the shifter lever around it'll go back into drive ok. Recently I started to put it all the way down into 1st gear and then back to drive and I won't have any trouble with it. So I'm pretty confident it has something to do with the linkage and nothing in the transmission.
I was wondering if anyone has figured something like this out. I watched a couple youtube videos on how to fix the indicator and one on how the cable can be loose. Just registered on here and haven't had a lot of time to look around and was hoping someone could link me to a post on here that might be able to help me. Thanks in advance.

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Yeh, that was one of the ones I watched. I'm afraid that just adjusts the gear indicator and won't fix how it's not entirely in gear and slips. I don't know if there is an adjustment up top or down on the transmission that would ensure that it gets in the right slot on the tranny so that it's firmly in gear. But thank you. I'll watch the whole video and maybe try it and see.

Or maybe the cable is stretched or otherwise bad. Does anyone know if that happens?

The gear indicator fix works i have done it
In the vid he shows you where to tighten up the sloppy shift lever

Love to hear if it worked if it didn't we will figure it out

Finally got to this and.... didn't work :-(
The little cable he's adjusting in the video goes over to the indicator on the dash. So it only adjusts that and not the linkage for the shifter. I did have the problem as well and was able to fix that. Side note....that video is really well done. Makes all the other videos painfully slow.
The other thing on the video is a loose bolt down under there and he suggest re-tightening with locktite. Mine was still tight.
I've seen a few other videos that deal with worn out bushings along the steering column and a few on cable replacements. Anyone know of other reasons?
I guess I'll start by checking the bushings

Nothing to do with transmission, but the gear indicator needle is controlled by a super-thin piece of wire that has an adjuster on it. It located behind the plastic knee trim panel and the metal panel behind that.

Sometimes you may be able to turn the adjuster's thumb-wheel to get the indicator needle to point directly at the gear you're in. Sometimes the adjuster is broken, but you can still make it work properly by adding a wire-tie to it.

Yes, I was able to fix that. The bigger problem is that when I put it in drive and start off down the road it'll slip into neutral sometimes. I don't believe it is anything in the transmission but with the linkage. Because if I take it down to first gear and then up to drive it'll work fine.
I have now also checked the bushings and possible loose bolts that are along the shaft on the steering column. Everything is tight there. So now my last thing is the cable. Maybe it's stretched and needs replaced. Or does anyone know of a way to adjust it?

There is adjustment possible on the shift cable itself. It's located on the driver's side (left side) of the transmission. I would disconnect the cable from the transmission and work the trans linkage thru the gears by hand, also moving the shift lever to the corresponding position and see if things line up. If not, adjust the shift cable accordingly.

That's something I was looking for. I'm putting things back together from earlier and I was going to get under there and take a look. Thanks!
I built a custom 55 Ford F100 years ago and had a 302 engine with a C3 automatic transmission. I had bought a custom gear shifter for the floor to give it the look of a stock standard shift transmission. In setting it up I remember turning the lever on the side of the transmission and feeling the stops for each gear and then aligning that with the stops of the custom shifter. I was hoping that not to much has changed and I could do a similar adjustment on here. Will see.

IDK that you'll find the same thing on the Explorer transmission. Gear selection may be more electronic. Not sure, but I know there is a provision for adjusting the shift cable. Kinda remove a clip and move the cable in or out, then replace the clip affair. They call the thing in the photo below a "neutral safety switch/range selector". You'll also see it on the left side of the trans and it interacts with the cable. Perhaps the hole in the center of it fits on a shaft that goes into the trans.


I'm under it now and I didn't see anything like that yet. I see the cable going to the shift lever on the transmission. Then there is a black plastic piece with some off white plastic where it looks like there would be some sort of adjustment there. Any idea how that adjuster works?

It's been almost 8 years since I messed with the shift cable on our first Explorer. Sorry I don't recall exactly how the adjustment worked, but I know there was some way to adjust the cable at the trans.

Ok, thanks for you help. I'll craw back under there and see if I can't figure it out.

I checked the adjustment and everything is in line down there. I did end up seeing that neutral switch. Good to remember if it ever won't start. So everything looks good but it still will seem to slip into neutral sometimes right after putting it in Drive. Must be internal? Fluids good. It only does it occasionally and only a few times starting out. And if I take it down to 1st and then to drive it doesn't seem to do it. So maybe I'll live with it. Just worried something might go wrong later.

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That sounds like the loose bolts, exactly like them to me. I doubt you're having a cable issue, I've never seen one of the cables have any issues or even heard of it. Check the bolts.