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My 1994 Nissan Sentra started being difficult to start a couple of weeks ago. I'd have to shift into Neutral in order for it to start. I figured the automatic shifter cable was loose again, so I went and took a look. Everything seemed reasonably snug.

This week, I could no longer shift from Drive to Neutral. I mean, I could move the shifter to Neutral, but the tranny was still in Drive. The only way to reach Neutral was to shift up into Reverse first, then Neutral. And the shifter started feeling stiff. So I took the shifter housing off and went to take a look, I figured something needs lube or something wore out. No, everything looks the way it should, I couldn't find the cause of the stiffness or why it's not shifting properly.

Last night, I went over to my friend's place for him to take a look, and it's also easier to adjust the tranny cable with 2 people. He couln't find anything either, so he completely disconnected the cable from the transmission housing in order to rule that out. The shifter was still very stiff, but moving it wasn't moving the tranny-side end of the cable. We disconnected the cable from the shifter's end, and found the cable had snapped. Snapped cable, solid core, wound outer layer

We also found the reason for the shifter stiffness. Bunched up winding

The cable is a solid core steel cable, with twisted "aircraft cable" on the outside. The twisted part snapped first and bunched itself up at the shifter's end of the cable and was jamming.

Part stores don't have a replacement, neither do transmission shops. Everybody is sending me to the dealership, and they're back-ordered. I've found a shop that can reattach the old ends onto a new cable, but I need to supply the cable. I've tried finding a supplier for this type of cable but have failed.

I've also gone to the local junkyards, the 1 location that has this make and model is a friggin manual transmission, not an auto. Ebay doesnt have this, neither does mercadolibre (Mexican eBay, this car is very popular down there).

Any ideas what applications (tower tethers, structural cabling, etc) use cables of this type?

  • You realize this is a shopping question? Maybe here. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Nov 16 '16 at 1:57
  • @Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 edited question to make it less shoppy. – tlhIngan Nov 16 '16 at 4:32
  • The primary specifications you are looking for is the ends, cable length, and the sheath (cover) length, and cable type. I would go to the junkyard and look at automatic transmission cables for other similar vehicles. I wouldn't be surprised if you would find something on another car that would be close enough to make fit. You may have to modify/swap the bushings that connect to the shifter and transmission. I know a friend had custom cables made once, so there are companies that do it as long as they have specs. – rpmerf Nov 16 '16 at 16:26
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I couldn't find the complete part either, and I have me m4d skiLz for this sort of thing usually.

I do, however, know that you can get Hurst and B&M generic cables from outfits like Summit and Jeggs. You could either modify those or attach your old ends.

(I have no ownership or stock in either of the mentioned companies. But considering the amount I've spent over 40 years, I should!)

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Automatic shifter cable replacements come in 4 varieties:

  • OEM exact replacement, found at your dealership or through online websites that have access to the dealership ordering system
  • aftermarket exact replacement, found at parts stores
  • generic replacements, also found at parts stores, but may need modification of the cable, the brackets or your vehicle for them to fit
  • make your own cable, if you can source the exact spec of cable and the ends you need

In my particular situation:

  • aftermarket replacements were never made (this is a dealer-only part, at least for this make and model)
  • the dealership had the part back-ordered for 4-6 weeks, and from previous experience trying to source a bumper rebar for this same vehicle 6 months ago, anything they quote over 2 weeks is a code phrase for "Ya ain't gettin it, boy"
  • my vehicle is broken down on the other side of town, I ain't getting into customizations and modifications in this specific situation
  • I could not source the cable locally for a DIY replacement, and I struck out at the junkyards too

In the end, I found a dealership halfway around the world, where this car is still common and popular, that has the OEM cable in stock and ships using FedEx.

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