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Shift Linkage

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Last week when I pulled into a gas station and was shifting from 1st gear to reverse, the bottom of the two shift mechanisms touched slightly and popped the ball outta the shift ball socket (2000MY see below for circled area) and although I could shift from side to side, I was unable to put the car in any gear. Anyways I was able to pop the ball back into the socket with a pair of needle nose pliers, no big deal, but now I am thinking that they shouldnt ever touch (they only come close when shifting into reverse)and therefore am planning on adjusting the cables as detailed in the shop manual. I do have a couple questions for anyone who may have some experience in this area.

1. Is this a common problem?

2. Any easy way of prising the shifter ball joints out of the sockets to facilitate adjustment?

3. any other adjustment tricks to make the job easier?

4. Both sockets on the front and rear of the cable are sitting at an angle rather than horizontal exposing more of the ball. Shouldnt these sockets be straight?


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