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2001 SL only goes in 1st and 2nd gear

sdsunsdsun Posts: 13
I couldn't find any other threads that addressed my problem, so here goes:

I was on my way to the store earlier today. Started the car, put in reverse, backed out, no problem---just like anyother day. Put in first gear then started rolling. As I neared the RPM to shift to second, the gearbox was wobbly (which was strange), put it into second, then I had to downshift. It felt wierd. I pulled over. Car only goes into 1st and 2nd gear, I have no neutral and can't get into the other gears.

Some nice guy came up to me to see what the problem was. He told me it might be my clutch cable. He was nice enough to stop traffic for me so I could flip a u-turn in 1st gear to head back home.

So I'm home now, clutch can go into 1st or 2nd. Clutch feels normal, gearbox (where shifter is) is loose. Can anyone one please shed some light on my problem? I have a 2001 Saturn SL, I just hit 200,000 miles. I love this car. Runs great until today, just cant get into other gears or reverse. :(

Any and all help is greatly appreciated.


  • saturntech9saturntech9 Posts: 152
    Sounds like the shift cable end broke at the base of the shifter the inside cable end really common on that car.First go under the hood where the shift cables hook make sure the retaining clip is holding the cables in place on the transmission.Then make sure the clips are holding the cable ends on the shift arms on the transmission.If all is good then pull the center console out and see if the cable end broke at the base of the shifter it wil be easy to see if it did.If it did they sell a cable end repair kit on ebay just type in the search box saturn cable end.Do not by the doorman repair kit its a piece of junk and will short come loose again.I have tried that one get the one piece one that just snaps in place of the old cable end retainer.
  • What is the part number or where can I get retaining clip that holds shift cable to the transmission??? Have a 1998 saturn and it's missing and I can not find one....
  • I got mine on ebay here is the link to the one i got and it worked great. id=27706011690
    Let me know how it works out for you.
  • I have a 2001 SL and the car has 198,000 miles on it it takes up a bit of oil but i see NO LEaks any where do I crack it up to the engine has so many miles or what should i look for? I have not driven it until the oil light comes on so no problems drives like a champ, starts of kinda slow on hills though?
  • How much oil does it use in 3,000 miles?
  • 1 quarte but i see NO signs of leaks!
  • 1Qt in 3,000 miles of oil burning thru the engine is good.Saturn specs allows 1qt in 2,000 miles burning so 1qt in 3,000 miles is good.
  • great just wondering is all i thought it was unusual
  • Its normal for that car.
  • shopdog97shopdog97 Posts: 151
    Need your help, people. My '96 SL-1 shifted great for the 6 years I've had it. Bought it with 88K on it and now it's a little over 129K. I've been experiencing difficulty getting back into 1st gear after I come to a stop. It SHIFTS OK from 1st to 2nd, a little rough into 3rd, fine into 4th and 5th and no issue with reverse! I thought it may be the shift cables, but they seem to be fine. I checked everything I know to check and took it to my local mechanic down the street. He does things for me when I can't. He drove it and pronounced the clutch fine, but told me that he feels the syncronizer(s)may be the issue and suggested another transmission! Just got laid off last week, so that ain't gonna happen. I called a local salvage yard specializing in Saturns, and he tells me that HE believes it's the slave cylinder, not the trans. He tells me to pump the clutch the next time I'm at a stop and see if it goes into 1st easier. Now I haven't done this yet, but I will tomorrow. He said these manual transmissions are very good and he suspects the slave. According to my repair manual, this is a sealed unit that comes with a new master cylinder, hose and the slave to replace as one unit. If this is truly what's wrong with my car, it sure would be a hell of a lot cheaper than a used tranny and the labor to install it! Does anyone out there have any info/suggestions? Thank you!!
  • saturntech9saturntech9 Posts: 152
    Is the clutch pedal hard all the way down or does it drop some then get hard?
  • shopdog97shopdog97 Posts: 151
    The pedal SEEMS fine to me, saturntech9. It doesn't feel like a spongy brake pedal does when there's a problem. I checked the clutch master cylinder reservoir and it's full to where it should be. When the guy at the salvage yard suggested it was a slave cylinder issue and not the tranny, my thinking was how can the slave be bad if I'm not losing any brake fluid? I see repacement slave/master cylinder kits out there and come filled and ready to install for about $90( has several listings) I'l go out in a little while and re-evaluate it and let you know what I find. Thanks for responding.
  • shopdog97shopdog97 Posts: 151
    I went out this morning in my Saturn and had NO issues shifting until the last mile or two of my trip which was a total of about 8 miles altogether. So this is just happening when the car is fully warmed up? Makes no sense to me at all. I DID pump the clutch like the guy at the salvage yard said to do and I thought it went into 1st gear a little better. I double-clutched at times and had no issue going from 2nd to 3rd like I did yesterday. So other than having a problem getting back into 1st, all else seems to be OK. The clutch pedal felt like it was a little spongy(very little), perhaps I just didn't notice it earlier. I took a closer look at these components, the master cylinder, hoses and the slave that bolts onto the trans and although it looks like it's more than one piece, it is in fact a sealed system that must be replaced as a unit. Looks like the biggest issue might be getting the master cylinder out from the firewall, past the brake booster AND whether there's enough room to clear the ABS unit. My service manual says that on 98 and later models, the ABS might have to be moved out of the way. I don't want to move anything that might get me in further trouble. I just wish I could really be 100% sure that the hydraulic unit(s) is the issue before I spend $100 bucks that I really don't have right now, but I don't believe the problem will go away on its own either. Any help anyone may have, please advise and thanks very much.
  • saturntech9saturntech9 Posts: 152
    Sounds like hydraulic issue or bad pressure plate were the fingers are worn uneven.without driving it feeling the pedal for myself hard to say which it is.If only one gear ihas a problem then your looking at a bad synchro.the clutch master save assembly is easy to change don't ever remember having to untold the master to change it.
  • shopdog97shopdog97 Posts: 151
    Thanks again for responding, Saturntech9. At this moment, I'm debating what to do but I'm leaning to changing all the hydraulics. As you know, they come as a complete kit with the master cylinder, slave, and hoses all pre-filled and ready to install. It doesn't seem like an overly hard job. My rather depleted finances all but force me to try and take the cheapest way out. I will NOT be replacing the trans or the clutch components for sure. In order to change the trans, the engine has to come out and I'm not equipped to do that. I'd have to rent an engine hoist and since I'd be working outside with no cover it isn't really feasible. The cheapest hydraulic kit I've found is from at about $80 shipped directly to me. Autozone is just about $100. I'd rather do new parts for this instead of taking a chance with salvage yard parts. My only concern is that if this doesn't solve the problem, I"m out that $$$ for nothing. I thought about pumping out the master cylinder reservoir and refilling it with fresh brake fluid, driving for a while, pump more out and fill it again to see what fresh fluid would do(if anything) but I really don't think it will help. The guy at Autozone said that the slave or other component could be contaminated and not maintaining proper pressure. I said yesterday that the clutch pedal DID feel a little spongy.

    I'll have to make a decision soon on what to do. But I do thank you for your suggestions. Have a Blessed day.
  • saturntech9saturntech9 Posts: 152
    You have a blessed day as well I have a 5 percent discount code for rock auto if you want it?I order parts from them all the time.
  • shopdog97shopdog97 Posts: 151
    Hey Saturntech9,

    I am going to order that slave/master cylinder assembly from RockAuto. I was going to get it from Autozone as they have one in stock at their Allentown, Pa. store which is about 20 miles from me. But the price with tax will be about $102, and my Mrs. tells me we have to be careful what we spend. I'm thinking about ordering the first one that comes up on the Rockauto page, can't remember the brand name now, but even with shipping the price is slightly over $80, although I'll probably have to wait a week for it. I'd sure be pleased to take advantage of your 5% discount code as ANY help would be greatly appreciated. I'm going on the site now, but I'll wait for your response before I actually order it. I can supply you with my e-mail addy if that's better for you. Thanks so much!
  • shopdog97shopdog97 Posts: 151

    I went onto and the brand name of the part I need is Rhinopac/World Auto. Hope this is a good brand, guess I'll see. I wait for your discount info before I order. Will I have to register with Rockauto to take advantage of the discount? I hope to have the part sometime next week, I think they're out of the midwest somewhere. Anyway, thanks again and have a wonderful weekend.
  • saturntech9saturntech9 Posts: 152
    here is the discount code you type it in the how did you hear about us box when placing the order then hit refresh to apply the code the number is 149366383242193
  • shopdog97shopdog97 Posts: 151
    Thanks for the code number, any thing will help me at this time. Drove my Saturn yesterday morning to church and had virtually no trouble for the 8 mile RT. When I did have a problem getting it back into 1st at a light I just pumped the clutch several times and it went right in. Never experienced anything like this with any manual vehicle I ever had in the past. I had a clutch master cylinder go bad on an old Datsun(now you know how OLD I am, LOL) years ago and back then for 5 bucks I got a rebuild kit and that took care of that. Well I'm gonna go with the replacement kit for this car and pray for the best. Thanks again and God Bless!! (My name is Mike)
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