89 Suburban Automatic transmission Shift handle problem


Old 01-02-03, 01:27 AM
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89 Suburban Automatic transmission Shift handle problem

I have a 1989 1500 Suburban, 2WD, Automatic transmission with overdrive, 350 V8 gas, A/C, cruise control, 181,000 km (109,000 miles). The car does not have a press brake to shift from Park feature.

The problem is that the automatic transmission shift handle does not go back to its fully released position by itself after each time I pull it in toward me to shift to different gear postion, e.g. from Park to R, or D, or to any other position. I call "fully released position" the farthest forward position away from driver.
Left on its own after a gear shift change, the handle will float betwen the fully pulled in (toward driver) position and the fully released position. I have to manually push the handle forward in order to "lock" it into any desired gear position, and there is very little resistance felt whether to push the handle out or pull it in.

It happened when I was about to start driving the car. The handle was in Park postion, so I pulled it in toward me, the handle displayed some initial small resistance as it used to (which is quite normal). I guessed I must have pulled the handle in all the way toward me; when doing that I heard a click like something has snapped. After that instant, the handle did not want to return to the full release position under its own action (I am guessing here that the lever is kind of being spring loaded for the full release position) nor showing any resistance when being pulled in. Other than this problem, I can shift to any gear position all right and be able to move the lever to its release position manually.
What I am worried is the handle may jump out of the release position on its own and accidentally drop to the next gear, like jumping out of Park position.
Could you please advise what is wrong and how can I fix it. Many thanks.

PS. I should add that on the turn signal lever, I saw a pair of broken wires at the lever end, the other end is still connected to something inside the steering column. I imagined this is the cruise control wiring and as it happened quite a while before shift handle problem, I guess it's probably relevant to my problem above.
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Old 01-02-03, 02:47 AM
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Louisiana
Posts: 438
There is a spring in the steering column that presses against the shift lever on the inboard side of the shift lever pin. It appears that your's broke.
You have to go into the steering column to replace the spring. It's not a difficult job (1 hour for a novice) and any Hayne's or Chilton's manual will give you clear instructions on how to get the column open. Be sure to index your steering wheel to the shaft so you put the wheel back on straight. The job will require a steering wheel puller and tilt pressure plate tool. You will also need a couple of very small screw drivers to remove the tilt plate locking ring. Tools can be borrowed from most Autozones if you place a deposit. You will have to purchase the new spring from your Chevrolet dealer.
I wouldn't worry too much about the tranny changing gears unless it is bumped, but I would go ahead and repair this when time permits.

While you're in there, you may want to go ahead and repair your cruise control. New switch should cost around $50-60 and is available from most parts stores. The wire threads down through the left bottom side of the steering column and plugs in to a small connector usually located under the steering column down close to the brake light switch (towards the right side). Be sure you route the wiring correctly (through plastic sleeve) so you don't pinch your wire when re-installing everthing.

Good Luck!
Old 01-02-03, 07:16 AM
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I'm with Dan on this one. Said very well.

Any GM dealer (doesn't have to be a truck dealer) can order the parts, as each division has all of the other parts catalogs and access to them. Chances are a truck dealer might stock the part though. Other divisions (i.e. a Buick dealer) might have to order it.
Old 01-03-03, 10:15 AM
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Many thanks, Dan and Joe, for the detailed explanation. I will try to repair this in the spring when the weather will be warmer. Thanks again.


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