Replacing the
Shifter Seat
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Last Update: March 13, 2006
One of the most overlooked common problems with higher mileage Toyota 4x4s, is the worn shifter seat bushing.  The worn shifter seat
manifests itself in most cases by a transmission shifter that is loose and/or sometimes pops out of gear.    One has to wonder how many
transmissions have  been needlessly rebuilt over the years because this simple fix was overlooked.

In my case, the shifter wasn't particularly loose and it rarely popped out of gear.   However, the gear engagement just never felt right.    Because my
truck has well over 200,000 miles on it and because this repair is so cheap and simple, I figured I'd go ahead and give it a try anyway.   I was
amazed at what I found and the difference it made when I was done.

The Toyota 4x4 shifter design for the W, G and R series manual transmissions, is fairly simple.   The bottom half of the shifter sits in a bell which
rests and pivots on a rubber seat.   On the end of the shifter is a piece of plastic that sits in a seat and moves a lever inside the transmission to
change gears.    

On most trucks, it's the round rubber seat that wears out first and causes most of the problems.    The shifter mechanism has notches which
prevent it from not working at all, but once the seat is worn, it ceases to have a good base from which to pivot against the lever and the shifter will
no longer positively engage in gear.  In many cases, when the situation gets really bad the shifter will regularly pop out of gear and the shifter will
feel overly loose, especially in neutral.

The fix involves buying two simple parts.   The shifter seat and the shifter end cap.  These parts might go by another name.  Toyota used to sell
these parts separately.   I've had mixed results.   I was able to buy the end cap, but my dealer would only sell the rubber seat if I purchased the
extremely expensive shifter cover along with it.  

Fortunately, Marlin Crawler has an even better solution.   Not only can you purchase both parts very cheaply and easily, Marlin sells a much better
solid plastic seat to replace the factory rubber seat.  The affect is much the same as replacing rubber suspension bushings with polyurethane
bushings.   A slightly firmer shifter feel, and a longer lasting mechanism.

Visit this part of Marlin Crawler's website for more information on the shifter seat and installation

When I pulled the shifter out of the transmission, I expected to find a seat that was worn, but intact.  What I found was a seat that had literally
disintegrated into fine little pieces.   I was shocked.   I knew that my effort wouldn't be in vain now.   Once I replaced the parts and put it all back
together, I immediately noticed that the shifter felt much firmer.   That shifter wanted to go back to neutral a lot easier than before and most
noticeably that each gear notch felt about twice as deep as before and much more positive.    It was clear that before the shifter was not fully
engaging each gear.   How this affected the transmission itself is not clear, but I did notice that a strange noise that I always heard in 5th gear
which sounded like constant gear whining was now gone.
The very first thing to do is remove the shifter cover and boots.    On my model, a 1989 W56 transmission, there was an outer one piece shifter boot for both the
transmission and T-case shifters, an inner shifter boot (both of which not shown in these photos) and yet another shifter boot at the base of the shifter where it goes into
the transmission.  All of these boots need to be removed or moved out of of the way.  
The hardest part of the whole project is removing the shifter from the transmission.   Toyota chose a weird mechanism that is difficult to undo by hand.  According to the
Toyota manual, you're supposed to use a cloth (like the middle photo) and push down in the base of the shifter while at the same time turning it counter clockwise (as
shown in the far left photo).   You don't have to turn it far before it releases, but it's difficult to say the least.   Once it's turned enough, the internal spring will release, the
ring will pop up (far right photo) and the shifter can easily be pulled out of the transmission.
The left photo shows the shifter right after I pulled it out of the transmission.  The two right photos show internal shifter seat.   That dirt and grim is actually the remains of
the original rubber shifter seat that had disintegrated.
The shifter end cap is usually not worn to the point of absolutely needing to be replaced in most cases, although my original end cap had a strange grove shape to it
compared to the new piece.   I don't know if that was normal or signs of wear.   I replaced it anyway.   Getting it off the shifter required a pair of pliers and ended up
destroying the end cap.  The new one snapped on fairly easily.   Note the comparison of the old and new parts side by side.
When pulling out the pieces of the old seat, be careful not to drop pieces into the transmission.   The factory rubber seat is designed to be squeezed into place.  The
solid plastic Marlin Crawler piece cant squeeze around the two notches in the shifter base, so two small notches were cut into the new seat to allow it to slide into and
then under into place.  
This part of Marlin's website shows how to install the new seat quite well.
The rebuilt shifter ready to be installed.   I took the shifter  apart and cleaned it all up before installing.   I noticed that it appears to have grease on it from the factory, so
I coated it all in a very light layer of grease, just to be safe.  I'm not sure if this is necessary or not.
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