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2002 Manual Trans. Notchiness Shifting To Third Gear

by autotech2612, May 21, 2016

'02 Corolla, manual trans.

Last month, I noticed shifting to third was more "notchy" than usual. I can still get into gear, but I have to push a little harder.

Neighbor came over, a backyard mechanic, and stated it could be a synchro. He also recommended draining out half my MT-90 and replacing it with one quart Synchromesh. (So, I have one quart Redline MT-90 and one quart Pennzoil Synchromesh)

I did that. No change.

I live in Michigan -- do I need to lubricate anything underneath?

Shifting to other gears is great. There are also no noises.

Thoughts, anyone? Has anyone else experienced this or is experiencing this?

Yeah, mixing a little Synchromesh is a trick to get the syncros to "mesh" faster. But that generally works better if the trans is grinding between gears.

Possible it could be a bushing issue on the shift cables (both on the shifter plate and the transaxle). If the bushings are worn, it makes it act like the shifter is not fully following the gate, like pulling on the side of the shifter as you run through the gears. Could cause it to hang up, feel "sticky" or "notchy".

Also, could still be a worn syncro - not unheard of on this generation of Corolla. The gear oil you have in there - Redline MT-90 - is pretty much the best you could run, IMO. Same stuff that I'd run in my own manual gearboxes.

Could try running some of the gear oil you drained out through a coffee filter - see if you can see any brass materials being shaved off. That would definitely tell you the syncro is bad.

I'd check the shift bushing first - then go to being a back syncro. Nothing really to lube around there, other than the shift bushings - which tend to already be self-lubricating. If you notice that shifting is a little "off" in all the gears, then I'd really suspect the bushings. If only 3rd gear gives you problems - that leans more toward being a bad syncro - but I wouldn't rule out anything else.

The bushing replacement is the same for most Toyotas - there should be lots of videos and DIY guides floating around online.

I have looked for guides for replacing the bushings on 98-02 Corolla stick shifts and came up empty-handed. Okay: Two bushings under the car, but any inside? I removed the plastic console that surrounds the shifter.

Did not notice any shavings when I drained into a white container. I even put it on my fingers a few times and observed.

Here's the basic search results on YouTube:

Correct, the 8th gen are cable actuated shifts. Definitely two bushings underneath the car - on the transaxle itself. The shifter base - I can't remember if those are molded directly into the base or are separate.

Hmm - interesting. If you shift gently, no issues going into 3rd. That is pretty much defines what a bad syncro.does or if the clutch is dragging. Because it seems to be restricted to one gear, that seems to lean more to a syncro issue. Could be others things - possible internal to the transaxle, like a bad selector or burrs on the gear itself. But lots of times, those will show up as a massive amount of shavings in the oil pan. Sounds like yours is OK.

I'd still try and see if new bushings help - you don't have to use the solid ones, new OEM rubber ones will help as well. Drawback with those solid bushings, even though they have zero slack / movement - is that it will restrict the cable from turning slightly. Normally not an issue - but in cases where one gear is sticking - it may make the problem worse if the alignment of the gate is not spot on. They make spherical bearings - but those can be expensive / hard to find.

Thanks, Fish. Next step is finding the new bushings complete with new cotter pins. I scoured the web (including Rock and eBay) earlier and I can't find the bushings for the 8th generation with a manual. I was able to locate bushing kits for the 9th generation with an automatic. Are you aware of a good source?

Sources that I've seen mentioned by other owners were:


TWM Performance

I think Speed-Source was one of the first out there, the old TRD forums members used to swear by that site. Same with TWM - more for their weighted shift knobs and short shifters - but they also sell bushings.

Speed Source looks like the most viable source.

Just wondering -- why can't I find these bushings anywhere else? Toyota OEM is unavailable, RockAuto obviously doesn't carry them and they are also unavailable at JC Whitney.

I think it's going to be easy enough to replace the two; I did notice there are zero bushings in the interior area around the shift knob after I removed the console.

I just don't understand why bushings have to be "hunted down", especially since they don't last forever.

So, for my zip code, $34. Here is the link:

Yeah, not just with Toyota - but there are some hardware that is very difficult to find - even from a dealership. They just don't run into cases where they can stock a part. Luckily, these cars have enough of a following that some vendors - like speed-source and Monkey Wrench Racing - stock these parts for this generation.

Replaced them today with the brass bushings from Speed Source.

Old were somewhat of a pain to get off.

A lot stiffer now, this will take some getting used to.

It's been awhile since I posted photos, can someone give me a quick refresher?

Still feels notchy to a degree. . .

You can use an online photo sharing site - like photobucket, flickr, etc. - to upload your photos. I don't think the site will let you directly upload a photo, think it only asks for a URL link, which those sites will provide.

The stiffness in shifting has finally went away as the bushings have seated. Feels normal and that noticeable notchiness is gone

Sweet! Good to hear.

After unhooking the shifter cables, remove and open your selecting bellcrank assembly (by removing its rubber cap, lock nut and washer) which is bolted on top of your tranny, to clean out the rust and grease it up. Grease its square bushing at bottom too, and be careful not to lose it... You should also pull the boot back on your cable ends to sand off the oxidation on the extending rods, clean and grease them as well after running some penetrating oil in the cables.

Dom -- I replaced the bushings about two weeks ago, so this suggestion would involve unhooking the cables again...

Yeah, you just need to pull out the rear shifter cable's inner retainer pin (not the outer circlip), and slip the cable end from the selecting bellcrank assy. It's held on top of tranny by just two bolts... Set it in a table vise and remove rubber boot, nut and washer to separate it. You'll probably find it's dry packed with rust dust. Clean and brush it out, then pack it with NLGI # 2 grease (as used for chassis, ball joints, etc), water resistant if possible.

To access your shifter cable end rods, you just need to pull back the rubber boots. You may have to cut off the metal straps visible in your photo (Not sure how mine were originally tied on.). When done cleaning and lubing, you can pack some grease in the boots, then use small zip-ties to hold them back in place.

Thanks Dom -- this will have to wait until next month. Is there a substitute for lack of a table vise?

I've never heard of anyone else doing this...

I've heard of a similar procedure for motorbikes - as rust can form inside the cable assemblies. Same with cable release to the hood on cars - atleast in principle.

Haven't heard it done recently - most opt to replace the cables if they are that FUBAR. Could try squirting some lube into the cable end, hope that capillary action will wick that lubricant up. Have to use something with some penetrating power, like Kroil or PB Blaster. But I'd be afraid that it could attract more dust / dry out and make the problem worse.

Thanks Dom -- this will have to wait until next month. Is there a substitute for lack of a table vise?

I've never heard of anyone else doing this...

You should be fine with an adjustable wrench or Vise-Grip pliers to hold selecting bellcrank support while loosening the nut.

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I've had to clean off the rust on the front cable end mostly because water was being ingested until I zip-tied the front cable's boot.

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Yeah, so much for that.

Dom, I'm not trying to be rude/disrespectful and snub your help, but not everything -- with a busy person -- is going to happen immediately. Many things won't be addressed until Autumn 2017.


Thank you for your assistance.

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