Gear selector cable/linkage loose, car will not start

My Son has 2008 Saturn Aura with 3.5 V6. Car was running fine. He went to back out of parking space and the gear shift select would not engage any gear and was loose and would slide back and forth between the gears without depressing the button on the gear shift. He put the car in park and and turned it off. The car will not start now and when you turn the key to the on position the shift will slide in between gears without locking. Park is the only place it will lock and the car will now start. ANy suggestion?

Thank you!

My car has 130000 miles.
My car has an automatic transmission.

Experienced mechanics share their insights in answering this question :
Hi there – based on your description, I believe part of the gear selector cable/linkage is no longer anchored or connected. Besides the "free movement" of the shifter as you describe, it is also not registering properly with the neutral safety switch – which prevents engine start. I would recommend having a mobile, professional mechanic, such as one from YourMechanic examine your Saturns shifter mechanism. S/he will come to your location, diagnose this problem, give you an accurate assessment of damage and cost estimate for repairs.

How to Identify and Fix Common car Problems ?

Our sources include academic articles, blog posts, and personal essays from experienced mechanics :

If the linkage is not correctly aligned, it will cause various problems, including an inability to engage drive or to start the engine.
If the shift selector cable is going bad, the indicator light or cable will not match the gear you are in. For example, when you move from park to drive, it may say you are in park. This means the cable has stretched to where it doesn`t move to the correct spot and the incorrect gear noted.
With bushings, thumping, bumping, squealing, and whirring sounds are most common. This indicates a problem with the shift linkage, and that problem could be a worn bushing.
When a shifter bushing is worn, the shifter feels loose. It`s because the worn bushing left a gap between the handle and the shift rail. Shift rails have detent notches machined into their sides. A spring-loaded ball fits into the detent notch to keep the transmission in gear.
Bad Sensors

One common culprit for this problem is the crankshaft position sensor, which measures the position and speed of the crankshaft. The computer uses the information from this sensor to know when to fire the spark plugs. If the sensor isn`t working, the spark plugs won`t fire, keeping the engine from starting.

Technically speaking, yes you can drive a car with a broken shifter cable but it is not recommended. Driving with a broken or failing shifter cable is dangerous, hazardous, and unpredictable at best.
Automatic gearbox telltale signs include hesitation, slipping, or “trembling” during gear changes. Manuals are more likely to grind. Jerking and clunking noises are more likely to be caused by failing engine and transmission mounts.
In an automatic transmission, slipping can be caused by wear and tear on numerous different parts. These include damaged or worn clutch plates, transmission bands, and solenoid packs. If your automatic transmission has been slipping, it`s likely a technician will replace some or all of these parts to fix the problem.
Why won`t my car start but I have power? If you attempt to start up your car but the engine won`t turn over and the dashboard lights up, then you most likely have an issue with your battery. You could have a damaged or corroded battery terminal, which is stopping the engine from starting up when you fully turn the key.
Car Will Not Start: Over time, as the camshaft position sensor fails, the signal it sends to the engine control module weakens. When the engine no longer receives the signal, you will not be able to start your car.
What is a shift linkage? Shift Linkage refers to the car cables that connect the gearshift or gear selector to the transmission. Gear shift linkage, shifting linkage and transmission shift linkage (transmission linkage) are related terms.
As tight as needed to have accurate shifting. First turn the barrel adjuster in the loosest setting and then wind it back (tighter) a couple clicks. Then pull the cable fairly tight and lock the cable. Finally, see if the shifter makes the derailleur shift to the correct gears.
Hard shifting, sluggish transmission, or gears slipping: With a manual transmission, you may start to notice that it becomes harder to change gears, or that the shifter pops out of gear. With an automatic transmission, you might experience a slipping of gears while you`re driving.
Common symptoms of a snapped clutch cable:

Clutch pedal sinks freely to the floor – When the clutch cable snaps, there will be no resistance when the pedal is pressed down. This will cause the clutch pedal to sink straight to the floor when pressed.

The most skillful drivers can shift non-synchronous transmissions without using the clutch by bringing the engine to exactly the right RPM in neutral before attempting to complete a shift. If done improperly, it can damage or destroy a transmission. Some truck drivers use this technique with the higher gears.
A damaged shifter cable will not start your vehicle from a neutral or drive position. The car can start at any gear. That is risky and if the cable breaks while driving, stop the vehicle and tow it to a mechanic. As a driver, it is important to be aware of the gear position at all times.
The transmission has no effect on the starter. The engine will start without a transmission.
The transmission has no effect on the starter. The engine will start without a transmission.
If the torque converter is broken, or if there is a low fluid level in the transmission, the converter will not do its job, and the car will be unable to maintain power at low speeds, which causes the engine to shut off.

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Gear selector cable/linkage loose, car will not start
ANSWER : Hi there – based on your description, I believe part of the gear selector cable/linkage is no longer anchored or connected. Besides the "free movement" of the shifter as you describe, it is also not registering properly with the neutral safety switch – which prevents engine start. I would recommend having a mobile, professional mechanic, such as one from YourMechanic examine your Saturns shifter mechanism. S/he will come to your location, diagnose this problem, give you an accurate assessment of damage and cost estimate for repairs.

Map sensor car won’t start up good ?
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Suddenly cannot shift car into gear.
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There could be multiple problems on your Saturn that are causing this problem you’re experiencing. If your clutch is worn it won’t allow you to put your car in gear. When you step on the clutch, the transmission disengages from the engine. This slows the insides of the transmission just enough to allow you to shift gears. When the clutch is worn, the slave cylinder doesn’t have enough travel to disengage the clutch from the engine, so it wont allow you to put it in gear. It’s also possible that you have broken a shift fork in the transmission. The shift forks are what actually move the slides inside the gear box to engage the gears when you move the shifter. The best way to determine exactly why you’re car won’t shift into gear is have a professional mobile mechanic complete a car is hard to shift inspection.