View Full Version : Solutions to key sticking issue + Shifter knob upgrade

Grant Eaton
09/17/2018, 06:53 PM
Key getting stuck? Here are some things you can try.

The VX has a stiff cable that runs from the shifter to the key mechanism. The cable is there is to prevent you from removing the key unless the vehicle is in park. If the cable gets stuck for some reason, you'll be unable to remove the key. Furthermore, when the cable is in this state, you'll be able to shift out of park without depressing the break or the shift release button. Sometimes shifting in and out of park, fidgeting rapidly with the shifter button, or starting the engine again, will restore the cable mechanism.

The root cause of most cable problems is insufficient "pull force." The shifter console is designed to pull the cable when the vehicle is placed in park, or any other gear for that matter. However, the pull force is barely an ounce, if not less. That's hardly enough force to pull a 4-foot cable through plastic sheath without encountering insurmountable friction at some point during the vehicle's lifespan. So you wind up with intermittent cable problems that would ultimately be resolved if the shifter had been designed to apply a proper force of 1-5 pounds on the cable. (More on this later.)

Solution 1: release the problematic cable clip (3 minutes)

If your cable is getting stuck, there are several things you can do. One of the easiest things to try is adjusting the path of the cable to make sure it isn't bent or pinched anywhere. The cable runs from the shifter console underneath the carpet, and snakes out near the gas pedal. It is concealed in a black plastic sheath, much like a bicycle brake cable.

There are approximately 2 white plastic clips that guide the cable on its path up to the steering wheel. One of the clips is up by the gas pedal. If this clip secures the cable, release it. In my case, this clip pulled the cable into an unnatural curve that caused excessive friction between the cable and its plastic sheath. No amount of adjustment (by the dealer) or silicon lubrication (by me) could get around the fact that I needed to release the cable from this clip in order for the mechanism to work properly all the time. I believe this is a design flaw that probably affects other VXs as well.

Solution 2: adjust the cable tension and lubricate the plastic sheath (1+ hour)

If the releasing the cable from the gas-pedal clip doesn't work, you'll probably need to disassemble the shifter console and adjust the cable tension. The shifter console disassembles in the following order: armrest, e-brake console, automatic gear shifter knob, and finally the shifter console itself. It is recommended that you refer to the VX repair CD for full instructions as well as the factory spec for tensioning the cable.

The cable tension is adjustment is self-explanatory. There is a threaded spacer with two nuts. Adjusting the placement of the nuts affects the tension of the cable. If you are going to the trouble of tensioning the cable, it is also recommended that you spray a thin lubricant such as WD-40 or silicon spray down the cable sheath. This will help reduce friction between cable and the sheath. If you have trouble tensioning the cable properly, it's probably best to take the vehicle to dealer and let them deal with it. Westlund Isuzu in Seattle, WA adjusted mine for about $75.

Solution 3: fix the root cause: insufficient pull force on the cable (2-5 hours)

This scenario requires that you replace your factory shifter with an aftermarket model such as the Momo automatic shifter. You'll need a Momo automatic shifter, screwdrivers, a hammer, medium grit sandpaper, black electrical tape, and a 6-pound tension spring from Home Depot (part #SP-9706).

A picture of my Momo automatic shift knob:
http://www.vehicross.info/gallery/data/500/378momo_shifter-thumb.jpg (http://www.vehicross.info/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/1416/sort/1/cat/500/page/1)

First, disassemble your shifter console. The shifter console disassembles in the following order: armrest, e-brake console, automatic gear shifter knob, and finally the shifter console itself. After disassembling the console, you'll need to break off the square metal sheath that encloses the hollow shift rod. Two tiny weld spots attach the sheath. Use a hammer and a flathead screwdriver to break the weld spots. Remove and discard the metal sheath. Use medium-grit sandpaper to file-down the rough weld spots where the sheath used to be attached. The hollow rod should be smooth.

Now wrap the rod in black electrical tape. Use a diagonal, "barber pole" approach. This is purely a cosmetic effort as you want the rod to appear black to match the interior of your car. Only 3" of the rod will show when done, and the black electrical tape looks great and is much easier than painting. After the rod is wrapped in tape, place the Momo finishing ring on the rod.

Next, disassemble the Momo shifter button. Use a 3mm Allen wrench to unscrew the single bolt holding the button onto the main knob assemble. After the screw comes out, a small white plastic piece will also fall out. This piece works as a sort of washer between the screw and the button shaft. Put the washer back in, paying attention the orientation; the concave side (where the screw head used to fit) should remain facing outward, with the flat side against the tip of the button shaft. You'll need the washer in place for the spring to push against.

Next, make sure the threaded shifter rod has its plastic anti-vibration ring still intact (the anti-vibration ring sits just inside the lip of hollow shifter rod and prevents the threaded inner rod from vibrating against the hollow outer rod. If the 2" black spring is still around the threaded rod, remove it and replace it with the spring from Home Depot (part #SP-9706). The Home Depot spring should rest against the plastic anti-vibration ring and rise up to enclose to the threaded rod. This spring will apply a constant 6 pounds of "pull force" on the cable.

Carefully lower the main Momo knob assembly onto the threaded shifter rod. The tip of the Momo button is perfectly fitted to the VX's threaded shifter rod. Screw the button onto the VX's threaded shifter rod. You'll be putting force onto the spring, and after the button is screwed on approximately 5 turns (and the main knob assembly secured), a constant 6 pounds of force will be applied to the cable.

Pay attention to make sure the Momo logo is centered before you tighten the three Allen screws that attach the main knob assembly to the hollow shifter rod. When you tighten the Momo knob assembly, make sure the button is perfectly lined up with the top of the knob. See my photo for a picture of how the button should look in its resting / parked position. If your button doesn't look like mine, you haven't adjusted it properly and the button may have insufficient or excessive travel resulting in problems shifting between gears.

After securing the main knob assembly to the hollow shifter rod, test the shifter several times. Try shifting from park into ALL gears (the cable travel is slightly different for each gear -- very important to test all conditions). The button should pop-up with a solid force in each gear, especially when you return to park. Don't forget that the key needs to be in the ignition, turned on, and you must depress the brake with your foot to shift from park (it's easy to forget when you'll been struggling with parts for the past 2 hours, and you might inadvertently get frustrated thinking it's not working if you forget about the brake/shifter release).

If the shifter is working, button popping up 100% of the time as you switch gears, go ahead reassemble the console. The solid 6 pound "thunk" you get when shifting into park is a nice feeling.