Sticking Shifter

Sticking Shifter May 12, 2015
By Stephen Horsfall
from issue 26-1
Cable or Microswitch?

A friend of mine in our marina told me you are “The Guy” to talk to about the engine problem I am having with our boat. It is a 1987 Doral Tara, with a 4.3L OMC. The past month it will stall when shifting into reverse and once when going into neutral. Usually when shifting slowly such as docking, (with the engine at normal operating temperature), but will start right away without any hesitation.
When duplicating this problem, you can feel the electronic shift assist working but it seems like it stalls when moving the shifter slowly past that point in reverse. If shifting quickly and harshly it will not stall. A few years ago the shift cable, and ESA module were replaced. Other than this issue, the engine runs great! Please help me because I am sick of playing bumper boats with docks and walls!!!
M. Heseltine, via e-mail
I am flattered that your friend spoke highly of me and I will try to live up to his expectations. The problem you are experiencing is usually caused by a sticking shift actuator cable or a sticking micro switch. If the cable was recently changed then I would look at the micro switch as a possible culprit. If it has been some time since the cable was changed I would look to see if there are any kinks or chafe marks on the cable exterior as it may have worn through the outer casing of the cable allowing water to enter and causing the cable to bind. I am assuming that all shift cable adjustments have been made and that these are to the correct position.
Having said all that, a quick decisive shifting motion is much preferred to a gentle touch in almost all stern drive makes and models as it actually prevents wear on the shift components, the opposite of what you would think.

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