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Had the same problem with my MTD Yard Machines 5 horse tiller. I called MTD at 800-800-7310 and with the model and serial and such off the engine - which are stamped into it - a nice lady was able to narrow down my tiller year. From there with horsepower details she narrowed further to one of two models that I could look up on the MTD corporate home page and get a schematic.
Hope that helps.
I have the same issue with one I am working on. It appears the keys in the drive shaft are not rotating far enough out on the drive gear side to fully engage in the gear. I have studied and studied this and so far I have been unable to determine why. If I find out I will let you know. I am also trying to figure out what is supposed to pull these keys out of the till engagement gear.
If you will go to the link below you should be able to find a parts diagram for your gearbox. It is about the only way to see how it all goes back together. It would be too difficult to try to walk you through it here. http://www.milacalawn.net/mtdparts.html
I found micro fiche on jackssmallengines.com . Click on the manufacturer's tab at the top of the page then you'll have the option to use an off-site tool to locate your machine. I used it and found my 1990 mtd rear tine tiller. I needed the cable that engages the tines - maybe the same as you. The part number for my 1990 model's cable was 746-0535. Dont know if it was still the same in 96 to 98. But look at the fiche and see.