I took the console apart so I could see what the scene was. The release button would not rease the shifter lever so I took the cable connection off, which freed up the lever. The transmission was in second gear when I turned off the engine the day before so I moved the now freed lever to the second gear position and then reconnected the cable connectors to the shifter connection. The cable and the shifter mechanism now being in sinc allowed me to put the shifter in Park and start the engine. I have tested the vehicle and the all the gears can be shifted normally.
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First off there may be nothing wrong. At highway speed, the trans will shift down to 1st, but you won't feel it. If should feel like neutral. Does it shift normally when your "wide open throttle" from standstill? If it shifts properly in this situation, then your fine, don't worry. How about wide open throttle at say 25mph? how about 35 and 45? anything over that and its gonna feel like neutral. IF your convinced that your passing gear is not working right, it could mean that its out of adjustment, and needs a little more push, more throw, or kinda like adjusting the rod out a little bit further. Adjust your "passing gear linkage" or kickdown as you imply. Second guess would be low on transmisison fluid, filter, and last, the transmissoin control selonoid. Again I suggest its doing just fine, if it shifts down at any speed.
Check the throttle cable it sounds like it has come unlocked On the driver side of the carb you will see the cable going to the trans. With the air cleaner off and engine not running take the carb linkage and open the linkage wide open while doing this watch the throttle cable if the whole spring loaded housing moves then it has come unlocked. To reset the cable hold the linkage wide open and push down a black tab located on the housing. If it is already down and the housing keeps moving then the housing is striped and you will have to replace the cable assm.
The vacuum modulator on the side of the transmission has a leak (rubber diaphragm inside has ruputred. ($15 AutoZone).
Or other major vacuum leak (hose to the modulator may had come off or brittle, or clogged, or broken.
The downshifting is now being done by the "mechanical backup" to the vacuum system
maybe has a broken linkage or the bolt came lose.
Check if you can engage hall the gears pushing the linkage by hand,engine ranning and same one pressing the clutch!that way you can have same idea wath is wrong?!
You need to free up your throttle pressure control cable linkage that sits above your shift cable linkage at the top of your transaxle on drivers side. I had the same problem from time to time, caused it to stay in lower gear longer, and shift down hard when slowing down. Happened more when I drove it a little harder as pushing gas pedal further down causes it to rotate, but then sticks & doesn't come back right a way. Free it up with penetrating lube first, then put a good coat of spray grease like white lithium after its moving freely again, and it should be problem free for a while. You may have to move some things to get at it. If you need a picture email ([email protected]), seeing how I can't seem to figure out how to send it from here.