Project Late Model Restoration - Power Antenna & Shift Cable

- - posted in 92 ES300, Worklogs | Comments

So there I was, minding my own business, driving the Lexus from point A to point B. When I arrived at my destination, I turned off the ignition, and as it had done thousands of times before the power antenna began reeling back into the rear fender, but then it happened… I heard a horrible CLUNK, then a persistent grinding sound that simply wouldn’t go away.

I tried turning the ignition back on, hoping that the antenna might have only slipped on one tooth and cycling it would get everything back on track, but it was not to be. With the antenna stuck just a little past half way erected, I removed the trunk interior panel that covers the power antenna motor, and disconnected the power.

On another, completely different occasion I was pulling out into traffic on a fairly busy four lane street. The maneuver I was attempting was a left hand turn which requires crossing the two lanes which I can see fairly well, entering the oncoming traffic in the furthest two lanes, which are obscured by a neatly manicured and lanscaped island.

As you might imagine, this is usually a bit of a hail mary manuever and you want to do it as quickly as possible so that you have the chance to react if you happen to be pulling into traffic which you couldn’t see. I pulled across the first two lanes, reving to the redline in first gear, and quickly looking over my shoulder to check for traffic as I merge and briskly pull the shifter down into second gear. Only, this time was… different… I engaged second gear, but the shifter traveled WELL past the point it should have then felt limp and.. well.. broken!

After a minor panic attack, and some experimenting with shifting in and out of various gears, I discovered that the odd numbered gears (1,3,5) still engaged normally. But, the even gears (2,4,Reverse) had this same “limp” feeling, though I was still able to engage them.

I drove the car for many, MANY months with both of these problems but I’ve recently remedied both of them as part of my “Late Model Restoration” project. Here’s how.

Power Antenna

This one was easy, replacing the power antenna mast is both inexpensive and easy. I bought a replacement mast on eBay for under $20, and replaced it in about an hour. It would have taken less time if I had paid closer attention to the directions and installed the outside decorative nut in the right order. Ohh well!

Antenna Mast Replacement Antenna Mast Replacement

Limp Shifter

As it turns out, I wasn’t the first person to experience this. There were a handful of guys with manual ES300’s over on ClubLexus who’d had a similar experience. After reading through their experiences, I decided that my symptoms were caused by a damaged shifter bushing, and I ordered up the Speed Source solid bushings. While I was ordering parts for the rest of the Late Model Restoration, I started to second guess my diagnosis and went ahead with ordering the replacement cable as well. Let me tell you, removing and installing the cable is quite a painful experience. It requires the removal of two grommets, one on the inside of the car against the firewall, and one inside the engine compartment against the firewall. They’re both held on by only two bolts, but they are in extraordinarily difficult to access places. I literally spend an entire day on this project alone. What’s worse, I probably didn’t need to replace the cable at all. As it turns out, the shifter bushing was seriously damaged, and was actually a bit more of a heart shape than the round machined shape it should have been.

Shift Bushing

The result, however, is well worth the effort. The shifter feels perfect now. Very positive tactile feedback, I know when I’ve engaged a gear. It’s easily “better than new” with the solid bushings and the factory fresh cable. While replacing the cable may not have been expensive (it’s a > $200 part) and not immediately necessary it’s worth the peace of mind knowing that it’s new and I’ve got at least another 18 years before I have to worry about it again.

Stay tuned for more of the Late Model Restoration, the suspension is next, and here’s a little teaser! Late Model Restoration Preview