Cars have always needed shifters and linkage as part of their transmission. For manual transmission cars, the linkage selects between forward gears, reverse gears and possibly an overdrive in additional to neutral. In automatic transmission cars, the shifter selects from the PRNDL which stands for Park, Reverse, Neutral, Drive, and Low. More modern vehicles may allow manual shifts of their automatic with an auto-stick or paddle or pushbuttons located around the steering wheel. The important thing is allowing the driver to select gears which then allows the transmission to put power to the wheels and move the car. If this part is not working, it may make shifting difficult, cause embarrassing grinding sounds, or not function at all meaning that you cannot drive the car. There were several well known performance shifters and linkage from Hurst, Muncie, and Saginaw that offered different styles for faster, smoother shifting. There may also be several knobs, bushings, or locks needed to repair this part.
There has always been a transmission with several gears or speeds to send power from the engine to the wheels to move the car. Three or four speed manuals were common before giving way to today's five and six speed manuals. In the last decade, automatic transmissions have gone crazy going from just four or five speeds up to six, seven, eight and even nine speeds today. The shifters and linkage have evolved as well going from slender rods that could barely find a gear to smooth shifting close-ratio, short throws. For automatics, the column shift was common for years before the sportier console mounted shifters and linkage became common. More recently, variations on the column shift have returned as small electronically actuated levers and push buttons located on the dash or steering column and freeing up space between the front seats.
If you are looking to replace the transmission shifter and linkage on your own, we have some basic instructions to give you an idea of what to do. These show how the change the linkage. Changing out the assembly is more complicated and requires additional instructions. Make sure that you have all the right tools and a manual to show you what to do. If not, contact a mechanic. The following information is not vehicle specific.