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Friday, July 26, 2019

Fiat 500 Abarth Hard Shifting Repair

Fiat 500 Abarth Shifter

One of the best things about a Fiat 500 Abarth is how much fun they are to drive. Part of the enjoyment comes from the easy shifting, heavy duty C510 5-speed gearbox that comes standard in the Fiat 500 Abarth and 500 Turbo models.

The C510 transmission in these models is strong and can handle much abuse, as dished out by modded Abarths with over 300nm (221bs. ft) of torque, but as you get more miles on your car, you may notice shifting becomes stiffer as the shifter hangs up to the right or left side of the shift pattern and doesn't spring back to neutral. If that is the case stick around and we'll get your car shifting like new in no time!

500 Abarth Shift Linkage Pivot Shaft

The Fiat 500 Abarth and Turbo shift linkage pivot shaft can become oxidized and stick in its housing, causing your shifter inside the car to not spring back into neutral. At rest and in neutral, your shifter should spring back by itself and stay in the middle of the shift pattern, If you have to force the shifter back side to side, you likely have a sticking pivot shaft.

You can try popping the inside shift boot up and spraying some white lithium grease, etc., into the ball socket under the shift knob to see if that helps, but if it still sticks, you should look into the fix below. Besides taking the enjoyment out of shifting your car, the increased effort can wear out your shift cable(s) and possibly internal components inside the transmission.

Identifying the Issue
This issue isn't with the back and forth effort, but the side to side motion. You can test this by when in neutral pushing the lever to the right towards the 5 / reverse gear gate and letting go. The shifter should quickly snap back to the 3rd / 4th gear gate or center of the shift pattern, Try this a few times and if the lever hangs up or needs to be guided back, you likely have a sticking side to side pivot shaft. Luckily this is an easy to fix issue, and just requires some grease and a little time and patience.

If it’s just the cable bushing that is worn out and has too much play or if your cable has popped off, follow this link to get replacement bushings and find out how to replace them.

Note: Click on the pictures to enlarge them for easier viewing

Getting Started: Fiat 500 Abarth Battery Tray Removal

Fiat 500 Abarth Battery Cable

Take the negative battery cable off first. The small ground wire (arrow) going to the ECM also needs to be removed. Remove the positive battery cable next. Isolate the cables so they don't fall back onto the battery and arc.

Fiat 500 Abarth Battery Hold Down Bolt

To get to the shift linkage, you need to remove the battery and battery tray. Here, I'm undoing the battery hold down bolt.

Fiat 500 Abarth Battery Hold Down Bolt

Removing the battery hold down bolt. Note, the hold down bolt is long, as are all the bolts holding the battery tray, and they take some time cranking to unscrew them.

A tip is if the bolts/nut start to get harder to unscrew, spray some penetrating fluid on them and then screw them back in a few turns. Do this every time the fasteners start feeling like they are getting harder to unscrew. By doing this, you will clean the threads and redistribute some lube into them, and it will avoid breaking or stripping the fastener.

Fiat 500 Abarth Battery Tray

There are three fasteners holding the battery tray down. Two on the side are bolts and the one in the center, which is a nut. When you reinstall them, a tip is to load them up with anti-seize because, being under the battery, they are prone to corrosion.

Fiat 500 Abarth ECM Connector

The ECM is attached to the battery tray and comes out with it, so you need to remove the connectors. Carefully pull the yellow clip connector locks open.

Fiat 500 Abarth PCM Connector

then pull the levers up. There are two. When the lift the levers up the connector disengages from the ECM. Be careful when you do this work. Lift the connector straight up so you don't damage the delicate pins in the ECM.

Fiat 500 Abarth Harness Clips

One the ECM connector is off, you have to go around the battery tray and unclip the harness hold downs. Here I am using a flat-head screwdriver to carefully lever the clip out of its receptacle on the battery tray. There are a few wire harness hold down clips that are secured to the battery tray that have to be disengaged from the tray so you can pull it out.

Be careful with these as it is important to secure the wiring harness to keep it from moving around while driving. Being sloppy and breaking them and then not replacing or securing the harness can catch up to you in the form of bad connections and weird electrical issues down the road.

Fiat 500 Abarth Sensor Hold Down

There is a hold down for a sensor in front the of the battery tray. Push the connector from the back to pop it free.
Fiat 500 Abarth Harness Hold Down

Another cable hold down clip on the side of the battery tray being removed with a bent Trim Stick tool.

500 Abarth Harness Hold Down Clip

Sometimes you can push the clip out from the back.

500 Abarth Engine Harness

The wire harness runs under the battery tray and these clips help hold it into place. Just pull the harness out.
Fiat 500 Abarth Battery Tray

You can now remove the battery tray/ ECM unit.

Fiat 500 Abarth Engine Computer

Back view of the ECM and battery tray unit. Put it safely aside and treat it like the expensive item it is.

Doing the Job: Greasing The Fiat 500 Abarth C510 Trans Shift Linkage

Fiat 500 Abarth Transmission Linkage

Once the battery tray is out, you can see the Fiat 500 Abarth shift linkage located on the C510 transmission case. It is way back, so be prepared to lean over to get at it.

Fiat 500 Abarth Shift Linkage

The issus is the external pivot shaft that runs through the case starts to get stuck and hard to swivel. A lack of grease and climate conditions are prime reasons for this. The arrow points to the shift shaft that runs through the case.

Fiat 500 Abarth Pivot Shaft Nut

The pivot shaft is held in simply by this nut. It is a good idea to mark the position of the shaft in relation to the surrounding area. This will help you put back everything in the same position.

Fiat 500 Abarth Pivot Shaft Removal

An extension and a swivel joint will make getting at the nut easier.

500 Abarth Pivot Shaft Removal

Here's some perspective on where we are working. Don't be intimidated by the location, there is room to get to everything you need to get to.

500 Abarth Shift Cables

When the nut was loosened, I removed the shift cable in the back from the pivot shaft lever. To do this, I used a thin 13mm wrench and stuck it under the cable joint and pulled up, popping it free from the ball socket. The picture above just illustrates how I did the rear cable. Leave the front cable attached.

Abarth 500 Transmission Linkage

Once the nut is loose, unscrew it with your fingers. Take your time to make sure you don't drop it. Note on the right side is a rubber boot covering the vertical shift shaft the runs straight up and down into the transmission internals. The little shift lever we are removing fits into a cutout in the vertical shift shaft (there is another picture below that shows that upclose). I carefully pulled back the rubber boot on the vertical shift shaft to see how the levers fit together. It only goes in one way so don't be concerned.

Abarth 500 Trans Pivot Shaft Lever

Another image of how the little shift lever fits into the vertical shift shaft. When everything is bolted back up, all these parts will line up and fit together perfectly, so don't be concerned. After I removed the nut, I removed the washer and the little shift lever. It is keyed to the shaft.

Once the nut, washer and lever is removed, you can push the pivot shaft out. It comes out from the back. If it hits the shift weight behind it, you can have someone carefully inside the car pust the gear shifter slightly forward to give more room for the shaft to be withdrawn from the rear.

Before you remove the lever, it is a good time to try pivoting the shaft back and forth to feel the resistance. It should move smoothly and easily. If it does, than you may have another issue, possibly with the cables, the shifter or something else.  However, as you are more than half way through with the job, you might as well complete it by greasing the pivot pin anyway. Mine was binding and not letting the inside shifter spring back to the center of the shift pattern.

Abarth 500 Trans Pivot Shaft Housing
Another shot showing the pivot shaft being pushed out. There is a rubber seal in the nose of the passage. There didn't seem to be much if any lube on this shaft, and it was quite stiff to move.

Before I disassembled the pivot shaft, I had tried spraying lube on the shaft every day for a week and then working the shifter inside the car.The lube didn't make a difference and there was no trace of the lube I had been spraying.

Abarth 500 Trans Pivot Shaft

Withdrawing the shift linkage pivot shaft. This is the part of the shift mechanism that moves back and forth when you go side to side in neutral with the shifter inside the car. The little lever attached to it that you removed pushes the vertical shift shaft up and down inside the transmission.

Abarth 500 Trans Pivot Shaft

Inspecting the shaft, it was in good shape, but devoid of lube, and had signs of oxidation and sticking. Note the cutout at the end for the lever that was removed. The little shift lever is keyed so there is no adjustment.

500 Abarth Trans Pivot Shaft

I used the brass brush above and some polish to clean up the shaft, being careful not to to strip the original plating off of the shaft. Once that's removed, the shaft will be even more susceptible to oxidation and rust, etc.

500 Abarth Trans Pivot Shaft Bore

A look down the external passage on the transmission where the shift lever shaft passes through. Luckily there wasn't any signs of damage, or corrosion. I cleaned it out with a rag and some light oil like WD40.

500 Abarth Trans Pivot Shaft Lever

This is the little shift lever showing the orientation it faces when being put back on the shift shaft.

Abarth Trans Pivot Shaft Lever Assembly

The pieces removed Side to side shift pivot shaft and lever, washer and fastening nut.

Greasing Abarth Trans Pivot Shaft

Grease the pivot shaft. I used a synthetic grease that has good water repellency qualities. Keep the grease off the threads because you should use loctite or a new self locking nut to secure this when done.

500 Abarth Trans Shift Linkage Boot

The rubber boot is peeled back to show the cut out in the vertical shift shaft where the shift lever we removed fits into.

Abarth 500 Trans Shift Linkage

Slide the greased pivot shaft back into its passage, place the small shift lever onto the shaft (it is keyed to fit onto the pivot shaft). and fit the end on its right side into the notch on the vertical shift shaft. Once you slide the washer on and secure the nut, everything will line up tight.

Abarth 500 Pivot Shaft Lever

Showing how the small shift lever fits into the notch on the vertical shift shaft. I put a dab of grease on the end.
Abarth 500 Trans Pivot Shaft Install

Fitting the washer and then the nut onto the shift shaft.

Abarth 500 Trans Pivot Shaft Location

Snap the rear shift cable onto the ball socket on the shift shaft arm. You can just use your fingers as it snaps on quite easily.

Nest, tighten the nut holding the shaft and lever together (that's what the arrow is pointing at). There are no specs for tightening this nut. It should be tight enough to secure it, but not too tight to bind the shift shaft. A new self locking nut or loctite will take any concerns away from the nut backing out over time.

Fiat 500 Abarth Linkage Boot

The most tedious part of the job is stretching the boot back over the shift lever. Take your time to do this and don't rip the boot! Mine got caught in the notch on the shaft and was fidgety to free up. I could have just unbolted the lever, but that would have made it too easy! LOL

Abarth 500 Trans Linkage Boot

This isn't the greatest image, but looking at the boot's left side, the boot is positioned on the little shift lever where it is supposed to be to keep dirt from getting into the vertical shift shaft that runs into the transmission.

After that, put back your battery tray, making sure all the wire harness clips are fasternd and anchored down, hook up your ECU (Note: make sure you hook the ECU first before your battery!) and then your battery (don't forget to clean your terminal connectors if they are dirty).

But before you are done: 

Cleaning the Fiat 500 Abarth Ground Strap

500 Abarth Ground Strap 68073597AA

500 Abarth Ground Strap 68073597AA

Before you put the battery tray back, it is a good time to look at the ground cable located under the battery tray that runs from the frame rail to the transmission. These can corrode and it is good preventative maintenance to unbolt the cable, and clean the mounting surface. Bad grounds and battery connections contribute to many vehicle issues, so do yourself a favor and spend a few minutes on this preventative maintenance.

Simply unbolt the cable, clean the connections and put some dielectric grease on them.  On the braided cable, using some anti-corrosion spray like Fluid-Film is a good idea.

On my car, the ground cable wasn't too badly oxidized and resistance measurements were fine. but I ran into a problem removing the bolt holding the ground wire to the transmission, so I replaced the ground cable and the bolt.

Part numbers that fit my 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth:*

  • Fiat 500 Abarth Ground Strap: 68073597 AA
  • Ground Cable Hold-down bolt at transmission: 68145957 AA


That's it! You are done and now you can enjoy your like new shifting effort and a shifter that snaps back in to the 3rd-4th gear plane. With the greased lever, it should be a long, looong time before you ever have to do this again.

Easier Alternate Fix - Replace Fiat 500 Abarth Shift Bracket and Housing Assembly
 If you've read this far and are thinking this is too much work,  you can order a new Shift Bracket and Housing Assembly for somewhere around $100.  A tip is to check Amazon and other online sources to compare prices.

Fiat 500 Abarth and Turbo C510 Transmission Shift Cable Bracket part number 68095119AA *

Read more:

*Contact your dealer or check the Mopar website to confirm part numbers.

Disclaimer: This is how I greased the linkage and changed the ground strap on my Fiat 500 Abarth and is provided for informational and entertainment purposes. If you have any doubts on you ability to perform this work or have any issues, I recommend having it done by a professional. I am not responsible for any issues arriving from you reading this post. Use at your own risk.

Images: Author
Inspiration: Side to Side Stiff - Shift Cable Sticking? thread on the Fiat 500 USA Forum

Fiat 500 Abarth C510 Hard Shifting Repair, Fiat 500 Hard Shifting Repair, Fiat 500 Abarth Trans Pivot Shaft Repair, Fiat 500 Abarth and Turbo C510 Transmission Shift Cable Bracket, Fiat 500 Shift Cable Bushing


Hunter said...

Thank you so much for this. I have been having this issue since I bought my car at the tail end of '18. I thought it was just normal for these cars until I was looking at a new Abarth at the local lot, just curious to see what (if anything) had really changed since the 2013's. And the shifter in it was SO SMOOTH... So I started digging and kept seeing the cable bracket being brought up, but wasn't going to pony up for something that was still working, just not ideal. Then I saw this, and I am all for trying "free" mods/fixes, so tore into it. When I got the pin out, the first 1/2" or so towards the thread was rusty (just surface, cleaned up great) and no rubber grommet like you showed. But got it cleaned up and greased and back together and it is like a whole new car. Knob actually springs back to neutral!!! Thank you again!

Unknown said...

Awesome tutorial! This is the second Abarth I own and the first one did have the same problem, but I sold the car with it. This time, I wanted to fix the problem myself and your tutorial was no short of fabulous! Very detailed and accurate. The only problem I had was to get the darn pin out! I had to carefully hammer the end of it through its entirety to take it out. Once out, sure enough, lots of corrosion on both end (where the seals are). Cleaned all this up and will re-assemble tomorrow. Thank you again!!

Anonymous said...

This walk through was a godsend. Fixed the shifting issue, step by step instructions and great pix were key to my success

Paul 2014 500 Turbo.

Anonymous said...

I talked to a few mechanics and they weren't sure what the problem was with regard to the shifter not snapping back to center neutral. I found this tutorial and it was a lifesaver. The hardest part for me was that the rear shift cable did not want to come free from the ball joint. I eventually persuaded it. After a little cleaning and new lube, my son's car shifts like it's brand new. Thank you.

Unknown said...

Thanks for this. This was a great tutorial to follow. I did it exactly and it worked. Though a few weeks later it went right back to the way it was before. I am thinking about removing the entire housing as you mention at the end. You said it was easier to do. Though I am not a mechanic and want to do it myself. Is it as easy as removing the the bolts and putting another on? I think the gaskets on mine are shot. Figured if I was going to take it apart again might as well just replace for $80.

Thanks for your time.


Anonymous said...

That is such a great tutorial, well done! I have two questions: I've completed this fix about 6 months ago and it's since become worse. My theory is that I may have used the wrong grease. I used spray white lithium grease. Could you please specify what was that red grease you used? Also, if this fails again could you provide an example or part number for the Shift bracket and Housing assembly? I might go that route for next time. Tbanks again for the instructions it must have taken a while to create. You gotta love the Abarth though!

Unknown said...

Hey awesome tutorial you did a great job on it. Quick question, Would you know Is the approximate torque spec of the nut of the pivot shaft. I completed this fix already and my issue seems to have returned I was wondering if maybe I didn't tighten the bolt enough or too much

Unknown said...


Tim said...

Thank you so much for this! It helped me buy a used Abarth a bit cheaper without worry because I knew what was wrong with the car and that I could fix it but the dealer didn't - they just knew the shifter was stiff and didn't know why. I did end up having to order a new bracket though. All the polishing and greasing I could do couldn't overcome the corrosion. said...

There are no specs for tightening this nut. It should be tight enough to secure it, but not too tight to bind the shift shaft. A new self locking nut or Loctite will take any concerns away from the nut backing out over time.

Unknown said...

I did the same thing and had same result. Actually ended up replacing the whole part. Though I think it was to do with the rubber gasket on the pivot pin. Water got in and oxidised pretty quickly again.

RickH said...

Great tutorial. Just used it today on a 2014 1.3 multiject diesel. Got it cheap as gear stick didn't self centre. Your tutorial took us through in easy steps. I had something similar on a Mitsubishi Colt I had so had a rough idea what it might be. My shaft wasn't particularly corroded but was dry.

Anonymous said...

How is replacing the entire bracket easier? I see it’s 3 bolts holding it down, but you still have to pop the shifter cables off. Is it simple? Torque specs for the 3 bolts? My 2017 does this only when the transmission is hot or I’ve been driving for some time. It doesn’t do it at all otherwise.

Unknown said...

Did it today shifting beautifully thank you for your detailed explanation. I did have to do some gentle hammering to get it use and as far as the type of grease I used thick automotive grease from autozone it did the trick thank you. said...

"How is replacing the entire bracket easier? I see it’s 3 bolts holding it down, but you still have to pop the shifter cables off. Is it simple? Torque specs for the 3 bolts? My 2017 does this only when the transmission is hot or I’ve been driving for some time. It doesn’t do it at all otherwise."

Replacing the bracket assembly may be easier for some because you do not have to take it apart, clean and regrease the shaft. You save some time and effort just bolting on the new bracket assembly. It is a personal choice. However, you likely will have the problem again at some point.

As far as the shifter sticking when it gets hot, remember, things expand when hot, and the shaft could be getting tight and binding when that happens. A little time spent doing the above maintenance greasing the shaft is not going to hurt and could save your cables wear and tear. Good luck. said...

I used Mobil One Synthetic Grease. I would think a good marine grade grease that has good hydrophobic qualities would also work. In my experience, white lithium grease doesn't perform as well.

Anonymous said...

I had the same problem on my 2013 Sport Turbo. Greasing it did not help. I took the bracket off and inspected. The shaft only touches the bushings on the ends of the cavity. I lapped the shaft and took some 220 grit to the ID of the bushings (just enough for smooth operation). Greased and reassembled and the shifter works perfectly now. This was done during the shifter cables bushing change (from

Anonymous said...

This is great stuff! It's like the only page related to the issue. What size of nut was undone using the swivel extended wrench? None of the sizes in my toolkit fit

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot clear pictures and helpful tutorial ;) Nice job! said...

Unfortunately, I don't recall the size of the nut, but it is metric, so a general assortment from 13mm through 17mm should cover it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. Question: If I replace the whole bracket, how do the cables come out? I see plastic contraptions holding the cables in the brackets but they don’t seem to come out in a straightforward way. I don’t want to break them. Any advice?

DT said...

Thank you for this this excellent run through and pictures , i found quick fix of spraying WD40 on both ends of the shaft and working it in by changing through gears. Short term but now know how easy it is to get to it removing battery tray.There is a guy on You Tube who does this but all you see is the back of his head.