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I'll try to be brief as possible:  I recently had my clutch replaced.  Shortly after replacement, i was shifting to 5th and it felt 'spongy' (for lack of a better word).  The feeling came and went, but i never had any issues shifting into gear.  Today, i shifted from 4th to 5th and nothing, the car acted like it wasn't in gear and the shifter flopped back to center.  It went back into 4th and i was able to continue on (thankfully i was close to home).  Now the selector will randomly go into 1st, and 5th or not.  I was finally able to identify the cable (linkage?) is bending when its fully extended for 1st/5th gear right where it comes out of the support bracket and the rubber boot starts. I can feel a metal collar or such under the rubber boot sliding back and forth, so when it fully extends for 1st/5th gear, it's far enough away from the support bracket that the cable underneath has no support and flexes, thus not providing enough rigidity to get the transmission into gear.  I can manually shift the gears with my hand and i don't feel any binding.
Can anybody tell me if something broke and the whole cable needs replaced or can it be adjusted to fix?  I've seen mixed comments on cable replacement (take out the whole dash or not).  Haynes manual talks about draining A/C and heater coil like the whole dash would need to come out.  Is that true for a 2006 or could i do it over the weekend?
2006 Ford Fusion - manual transmission (obviously).

 

PS - the car has 236K miles, so i'm sure the mechanic will say wear/tear, but it sure is coincidental that it happened right after being serviced.  If it's broke, could they have bent/damaged it while removing the transmission?

 

Thanks in advance for any advice.

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Well, as expected the mechanic denied any potential culpability in the broken cable, and said labor will be 6 hours (roughly $600+).  He guess-timated the part to be $50-$70, but i can't find it through Rock Auto or local parts store and Ford Parts list it as $147 (free shipping!).  So to have them fix it will probably run close to $800.
So i pulled the battery and center console just to investigate and (sure enough) the cables run under the dash brace and under the airbag sensor (?) and it's very tight.  I don't have the resources to pull the heater core and dash, so probably going to let the mechanic do it.  (unless someone can verify the dash doesn't have to come off)  So close, yet so far.  Sigh...

 

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Maybe they just need to be adjusted properly. You might be able to do that yourself if you are somewhat handy. I can send you all the instructions if you PM me your email address.

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A final entry on this topic. This time the mechanic seemed to do a thorough job. No issues to report and now it drives like I expected it to after the clutch was replaced. 

I’ll never be an expert clutch driver no matter how long I have one, but after the new clutch was installed, I was more inconsistent than ever and the feel wasn’t the same. I thought it was just lack of experience with a new clutch.  

Well after my test drive, I’m wondering if the failing shift cable contributed to that. The shifter is tight/snug and I was as close to perfect on the clutch as I’ve ever been.  Obviously the tight/snug shifter makes sense, but I’m guessing the weakened end of the cable may have been affecting the clutch feel/engagement since it wasn’t holding the levers as rigid. I thought a transmission would be ‘in gear’ or not. 

Thoughts? Additional input for a newbie?

 

next project: engine mounts, but that’s another thread. 

 

Thanks to to everyone who replied and especially @FusionDiffusion For the excellent manual pages (even though it still went to the mechanic)

 

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