The following is a description for replacing the vinyl tape on the gearshift selector on the console. This is for 1990 and 1991 Buick Reattas (and Rivieras) only. 1988 & 1989s are completely different and these procedures do not apply. I replaced the vinyl with leather, but any vinyl-like material will work as long as it is thin and flexible.

I would like to sincerely thank Nic Walker who supplied the shift selector shown in the photos and also donated a damaged one for me to experiment with. I would not have been able to this without Nic’s help.

Read all steps needed to complete the project and be certain you fully understand them before starting this repair! It is recommended that you put the car in neutral with the parking brake on and/or a wheel block under the front wheels.

Materials Needed:

  • Soldering iron (optional)
  • Hobby knife
  • Small flat-head screwdriver
  • Contact cement
  • Contact cement thinner
  • Wooden board (1 x 4 about 15 inches long works well)
  • Small nails
  • 2 part glue such as JB Weld
  • Clamp, block of wood (a 1X4 1 3/8“ wide)
  • 1” long piece of 3/4“ hard copper tubing
  • An improvised tool to re-melt plastic rivets
  • Hot glue gun (optional)

This procedure starts with the gearshift selector out of the car.


Fig. 1 Melting the plastic rivets

Step 1 Disassemble the gearshift selector
The selector is held together by plastic rivets that are melted in place. There are two methods for disassembly: Melting them or cutting them. I prefer the first method as it is neater and faster.

To melt:
Place your hot soldering iron on the center of the rivet while wedging a small flat screwdriver between the two sections. As the rivet begins to melt separate the sections. Work quickly so you do not melt anything but the rivet.
To cut:
Insert hobby knife under head of rivet, using a rocking motion, cut head off.
Separate the top of the gearshift selector from the bottom. Remove the red slider from the metal tape (see figure 2).


Fig. 2 Disassembled shift selector

Step 2 Remove Shifter Escutcheon
The escutcheon that surrounds the shifter shaft must be removed in order to remove the metal tape. To accomplish this you must remove the outer retaining ring on the bottom side of the escutcheon. This is shown with red arrows in figure 3.


Fig. 3 Escutcheon detail

First, I used my hobby knife to make a series of vertical cuts in the outer ring (figure 5), then I break the ring with a small screwdriver (figure 6). It helps to support the top of the escutcheon by placing it on a small piece of wood held in a vice. When the outer ring is removed, the escutcheon will pull out from the top. You can now remove the metal tape from the shift selector. Simply pull it out from either end. Be careful, the edges are very sharp (I found out the hard way). Gloves are recommended.


Fig. 4 Cutting the escutcheon ring


Fig. 5 Breaking the escutcheon ring


Fig. 6 Tape mounted on board

Step 3 Mount the metal tape on a board
Use a nail on each end. There is a hole on one end and punch a hole with the nail on the other end.
Scribe the edge of the vinyl so you can tell where to put the new material.

Step 4 Remove old vinyl
I peeled most of it off by hand then scraped the rest with my fingernail. Clean the old adhesive a with solvent such as contact cement thinner. BE SURE TO READ AND FOLLOW THE MANUFACTURER’S INSTRUCTIONS. USE IN A WELL VENTILATED AREA.

Step 5 Cut new material
Cut your leather or vinyl 1 1/4 inches wide by 20 inches long. It doesn't need to be quite that long. The leather I used was only 12 inches and that is plenty long. The original is 20”

Step 6 Apply Contact adhesive
Place masking tape along your scribed lines to keep the glue off the edges.
Apply one coat of contact adhesive to the metal tape and two coats to the leather (vinyl). Let the first coat dry first. BE SURE TO READ AND FOLLOW THE MANUFACTURER’S INSTRUCTIONS. USE IN A WELL VENTILATED AREA.
When both surfaces are dry, carefully press the leather to the metal tape. Make sure it is in the correct position because once it is applied you cannot move it.

Step 7 Re-install metal tape.
Guide it through the groves. You may have to bend the end upward so it doesn’t catch. The two small holes in the tape, for the red slider, go on the left hand side, closest to the blue gel. Re-bend the end of the metal tape so it coils properly.
Cut the leather covering the shifter hole with an Xacto knife.


Fig. 7 New retaining washer, (left) escutcheon (right)


Fig. 8 Retaining washer positioned on escutcheon

Step 8 Replace Retaining Washer
To properly reassemble the escutcheon a new retaining ring must be installed. I purchased a plumbing washer at my local hardware store to serve this purpose (figure 8). It is made out of fiber and has an inside diameter of 11/16”, an outside diameter if 7/8”, and a thickness of app. 3/64”. The inside diameter is the most critical. I had to enlarge the inside diameter slightly with hobby knife to get it to seat properly. It needs to seat at the bottom of the lip on the escutcheon (figure 9). It also must be trimmed on two sides to fit in the gearshift housing.


Figs. 9 Clamping Escutcheon

Step 9 Glue Escutcheon & Retaining Washer
First insert the escutcheon into the hole in the metal tape, coat the lip of the escutcheon with 2-part adhesive then place the retaining washer on the other side. Put the small 1X4 on top of the escutcheon and the copper pipe on the retaining washer (figure 9). Clamp and let sit overnight.

Step 10 Reassemble
Assemble the upper (black) and lower (white) halves of the shift selector by pressing them together.

Make sure all the rivets are seated in their corresponding holes If you cut the melt-rivets in disassemble, you have the glue the upper and lower sections together.

I would suggest using a low-strength hot glue adhesive. This is important if you ever want to disassemble it again. Apply the glue in about 2 places per side, work quickly and clamp to get a good bond.

If you melted the melt rivets you have to re-melt them. I fabricated a tool for this purpose. It is simply a piece of 3/8 inch round brass stock silver-soldered to a 1/8th inch steel shaft. I the placed the shaft in a small needle file handle. The end of the brass stock has a small indentation (the dark spot in the photo). If you do not want to do any fabricating, you could use a bolt, metal rod, or just about any other metal object as long as it can be insulated to prevent burning your hand.


Fig. 10 Re-melting the Rivets

To use the tool simply heat it with a torch until it is hot enough to melt the plastic and press it on each rivet until it melts, securing the two parts of the shifter assembly. See figure 15. Be sure not to heat the tool too much and melt the lower (white) section of the shifter assembly.
Once the two halves of the shift selector are assembled, it is ready to be installed into the car.

Thanks to members of the AACA Reatta forum for this information.

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