One of the most annoying problems with the EA71/EA81 gearboxs (transaxles) is the common gearstick slop - where the most common complaint is having trouble selecting reverse. It becomes even harder or even non existant when in lo-range trying to select reverse. I even know of a white subaru Brumby (Brat) that a bloke has and he always parked it in a location where he could drive forward, since reverse just did not exist.
This common problem occurs after a few hundred thousand kilometres and the many hundreds/thousands of times that you change gears. After time both the mating bolt that connects the gearstick to the gearbox's gear selector wears and can become a very funny shape, as well as the gearsticks hole becomes 'ovaled' and the bolt has now a lot of non-contact area and sits there nice and cool with nothing to do, since there is no metal close by for it to do anything. Pretty much it just sits there and floats around.
Couple of different methods that one can use, or even use a combination of them, which I have used.
* replace the lower bush (this is the most preferred method, but also the most boring)
Grab your manual, go buy a new lower gearstick bush and replace it. Go back ten to fifteen years ago and ya common everyday mechanics would have said that this is the problem. Replace the $5.00 bush and everything will be fixed. Yeah, right Maybe until you get home from the mechanic shop. Sure it will help, but wont do anything significant.
* redrill the hole within the gearstick linkage outer bit of pipe (whatever it is called), enlarging it, as well as the gearbox selector rod (high tensile), then fitting a larger bolt. By fitting a larger than standard new bolt, it will have more contact area and will clean up the entire area to be a nice snug fit.
* One can cut 'slits' up the sides in the gearstick connecting outer-bit-of-pipe linkage, then with a new bolt you actually "squeeze" the gearstick linkage on to the selector rod. This was my first preferred method and works well. Should only take about half an hour to do the job.
Jum underneath, undo the single bolt (may have dramas if it is bent, may even need to cut the bolt with an angle grinder). Pull the gearstick out. Grab the angle grinder and cut two neat slits up the sides - maybe a 2 or 3mm gab. Chuck it back on, and now when your doing your new bolt up, it will squeeze the gearstick linkage on to the selector rod. If the linkage is worn, it may require redrilling, or at least a coupla nice big washers top and bottom.
* Weld the gearbox connecting linkage on to the gearbox selector rod. This sucker works! And works well! Never had a problem on my old box on my wagon after doing this.
I was having drama's with my gearstick for over six months around late 1996 to mid 1997 until I finally said enough was enough. I took it to two mechanics who wouldn't even look like wanting to weld it. I pleaded to them, and they both said no. I walked out disgusted from both shops. A few weeks later I was sick of not selecting any gear. Within minutes the car was up on ramps, 30 seconds of welding was done, and the car was and for some reason was out shooting with a new mate and just happened to mention it to him. , and no less than 5 minutes later the job was done, I had gears again and we were off shooting. No damage was done to the gearbox's seal due to heat as the welding was done very quickly.