My '96 has been doing that for the last 2 yrs, primarily in cold weather. It began around 185K miles, I'm now at 229K. Starts in 1st, goes to 2nd and stays there until the ignition is turned off and the car re-started, then it usually (but not always, depending on how far it's been driven) goes thru the gears normally . Sometimes I need to do the off/re-start thing a second time. I don't think doing that has caused it to get worse any faster than it would have otherwise.
Transmission shop says it's the pump on mine and to fix it requires tearing trans down, therefore I need to do a complete rebuild.
Yours could be caused by completely different issues, though. I'd get it diagnosed at a REPUTABLE shop, and if they come up with an answer like I got (rebuild or replace), I'd just keep doing the key dance until you get tired of it. Don't think it's going to shorten the life of the tranny any further.
Last edited by CluelessinMO; 03-03-2008 at 04:02 PM.