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I have replaced the shifter bushings. Recently, sometimes, when I put the car into 1st gear, it goes into 3rd gear. I then have to pull it hard toward the driver's side and push forward to get it into 1st gear. Leaning toward the shifter stabilizer bushing or the mounts for the engine/trans. Any other suggestions?
 

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It sounds silly, but check the fluid level. Earlier this year my car started popping out of fifth gear, I suspected and checked lots of mechanical possibilities without resolution. Then I checked the fluid level, which was empty.
I filled it up and the problem was fixed.
 

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Its normal to have to pull the shift lever to the left, to get to 1st and 2nd. Just putting the lever forward without pulling it against the spring, and it will go into 3rd - or 4th if you are pulling back.
It could be the shifter socket (which is sort of a spherical item) is gummed up. You can check this out by opening up the console, and taking the shifter stuff apart.
 

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I know that with virtually all 4 speed or 5 speed manual transmissions, there are springs to keep the shift rods lined up for the center gears, i.e. 3rd and 4th. To get the 1st and 2nd gear, you have to pull the lever to the left. The spring that does this is located inside the transmission. To get 5th and reverse, you have to push the lever to the right, against a different spring - also located inside the trans. If those springs break, it might get confusing until the driver learned to work without it.
I have driven the 6 speed VW's, (my son -in-law had a turbo-diesel), but I cant recall how that shifter was set up. I did find that having 6 speeds was more than I needed. I would usually skip gears, such as starting out in 2nd, going into 4th, and into 5th or 6th, depending on how long I would be going over 65 mph.
 

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I often skip gears in the Escort as well. accelerating fairly briskly to 30 to 35 mph in town in first and second, then shifting to fourth.

Five properly spaced gears with an even number of them on the top and the bottom of a shift pattern seems ideal to me.
 
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