Desperate for help!! Please :) | Ford Escort Owners Association (FEOA)
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Desperate for help!! Please :)

Discussion in '3rd Gen 1997-2002 2.0L SOHC' started by msecrets, Nov 6, 2018.

  1. msecrets

    msecrets FEOA Member

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    Hello. Thanks for taking the time to read this. Ive got a 97 ford escort base model. Manual transmission. New clutch 1.5 years ago, new fuel pump and timing belt 3 months ago. 295, 000 miles, about half pulled behind a motorhome the other half freeway mostly as it was a work car. Im the 2nd owner. The previous owner maintained this car meticulously. He parked it when the clutch went out. I bought it 1.5 yrs ago put a clutch in and its ran and driven AWESOME since. Until....the other day it suddenly was hard to shift down to 2nd but did, went up to 3rd no problem. Went to shift back to 2nd and it was hard, tried to go to 1st and couldnt, tried 2nd, was hard again and it was almost like whatever was preventing it from going in suddenly "let go" and went in fine. As i pulled in my drive i put it in neutral, coasted to a stop, set ebrake and turned it off.
    Next time i got in i started it up and found i cant shift into any gear now. With the car off it shifts in gear no problem.
    Unfortunately i realized that since ive owned it i havent checked the tranny fluid...yikes! Im hoping i didnt run it dry...there were no warning signs whatsoever. Will be checking the fluid today after i get home but can anyone give any insight? What and how to check if the fluid is fine? Sorry to be long winded. Thanks in advance.
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  2. denisond3

    denisond3 Moderator Staff Member

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    On a 3rd gen Escort, either the LX or the ZX2, there should be a couple of metal plugs threaded into the transmission. One of them is on the bottom, and is for draining. The other one should be partway up the front facing side of the tranny. You take the plug out, and if you can feel the fluid on the tip of a finger crooked in the opening - the level is okay. If its not, you need someway to pump some fluid in there. I suppose you could do it from above with a tube. They make gallon containers with a sort of pump and tubing on the lid. I think the transmission should take standard Automatic Transmission Fluid, but go by whatever the owner's manual says. I am guessing it will take close to 3 quarts. If you add too much, the excess will just dribble out of the filler plug.
    I wouldnt worry too much about the damage done to the tranny. Anyway, its not as if you can do anything about it. Once its refilled, see if it will go into the gears, especially see if the synchro is still working for 5th gear. That synchro got stuck on a 5-speed I had to remove. I had to open up the case, and knock the snynchro loose on the taper for the 5th gear.

    Also, extensive rust on the shifting rods can make it tough to get into gear. Those are fixable, but you have to work from underneath, and its not a quick job. I dont think anyone sells the new shifting rods - you have to put new bushings into the ones you have. I doubt any mechanic will be interested in doing that job - unless you are willing to spend a lot of $$$!

    I have two 5-speed Escorts, both LX ones, and I check the fluid level once each year. On a 2nd gen its a big nuisance to do the check, but its the only way. The 3rd gen transmissions have that wonderful 'check' plug.

    I had an S series Saturn, whose 5-speed had a dipstick; why could not Ford/Mazda have done that???!!

    Your description of the symptom where it wont go into gear when the engine is running, but will go in when the engine is stopped -might- be another problem, but hopefully not. After filling the trans, if it wont go into gear with the engine running, you might want to jack up the car so one front wheel is off the ground; and run the engine/trans in one forward gear. The lubrication inside the 5-speed depends on the fluid being flung up and forward from the big differential gear, then running down a sloped guide, from where it is dribbled into the other rotating parts of the transmission. If the trans is unhappy from being run without enough lube, it wont re-lube itself until the trans is actually rotating, as if the car was moving forward. Hence jacking up on front wheel off the ground to do it.
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2018
  3. denisond3

    denisond3 Moderator Staff Member

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    And Welcome to the forum!!
  4. Joey_Twowagons

    Joey_Twowagons FEOA Member

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    Isn't the symptom of only being able to shift with the engine off a good indication that the clutch is not doing its thing? If so, most likely the clutch master or slave cylinder.
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  5. denisond3

    denisond3 Moderator Staff Member

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    Joey_Twowagons: An excellent point! And if the original poster (msecrets) finds there is fluid in the trans, that would be the next thing to examine. One problem with transmission fluid that is only somewhat low, is that you cant easily tell how low it is. You can tell if its full, or if its not full - but it could be just half a quart low or nearly dry. And if the trans was only a quart low, I think it would still work just fine.
    For the problem of a 'dragging clutch' , bleeding the slave cylinder would likely be where I would begin. Me; I like to change both the clutch master and slave cylinders anytime I have to replace a clutch problem.
    I admit it soaks up time; especially since I take out the driver's seat to be able to reach the nut holding the inside stud of the clutch master cylinder in place. Im just not able to reach that nut by stooping in the the door opening and twisting my back around.
    Much more comfy to put down a narrow plywood chunk, and lie down on my back facing up under the steering column.


    With our green 94LX 5-speed wagon, we had the dragging clutch effect at one time. We had been driving back from Seattle one summer, and the clutch began to give the trouble of not going into gear without a struggle in Wichita Falls. Not wanting to do any damage, we towed it the 800 miles to our place in zip code 78570, and continued on to our home in N. VA in another Escort. The next autumn when we returned to TX, that 94LX 5-speed was shifting normally. Im still expecting it to begin the 'stiff shifting' again, but it has been shifting normally for the last 5000 miles. ??

    I still check the trans fluid in our two 5-speed cars (and the 5-speed Comanche) annually.
  6. russix

    russix FEOA Member

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    What do your motor/trans mounts look like? In particular, the rear one(between trans and cabin).
  7. denisond3

    denisond3 Moderator Staff Member

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    The one at the backside of the trans often looks pretty gooey, as it gets oil from a leaking main seal, or a leaking shaft seal (on a 5-speed) or a leaking auto trans. Its also the most difficult to replace, due to lack of space around it. I have replaced a couple of them (I own five 2nd gen Escorts, but only when I had the engine/trans out for things like a new clutch or for rebuilding the automatic trans. A new mount back there (which Fords calls a transmission mount rather than a motor mount would likely be a good idea for many of our old Escorts.
    So would a new set of hoses to the vapor cannister, which none of mine have either.
  8. copcarguy

    copcarguy FEOA Member

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    Pic of inspection / fill plug on front of tranny:


    image.jpeg
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2018
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  9. denisond3

    denisond3 Moderator Staff Member

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    Isnt that the plug that lets you check/add fluid? I wish my 2nd gens had one there.

    If I recall right, the 2nd gens have the drain plug close to the firewall side of the trans, right on the bottom. I would check to be sure about the 2nd gen drain plug, but its raining at the moment and there is an anthill right under the front bumper.

    I would caution any hobbyist not to take out any bolts on the case that have 13mm or 14mm heads, as they hold important things in position inside; such as the shaft for the reverse idler gear.

    My 2nd gen. 5-speeds have two of those electrical switches sticking out. The one in your photo is the "backup lamp switch" The other one is buried in a recess on the bottom of the trans, and in the service manual is called the "park/neutral position switch". I wish I knew exactly what it does - since a manual trans doesnt really have a "park" function, & I wonder why the computer would care if the trans is in neutral. I find that part number (7Go72 as per the Serv Manual) on ebay, but only for earlier Escorts, and they dont look at all similar.
    Having two identical 94LX wagons (except for color) I know what one of them has an intact and connnected switch for what Ford calls the park/neutral position switch, and its "upshift now" light comes on; for every gear except when in 5th. One my other 94LX wagon, the wires for that switch are torn away. Its shift light on the cluster never lights up, to let me know about an upshift.
    I know I wouldnt want that orange arrow flickering on and off when driving at night, especially in the rain. So maybe that switch lets the computer know when you are in 5th (or reverse) so the upshift light wont come on.
  10. copcarguy

    copcarguy FEOA Member

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    Yes Den you're right I mistyped drain plug instead of check/fill plug.

    Thanks for catching that I don't want to give wrong info!!

    I updated my earlier post
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2018
  11. copcarguy

    copcarguy FEOA Member

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  12. denisond3

    denisond3 Moderator Staff Member

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    One of my 94LX wagons has an occasional problem with a high idle, mostly after hours of driving. I can even notice it when it gear and cruising along the interstate; as the car wont coast down the same as it normally should, but will nearly keep up its speed. Shutting off the ignition and turning it back on always fixes the 'high idle' for a while.
    So maybe I need to fix the broken wires to that switch or get a replacement switch!
  13. Joey_Twowagons

    Joey_Twowagons FEOA Member

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    "I would caution any hobbyist not to take out any bolts on the case that have 13mm or 14mm heads, as they hold important things in position inside; such as the shaft for the reverse idler gear."

    That's a very good tip!
  14. Intuit

    Intuit FEOA Member

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    [​IMG]
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  15. Intuit

    Intuit FEOA Member

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    If it hasn't already been suggested, check your clutch master cylinder.

    Doing so is simple... at least for the 2nd Gen.

    Engine cold, clutch not having been operated overnight, have an assistant hop into the driver seat.

    Meanwhile, you peak at the slave cylinder on the transmission.

    Have the assistant quickly floor the clutch pedal. You should see significant movement of the slave. If you see a different amount of movement for each time it is floored, then the hydraulics are leaking. For the 2nd Gen design, the slave is *ONLY* capable of leaking externally, where as the master cylinder can leak internally or externally (such as at the firewall plunger).
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  16. msecrets

    msecrets FEOA Member

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    Thank you all for the info. It was indeed dry - i ran it out of tranny fluid. Put some in rocked it back and forth a few times, put it in 1st with the engine off, started it and away we went!!! A bit hard to shift for just a few minutes but now its as good as ever. Lesson learned. Lol.
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  17. denisond3

    denisond3 Moderator Staff Member

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    Thanks for the feedback!
    How often you need to check it will depend on whether and how fast it leaks from the bottom; where the shifting shaft enters, and at the axle seals. Both of mine stay more or less dry: hence only checking it once a year.
  18. Joey_Twowagons

    Joey_Twowagons FEOA Member

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    "It was indeed dry - i ran it out of tranny fluid."

    If you are talking about the clutch master cylinder reservoir, I hope you really added brake fluid, not tranny fluid.
  19. denisond3

    denisond3 Moderator Staff Member

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    Tranny fluid (a.k.a. Dexron or equal) for the tranny; and DOT-3 brake fluid for the brakes.
  20. msecrets

    msecrets FEOA Member

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    Thank you. Actually we did put Mercon V ATF as per the manual. Now im having a rattle sound at start up when clutch is pushed in and i put it in 1st....my mechanic friend only put the one quart of fluid in that i bought. I got to thinking if it was out of fluid, and he only added the one quart, didnt say anything about needing to get 2 more, surely it is still very low on fluid since it takes 2.9 quarts to get it to the proper level. On my way to work i barely got it in 1st, hard shifting into 2nd, and couldnt get 5th at all on the highway....im crossing my fingers that i can get that vss out myself and add some fluid when i get off work :(
    Theres no way in hell im driving it again until thats checked. Im sure he left me 2 quarts low. Very unhappy..

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