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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi there!

I have a 1993 Escort wagon, 1.9L, manual transmission. The car will mostly shift fine, but sometimes won’t shift into any gear. This is almost always only a problem when I try to shift into gear after coming to a stop, rarely when rolling very slowly. The reverse gear grinds when I try to shift into that, so the input shaft must be rotating, if I am not mistaken?

When this happens I can’t move the stick all the way into the position of the gears. If I try to shift with force, I hear a clonking sound, so something must be moving down there. It feels like I’m hitting some kind of a wall. If I press the stick into 3rd gear with all force the car will sometimes move VERY slowly. I THINK it might be a little harder to shift out of gear right before it becomes impossible to shift into a gear from neutral - but I’m not certain about this.

Sometimes when this happens, the car WILL shift when I turn the car off, so I can start it in gear and it works fine. However, sometimes it WON’T shift, even with the car off. I then play around with the stick and at some point it will again shift into gears with the car off, which sometimes translates into being able to shift with the car running, but sometimes it doesn’t. First gear seems the hardest to engage. If I am able to shift the car when it’s off, it will sometimes start creeping in first gear once I turn the car on, and I then can’t shift it into second gear.

It seems to me like the clutch is not fully disengaging (input shaft must be moving) - but from all that I read that doesn’t explain why I can’t shift with the car off?

Is there any part that would keep the input shaft rotating even with the clutch disengaged and that would make It hard to shift with the car off, as well?

I read somewhere that the pilot bearing could intermittently hang, causing the input shaft to rotate even with the clutch disengaged. I do have a whining noise in my car, but it doesn't seem to appear with the clutch depressed. I hear it at a specific vibration in the engine bay, independently of if I’m moving/engaging the gas or the clutch pedal/ with gears in or out. Could that be it?

Could the shifter (shift lever seat and bushing) and linkage cause my symptoms?

Any thoughts whatsoever on this? I'm absolutely lost!

Olga
 

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Your clutch slave cylinder is most likely leaking. best to replace the master and slave at the same time to avoid cross contamination. althought it is possible the shifter bushings are worn, but would cause the problem all the time and not just when engine is running.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Your clutch slave cylinder is most likely leaking. best to replace the master and slave at the same time to avoid cross contamination. althought it is possible the shifter bushings are worn, but would cause the problem all the time and not just when engine is running.
Marclar, thanks for your input! I replaced the slave cylinder a few years ago, and I remember the symptoms being a bit different. The car would either not shift at all, or creep badly when it was in gear. This time around, it only does this every now and then, plus it actually DOES have a problem when the engine is turned off, which makes me think it must be something other than the clutch not fully disengaging. Am I on the wrong track?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Your clutch slave cylinder is most likely leaking. best to replace the master and slave at the same time to avoid cross contamination. althought it is possible the shifter bushings are worn, but would cause the problem all the time and not just when engine is running.
Concerning the shifter bushings: I was just under the car to install a new half axle, and I noticed that the shift linkage seems extremely loose (although I don't have any comparison. It just seemed like a very loose part more generally), and then I realized that my stick wobbles all over the place when it's in gear. Could that actually cause my problems shifting into gear? If so, could it also cause whatever is happening that makes the input shaft rotate so that I get bad grinding when shifting into reverse?
 

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I suspect the problem is that the clutch hydraulics are not fully bled of air, or the current slave cylinder is leaking. Also, make sure the clutch pedal can go down far enough; with my 94lx I cant have a thick rubber floor mat underneath where the pedal hits.
The reason you cant shift into gears all the time when the engine is off is that the synchros just arent lined up well enough. But if you fidddle around by moving the shift lever into other gears, it should eventually go into the gear it wouldnt go into before.

Also, a very floppy shift lever is just a sign of worn bushings in the shift linkage. Its kind of normal, and while repairable, its a LOT of work under the car to do it. Its a nuisance, but unlikely to fail entrely. I replaced the bushings on both of my 5-speed escorts, but I did it when the engine/trans were out of the car, in good warm weather and under a shade tree. Its a labor intensive job, and was the reason the previous owner sold the green 94LX to me. There are a total of six bushings, in three pairs. Two pairs are near the output of the transmission, the 3rd pair is directly under the bottom of the shift lever - and has to reached after the exhaust pipe and heat shield are out of the way.

Bad grinding when going into reverse is a sure sign the clutch disc is still rotating, and not being entirely "declutched". It might be a bad throuwonout bearing, but that is normally more consistent - and would be about the same all the time.


If you do your own repairs, it would possible to fix the sloppy shift lever in about a mild 3 day weekend, and if you plan to do that, I could go into the parts you need and where to get them, and some of the dismantling that would be needed. When I did mine, I had the console removed to remove the bolts that keep the shift lever up onto the bottom of the 'tunnel'. I had the front of the car supported in thick timbers about 18" up, so worked by sliding under the car on sheets of cardboard.
And unfortunately, with a 2nd gen Escort 5-speed, the only way to check the trans fluid level (or to add more fluid) is to have the Vehicle Speed Sensor out of the transmission. I had the VSS out when I worked on mine, but when I extracted it from the trans, the trans was on my workbench. I check my trans fluid once each year.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
"The reason you cant shift into gears all the time when the engine is off is that the synchros just arent lined up well enough. But if you fidddle around by moving the shift lever into other gears, it should eventually go into the gear it wouldnt go into before."

Oh, thanks, Denisond3!

So you mean I'm making it more complicated than it is: It might still just be an issue with the clutch not fully disengaging even though I'm at times not able to shift even with the car turned off? I had read somewhere that I should be able to shift with the car off, since the clutch is not involved in that. Would the clutch not fully disengaging throw the synchros off, or would any car have trouble shifting into any gears with the car off?

I will go through the hydraulic system again today and report back.

I did adjust the clutch pedal play, because I was actually suspecting that maybe the mat slipping under the pedal might have caused this intermittent problem. I think that actually helped a bit, but now its getting worse each time I use the car, so the real issue must have been elsewhere all along.

Oh, and I did take the speedo cable out to check the trans fluid. I read a lot on here about how difficult this can be, but I lucked out: I sprayed the area with PB blaster and let it soak a couple of days, then was able to grab the medal part with pliers and just twisted the thing out (twisting and pulling at the same time). The fluid level was just right and with a bright red color at that!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Oh, I do have one more question:
When I can't get into gear with the car off, I actually can't get into ANY gear at first. I then wobble the shift lever back and forth and try and try again. then some gear will work, but others won't. Sometimes a gear that worked will then again not work any more, and some gear will work but barely so. It seems that if I'm impatient and start the car with the gear in while it was still somewhat rough to shift, the car will usually start creeping, and I won't be able to shift with the car running. If I get to a point where it's easy to shift into any gear with the car off, the car will also shift with the car running. Would that make sense?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Hah, it seems that I WAS overthinking it: The slave cylinder might be it, after all!

I had cleaned the area around the slave well, and inspected it thoroughly when this all started. While the inside of it's boot wasn't exactly dry, it wasn't dripping wet either, and I didn't have any fluid loss in the break/clutch reservoir, so I discarded this option long ago. It also didn't seem to explain to me why I wouldn't be able to shift with the car off. However, since both of you pointed towards the slave cylinder, and you gave me an explanation for my inability to shift with the car off, I checked on the slave again, and it IS leaking. It's almost unnoticeable, but it sure is leaking. I cleaned and dried the area around the slave real good, and played around with the clutch for a bit, and sure enough: there was a slightly oily area just under the slave, so I'll replace it.

Thank you!

Should I replace the master and the rubber hose between the two as well, while I'm in there? Do you guys know what kind of hose would be a good replacement? Probably break line of the appropriate size?

I would still love to know if the inability to shift with the car off has something to do with the clutch not fully disengaging. When I played with the car just now the gears slid in super easily every time with the car off, so it does seem that this is mostly a problem when the clutch gets stuck...
 

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most slave cylinders are junk. I went through an average of 1 per year, if there is any contaimination in your brake fluid reservoir, it will damage the new slave. thats is the reason why you replace the clutch master and slave at the same time. sounds like you have compounding failures.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
most slave cylinders are junk. I went through an average of 1 per year, if there is any contaimination in your brake fluid reservoir, it will damage the new slave. thats is the reason why you replace the clutch master and slave at the same time. sounds like you have compounding failures.
Thanks, for the clarification, Marclar! I'll definitely replace both, then. I just looking at the ones available at Rockauto. They have LuK components. I hope they might last a bit longer? I'll definitely make sure to keep my break reservoir extra clean, too. Seems like a good plan anyways...
 

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Being able to get the Vehicle Speed Sensor out by wiggling and lifting up is a good bit of luck. Red is the gppd cp;pr, since its basically the same as Automatic Transmission fluid.

I would agree with changing the clutch slave cylinder and clutch master cylinder at the same time. Thats what I finally did to both of my 5-speeds. It. gets a little bit more complicated though. I took out the battery and the battery tray, to have better access to the bolts that hold the master cylinder into the firewall. The lower one you remove from under the hood, the other one is above the master cylinder, on the inside of the firewall. This one is not in a good position to reach. I took out the drivers seat, flipping it onto the far side of the back seat. Since the car is a 4-door, I could open the rear door, and sitting on the sill lie down, with my head below the steering column. (I had a narrow plank of scrap plywood to create the flat surface. getting the old clutch master cylinder out was easy enough. (I had soaked the clutch hydraulic hose fittings with penetrating oil for a day or two). Getting the new one installed was also easy. I replaced the original rubber tube from the fitting on the corner of the brake master cylinder reservoir to the top of the clutch master cylinder. then I used a pair of needle nosed piers to squeeze the hose repeatedly. This caused small air bubbles to appear in the brake master cylinder. It took repreated sueezes until the clutch master cylinder had filled with fluid. You would think it would happen by gravity, but it didnt seem to do it. Then I opened the bleeder screw on the slave cylinder 1/4 turn. I put a clean vinyl hose over the end of the bleeder screw: 3/8" diameter the vinyl tubing might have been, having the other end of that clear hose lifted up so I could see it when sitting inside the car and the hood open.. The clutch pedal seemed to just plop down to the floor each time, but eventually I saw fluid coming up into that hose. (I had to keep adding more brake fluid to top up the brake master cylinder). Finally, after a lot of patience, and giving the car time to respond, and my leg to get some rest, I had fluid coming up into the clear vinyl tube, with no more bubbles! Then I closed the bleeder screw on the clutch slave cylinder, and had normal clutch pedal pressures, and drama free shifting.. Dont expect this to all happen in 15 or 20 minutes. I think it soaked up an hour or more.
 

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most slave cylinders are junk. I went through an average of 1 per year, if there is any contaimination in your brake fluid reservoir, it will damage the new slave. thats is the reason why you replace the clutch master and slave at the same time. sounds like you have compounding failures.
Geez, do they really break that often? You'd think the manufacturers would do better
 

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A lot of old brake master cylinders have water contamination in them from the years of never bleeding the entire brake system. This contaminated brake fluid will mix with the fluid in the clutch master cylinder and can result in rust in the clutch slave cylinder. Although its a good bit of trouble to do it; if you were to replace the brake master cylinder and its reservoir, and do a complete brake system bleed - your new clutch hydraulic parts might last a lot longer.
I have done that with both of my 5-speed escorts. I do the bleeding of the entire brake system by having the whole car sitting on supports, with all four wheels off at the same time - and I use the clear vinyl tubing squeezed onto the four bleeder screws, and coming up into view from the driver's seat, so I know when the fluid in the tube has finally gotten clear.
And while under your car, I recommend you do an inspection looking for rusty brake lines. Especially up beside the fuel tank, where you can only see the area if you are under the car looking straight up. Cant be seen by looking from beside the rocker panel.
On two of my escorts I have had to replace some of the brake tubing going to the rear of the car -- (because although it was still slow, it was beginning to leak). Low cost replacement brake tubing (cupro-nic), but sort of labor intensive work.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
It has taken me a while, but I think replacing the clutch master, slave and the flexible clutch line between them solved the problem. I still can't believe it was such an easy fix. I was certain it must have been something more complicated just because I wasn't able to shift the car off either. Oh, well! I am extremely grateful for your advice! I was about to take that transmission out to inspect the clutch and bearings.

Just a few thoughts on the repair itself:

The master cylinder bolt on the inside of the car is indeed kind of hard to reach, but I could do it without taking the seat out. It's on the left side just above the clutch pedal hidden behind a sensor. I took the sensor out and could reach the bolt (12mm) sitting right next to the car.

Bleeding the clutch wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I didn't bench bleed the master or the slave, since I didn't know how to. Since it seemed that people had trouble getting fluid into the master at all, I connected the hard clutch line to the master and the master to the reservoir, hoping that maybe gravity might work over a few hours, or that I could possibly start bleeding from that area before all the lines and the slave are connected, too. Fluid started dripping after just a couple of minutes, and I was in quite the hurry connecting everything else with the fluid coming out more and more vigorously. It was quite messy, but bleeding was actually quite quick after that little disaster.

I do still need to bleed my breaks. Not because opening the clutch lines messes with the break system, but because I haven't bleed them in a year, and I kind of want to keep that area cleaner than I have been. The break fluid that came out of the clutch lines was freaking NASTY!
 

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As I mentioned before i think, I like to bleed the brakes by having the car sitting on stands (stacks of 6 by 6 lumber) with all four wheels off at the same time. Then I first free up the bleeder screws and lave them closed but not super tight. I have an 8 ft length of clear vinyl tubing (from ardware store), of the size that just slips snugly 1over the end of the bleeder screw; so it wont fall off so and I dont have to hold it on. I leave the bleeder screw open about 1/4 turn before this. The other end of the length of clear tubing I bring into view from the drivers seat, by duct taping it to a broom handle... with the end of the hose curled into an empty water bottle. This is so I dont drip brake fluid over the side of the car - since the brake fluid is hard on paint. Then I can pump the brake pedal and watch for it to rise into the clear tubing, until its clear or nearly so. Then I tug the vinyl tubing off, shut that bleeder screw, and move to the next wheel. I keep the brake master cylinder topped up; and I use only brake fluid from a newly opened quart can of it. (That ensures no water is absorbed by the brake fluid I am adding !).
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While the four wheels are off, i check the air pressure and clean them.
 

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I'm on my 4th , 2nd gen , 5 speed wagon . On two cars , I've this very problem ... not being able to get the car in gear , and /or having it stick in gear when i rolled to a stop at a light ; and then nearly breaking off the shifter to pull it out while double clutching . My current 96 wagon's 5 speed got a full going through recently , and one of my suspicions was confirmed . I had a bad bearing on one of the shafts that would allow it to " wobble " or get out of its rotational plane ... This was causing a slight cocking of the gears and causing my shifter to get stuck . When i would double clutch, and get the car moving a little , i could usually pop it out of gear . Unfortunately my clutch disk took a beating .
I ordered a full transmission bearing & seal kit from A drivetrain place for $120.00 and had a local machine shop press off/on the new bearings . 4 years now and my tranny is still humming along smooth .
Good luck
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I'm on my 4th , 2nd gen , 5 speed wagon . On two cars , I've this very problem ... not being able to get the car in gear , and /or having it stick in gear when i rolled to a stop at a light ; and then nearly breaking off the shifter to pull it out while double clutching . My current 96 wagon's 5 speed got a full going through recently , and one of my suspicions was confirmed . I had a bad bearing on one of the shafts that would allow it to " wobble " or get out of its rotational plane ... This was causing a slight cocking of the gears and causing my shifter to get stuck . When i would double clutch, and get the car moving a little , i could usually pop it out of gear . Unfortunately my clutch disk took a beating .
I ordered a full transmission bearing & seal kit from A drivetrain place for $120.00 and had a local machine shop press off/on the new bearings . 4 years now and my tranny is still humming along smooth .
Good luck
Thanks so much for your input! I do think that changing out the master and slave might have fixed my problems. Shifting is sometimes still a bit harder for me, but I'm hoping that's just residual air in the lines, and a simple fix with another round of bleeding.
Do you happen to remember which bearing was shot to cause you these kinds of problems? And did your reverse gear grind when your gears got stuck? I'll definitely keep that transmission bearing and seal kit in mind in case my issues should not be resolved after another shot at bleeding.
 
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