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91 escort has 1st,3rd, and 5th, but no 2nd, 4th, or R

10-29-2010, 03:50 PM
91 ford escort manual trans. you can shift into 1st,3rd, and 5th, but not 2nd, 4th, or R. i had it on jacks stands and if i rotated the front tires by hand back and forth with someone in the car try to get it in reverse i get a loud clicking noise for a minute and then it goes into reverse and i can feel the drag of the trans on the tiires and there is no clicking after that. tried the same with 2nd and 4th but it will not go into gear. any ideas would be greatly appreciated. car is owned by single mother off 2 and i'm heading out of town on tuesday, i would hate to see someone that she knows work on it, they have a tenency to take things apart, lose interest, and never getting it back together.

Thank you for any advice, suggestions, etc. Jon

10-30-2010, 10:08 AM
Im thinking its a problem with the bushings in the shift linkage (outside of the transmission) or the fitting where the shift lever pivots, down inside the console. There are two long rods running parallet to each other, from below the shift lever, up to the transmission. One of them is just a stationary rod, meant to keep the shift lever pivot point at the same distance from the transmission.
The other one is the actual shifting rod. It rotates slightly to select 1/2 or 3/4 or 5th/reverse. It moves forward and back to go into a gear. Pushing the lever forward (for 1, 3, & 5th) will cause the control rod to pull toward the back of the car. Pulling it backward (toward 2, 4, & or reverse)will cause the rod to move toward the front of the car.
There are several sets of bushings in this linkage, that can get chewed up by fast shifting and turned into mush by being soaked in the oil that drips back from the engine/transmission. They are available from dealers, or from - where you would select the 91-95 Ford Escort models, and type "shift linkage" into the search window.
I think there is also a setscrew on the shaft that goes into the transmission. If this is loose, it will let the shift rod move somewhat without actually moving the shifting fork inside the transmission.

Another thing to check, is whether the transmission has enough lubricant in it. The official way to do this is to remove the Vehicle Speed Sensor (located at the back of the transmission, more or less below the brake master cylinder. This part is hard to reach, is often siezed into the aluminum transmission casing, and very very difficult to remove. Even with the air inlet duct remove and the battery and battery tray out, its still hard.
An alternative way to 'check' the level of transmission fluid, is to drain it out via the drain plug on the bottom of the trans. Then you have to make up a plug to fit into the opening, into which you can pump the right amount of lubricant, plus a couple of tablespoons extra; and quickly take out the 'filler' plug and replace the brass drain fitting. I think the guy who did this said he used a cork stopper (tapered and available in different sizes from good hardware stores), and one of the pumps that are made for pumping differential oil (80w thick stuff) into rear wheel drive cars. They sell the pumps as part of a gallon of the 80w oil, and separately. It may take some looking to fid the pump.
The fluid used in the transmission can be either Dexron III or an 80w or 75w heavy oil. They seem to work okay with either liquid - though if you use the thick stuff, then shifting would be a little stiff when starting out on a cold winter morning.
If you are able to get the VSS out, (its got a small bolt holding a clamp to keep it in - takes a 10mm wrench), then the proper level for the trans lubricant is halfway up the gear teeth on the bottom of the VSS.
Being low in lubricant can cause the transmission to be hard to shift - and if its not taken care of - it will ruin the transmission.

10-31-2010, 01:07 AM
thank you for your suggestions. i will look into the bushings tomorrow and let you know what i find in the next day or 2.


10-31-2010, 06:46 AM
This diagram is for the '95 - the gearshift linkage appears to be identical on both the 1.8 and 1.9 models.

'95 Escort gearshift linkage (

11-04-2010, 04:25 AM
havn't had a chance to look at it yet, but the girl had to move her car and she says now it has 2nd, 4th, R, and 5th. but missing 1st and 3rd.

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