View Full Version : '91 5 speed hard to get in gear?

Dustin Yenny
08-02-2002, 06:43 PM
Fellow SC'ers:

I just bought the car and the previous owner told me that sometimes the car would have trouble getting in gear. He said he could usually push it into 3rd then 4th and it would slide into 1st easily. I had my mechanic replace both motor mounts as they were shot and a high pressure PS line because it had a leak. I thought the problem had something to do with the motor mounts being bad but the problem is still there! Below are my views and observations:

The car does not do this everytime, most of the time it is fine. Shifting is very smooth and I do not get any grind. Although, I shift slower than your grandmother....which is probably a good thing from what I keep reading (people shift too fast and start losing gears). It only does it to me when I am on in incline (even a very slight incline) and when I push the clutch in and take it out of gear I hear an audible "clunk" then you have to fight to get it back in ANY gear. Usually I can pull it into 4th (it does not slide right in, I pull it), I can then get it in any gear. Reverse is usually tough to get it in after I let the car coast from the incline to a flat area. If I shut the engine off when I can't get it in gear, it will slide right in gear.

The problem is only when the car is on an incline like this with the car being at the bottom and the nose pointed towards the top:

-----\ Top
-----------------\ Bottom

If the car is at the top and the nose pointed towards the bottom, I DO NOT THINK there is a problem....although I will have to confirm that. My only other observations which may or may not be related are:

Car has a small vibration from underneath at or above highway speeds (if you go real fast it is more noticeable, at 65-70 its not bad but I can feel it a little). The car was just aligned (4 wheel) like 3,500-4,000 miles ago. I have the papers and everything is in spec and suspension wise there is no play (per my mechanic--he noted new-er tie rod ends as they were greasable). The tires are brand new with about 400 miles on them and they were balanced and all that other stuff. The rear end gears were replaced by the "previous-previous" owner to cure a "bad bearing" and I have no idea what they are (the previous owner said one step up from stock---3.08's ??). The last observation is that the clutch seems to grab awfully high and when taking off in first I get a rattle or something like that, after the inital start I don't hear this rattle. My mechanic said and I quote "you have the push the clutch far to get it to disenage" but I do not notice this problem!

Thanks for reading my book and if you have any ideas what could be wrong please let me know. I may have the mechanic put in a clutch and transmission mount since thats the only other thing I can think which could cause a clunk and the clutch grabbing high up drives me NUTS!


08-02-2002, 06:57 PM
possibly a u-joint? That would definitely cause a vibration. It could also be a tranny mount that would make it hard to shift under load.

Dustin Yenny
08-02-2002, 11:02 PM
Thanks for the info. How do you check for bad u-joints?

08-03-2002, 02:22 AM
I had a bad vib too. Did simple stuff first like check
tire balance etc. Then took to shop and they said
bad u-joints. I guess you can just grab them and notice
them loose.

Had them both replaced, and the vib went away. $221.00
Pretty easy to change u-joints, but didn't have a lift or place to
drop the rear or gas tank, so paid to have it done.

My shifting too is pretty stiff. Sometimes doesn't want to
go into first and really can't speed shift, just goes in
eventually, but with no grindage.



08-03-2002, 09:45 AM
to check for bad U-Joints, crawl under the car and grab the drive shaft. Try to move it side to side, if it moves, bad u-joints.

Dustin Yenny
08-03-2002, 03:40 PM
Well, it seems the problem with the car not going into gear when on an incline was the fluid level was low. I filled it to the required spot and even though it wasn't empty the car goes into gear on any hill fine. I do not think the clutch was disengaging enough and the clunk was me forcing it out of gear. There is still a slight vibration and I have a few other questions before I check the u-joints:

Should I grab the driveshaft and twist it side to side or pull it to the front of the car and towards the back?

Does the car need to be in any certain gear?


08-03-2002, 06:54 PM
Hello Dustin. I have had very similar problems selecting gears. Randomly, it would be hard to move into any gear, and I would use 3rd or 4th to get in 1st. I have altered my clutch fluid several times, high, low, and normal with various results. Normal is the best, but it still happens. The fluid is basically black, and I will be changing it next week in an attempt to cure the problem. I believe it is with the hydralic cylinder not fully disengaging the clutch. I have noticed no difference upon various terrain, this can occur when I am idling on even ground. It does seem to occur more often when the car is warm. I will post the results of my fluid change. Beware however, that a problem like this can cause very excessive wear on the syncros. If you are having this problem, but hear no grinding, have the clutch and fluid checked immediatly.. it may save your trans. If you do hear grinding, check your clutch before having your syncros done.

As far as your U-Joints, they can cause vibration at speed, but almost unoticably in the early stages. If you tap the throttle repeatedly, you can feel some play before the drivetrain actually engages. Also, if you move underneath the car, grab the driveshaft and turn, there should be no play whatsoever. UJoints on these cars take a little more labor, but the job is basically simple.

Dustin Yenny
08-03-2002, 08:15 PM
Thanks for the reply. I just took the car on a little drive and I notice the problem is still there but adding fluid seemed to help some. I notice it most when I come to a complete stop. If I am slowing down and put it in 1st before I come to a complete stop, it will go in but it is not as easy as I feel it should be. As I said, the problem is really random and most the time it shifts very smooth so I doubt its the transmission internals. I had talked to someone on here via email and they said the problem was something in the transmission but I feel it has to do with the clutch NOT disengaging correctly. Anytime the car fights to get in gear, all I have to do is shut the motor off and it goes right in. When I picked the car up and drove it on the trailer I had one hell of a time getting it in gear and the previous owner had already left....I tried forcing it into gear and it grinded. Thats the only time it has ever grinded. I shut the car off because I didn't know what I had done and it slipped right into gear. My only observation is when I push the clutch in the revs drop slowly. In my '93 SHO, I would push the clutch and by the time I could shift the revs had fallen back to 900 (told you I shifted slow), but not in the SC.

08-04-2002, 03:51 PM
That is certainly similar. When rolling to a stop, I too can engage the clutch and shift into gear ok if I'm still rolling. But if I come to a stop, it is hard. This is most likely because when the car is rolling, the drivetrain is still moving, and the RPM difference between the engine and transmission is minimal. Check your hydralic clutch fluid.. post what color it is, its consistancy, any smell it has, ect. I notice Tbird88 also has the problem. At this point, because this only occurs sometimes, I strongly believe the clutch fluid has simply absorbed too much moisture, and is improper consistancy for correct hydralic action. It has gotten old and needs changing. I will have mine changed Monday or Tuesday, and I will post the results. Remember, until the problem is fixed, this will undoubtebly wear the syncros, so a problem could occur if it is driven. This might also wear out the bushing in the shift column.

Dustin Yenny
08-04-2002, 04:03 PM
Mine is black. I will go out and see if it is watery. How do I change the fluid, or should I just find a good shop? I didn't think what I was expieriencing was normal!

08-04-2002, 04:20 PM
The fluid can be changed, in a manner not unlike changing brake fluid. Then it would be necessary to ensure the fluid level is maintained while bleeding, so air is not let in. There are more complete instructions available elsewhere, but it is much easier and more reliable to take it to a shop. They will have a machine, and the process will be very smooth. If you bring the fluid to them, it should cost significantly less. I have found most cost in the shop to be associated with parts, not labor. Heavy duty or Super heavy duty DOT 3 Hydralic brake fluid should be adequate. I will check the PDF spec sheets on the sccoa momentarily to see if they recommend anything specific.. and for the quantity.

Dustin Yenny
08-04-2002, 04:25 PM
I may check with the mechanic who did my motor mounts and ps system. Hopefully I can get the fluid changed for a good price. I hope that new fluid could help the situation. It seems like the problem is random but I do believe it happens more once the car is warmed up...however I have only had the car since Thursday and time will tell.

Dustin Yenny
08-04-2002, 05:07 PM
Here is a detailed response I got:

There is something wrong with it. It shouldn't need to go to 5th
before going to 1st. Like I said, I used to go 3-4-3-2-1 and it would
fall right in, but that's not the way it's supposed to be. If you have
the clutch out in neutral at a stop light, you should be able to press
in the clutch, and then go right into 1st gear without any bind. In an
extreme case where the synchronizer is completely dead, you should have
to wait 4 seconds for the clutch to spin down. Same for reverse, you
should always wait a few seconds for the clutch to spin down because
reverse isn't synchronized.

If you keep the clutch pressed in at the stoplight or stop sign and not
take it out of gear, there was no problem. Maybe that's why you seem
to think it's random. It almost always would block me out of 1st
without going 3-4-3-2-1 or 3-4-1 (3-4-3-2-1 seemed more natural that's
why I did it that way, as the 4-1 isn't a shift you make often.)

Here's the synchronizer theory. When the input shaft is spinning, the
gears (1-5) are all spinning as well, which allows you to go from one
to the next relatively easily because they are already spinning at the
proper speed. If a synchro dies, that gear doesn't spin continuously
and makes it hard to get into that gear as it is either slower or
completely stopped, and you have to bring it up to speed with the rest
of the gears. Now, remember that clutch engaged means the input shaft
is spinning, even in neutral. Every try to put the car in 1st with the
clutch engaged at a stand still? Doesn't want to do it (and don't try
because you can hurt something).

Here's why I think it's a clutch issue: If the clutch is disengaged
(pedal down to the floor), if you are stopped, after 4 seconds, the
entire transmission inside should be stopped. It would be just like
having the car off and stopped. Nothing moving. However, to get it in
gear, you have to edge into 5th or 3rd or something like that. You are
stopping the transmission like that, using the synchros to bring it to
a stop, working against a clutch that is just barely grabbing enough to
keep things rotating. When you shut the car off, the slight clutch
grab isn't a factor anymore because the flywheel is no longer turning
the clutch (and in turn the transmission). This is why you can put the
car in 1st when you turn the car off.

Will it hurt anything edging 3rd or 5th to stop the trans? You will
wear the synchros a little faster, but you're not putting a ton of
stress on them as you would, say, powershifting or something. But,
it's still wear. It is annoying, it isn't good for the transmission,
and maybe even unsafe if you NEED to get moving (i.e. to avoid being
rear-ended). You can keep the clutch in and the shifter in 1st at a
stop sign or red light to aid in leaving the line without having to
fuss (if you put the car in 1st as you're slowing down, about 5MPH or
so will work fine, it will drop right in and you won't have to fight it
to get it back in). However that's hard on the clutch.

In any event, I'd say you should attend to its issues. It will be a
much more pleasurable car to drive and perhaps more safe as well.

Just my $0.02

wayne heisler
08-04-2002, 06:02 PM
Having the same type of shift problem definetly more so when hot and after making several stops. 90 sc 150,000 miles new clucth.

Dustin Yenny
08-04-2002, 06:11 PM
Did you replace the throwout bearing and slave cylinder when you replaced the clutch? What color is your hydraulic clutch fluid?

wayne heisler
08-04-2002, 06:29 PM
Slave cylinder and clutch replaced before I bought car last year do not know about fluid will have to check it out.Saw reciept from gararge cost the dude $600.

08-04-2002, 08:25 PM
So Dustin, I assume that is your mechanic speaking... What was his exact diagnosis about what was wrong? Just the fluid, slave, master ect? It would seem many ppl have had similar problems to this in the past, and perhaps many have lost synros thinking the trans was bad when in fact a clutch problem caused the wear. It would be excellent to find a cause to this..

Dustin Yenny
08-04-2002, 08:36 PM
Actually the guy I bought the car from wrote me that, he told me about the problems getting it in gear before I purchased it and I wanted his opinion on the subject. All my mechanic had to say was it was hard to get in gear at a stop, he didn't comment on the problem. I think it has something to do with the slave cylinder and/or release bearing. I get this rattle from the clutch componets and a clunk. I'll probably just live with it until the car dies, I hit something, or someone hits me. I keep hearing about people having this problem and actually remember people posting about fixing it so I am hoping they will be kind enough to comment on the subject and not leave us people who are expieriencing the problem guessing. If it continues or gets worse I'll probably sell the car unless of course Harrisburg screws me again. I could have sold me '89 at an auction before the HG pooped completely but damn Harrisburgh didn't get me the title until almost 9 weeks, ******* bastards! I even asked about paying to overnight it and they said NO, I politely told them my grandmother could have done it faster than them. Only time will tell!

08-05-2002, 10:46 AM
From a dead stop, trouble getting into or out of gear tends to point to either a problem in the transmission, or the clutch hanging up and not fully disengaged.

If there is contamination in the clutch hydraulic fluid, it's very possible that there is no longer enough throw in the clutch pedal to fully disengage the clutch.

Though this type of problem should show up on all gears.

08-05-2002, 12:43 PM
when you say you pushed up the driveshaft and it made a clunking noise, do you think that was the trans mount? im having this exact same problem with my 93 AOD. i talked to an exhaust shop that said it was a u joint just because they could move the driveshaft up and down but i dont buy that cause its tight at the yolk... and the problem stemmed from getting hte car back from a motor mount job, im thinking loose trans mount, but for $20 bux for a poly (friend needed motor mounts and at Mn12p its only $20 bux more for a trans mount with motors) anyway im hoping this solves my clunk problem as a u joint is big bux... but ive been to 110+ with that noise and it doesnt happen at that speed, only when going ove bumps so i dont think its the u joint itself.

08-05-2002, 12:58 PM
When a u-joint is in new condition and tight, you should not be able to move the end at all.

Put on an old shirt or cut up a cardboard box. Jack up the car and lay under it. Grab ahold of the driveshaft and pull on it like you are going to pull it out from under the car.

It shouldn't budge. If it does, you have a u-joint failing.

The rear transmission mount is part of the support system for the engine/transmission assembly. Thus there is quite a bit of weight there so I wouldn't expect just tugging on the driveshaft to move the transmission much, even if the mount was shot.

If a u-joint fails while going down the road you can have major damage to the underside of the car, not to mention the bits of metal that go flying behind you. Just imagine that steel shaft banging around under the car as you start to slow down.

Dustin Yenny
08-05-2002, 01:54 PM
XR-7 Dave came over to my house today to look at my '89 for sale. He drove the '91 and concluded he was having the same problem with his Cougar and his blue '89 is starting to do this. He thought the clunking I was hearing was just the drivetrain and the rattle problem was something like the heat shield for the cats. His Cougar is down now because of this problem, I believe he is putting a clutch in. Although he thinks it is something to do with the hydraulic system...clogged line, leaky line, bad master cylinder, etc... I am gonna bleed the clutch and see if that helps, maybe even have a shop flush the fluid.

01-06-2003, 11:41 PM
I know it's been a while since anyone has posted here, but i'm lookin for info on what is wrong with my tranny and from what you describe we have the same problem. Did you ever get it fixed? If so what was wrong? I took my car to my local mechanic today and he lifted me and the car up and and pumped the clutch 4 times and held it while he bled it from below. We did that twice and he said to see how it was after that and let him know. So far it seems a little better but not much. Well if you have any info it'd be appreciated


Dustin Yenny
01-07-2003, 12:11 AM
Wow, this thread is old! I sold my '91 Super Coupe to Dave Dalke (XR7 Dave). I believe Dave has had very similar problems with his other car(s). I always noticed the problem would go away for a week if I dumped the clutch and burnt a little rubber. My feelings were the clutch disc, plate, T/O bearing were in need of replacement. I never got around to fixing those items. Needless to say, it would take alot for me to own another 5spd Super Coupe. I could possibly see a 94/5 with the AODE.

Good Luck!