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99 Escort ZX2 Transmission

I have a 1999 Escort ZX2 with 135,000 miles on it. It has been EXTREMELY reliable (knock on wood) since I bought it in '01 with 26,000 miles on it. Lately (for the past month) I noticed that the shift lever for the automatic transmission was difficult to pull from park to low (the entire length of it’s movement). At the same time, the car seemed to develop an inability to engage in reverse properly. To resolve the “stickiness” in the lever, we greased the linkage. It now pulls very easily, yet the symptoms going into reverse have stayed the same. The lever pulls into position fine, but intermittently, the transmission will not engage reverse cleanly. It will either not engage at all, or it will jerk a few times after which it will “slam” into reverse. Generally if it starts jerking I pull the car past reverse into neutral, and then put it into reverse. This usually helps, but does not always work. For the record, I have no difficulty or symptoms in any other gear. Do I need a new transmission? Is it just an adjustment to the linkage? Any ideas?

I would try adjusting the linkage. I’m assuming the transmission fluid is clean and at the proper level.

Has the transmission fluid ever been changed?

I believe I am due to change the transmission fluid. It is at the appropriate level, but that was next on my list of things to do. It was changed as advised by my local dealership around 70,000 miles, so I would assume that now is the time once again. I have little experience with adjusting anything regarding the transmission. Is this something a novice should take on, or is it something that is better off left to a trained professional? Basically, how much risk is there that I will wreck something if I adjust it wrong? Keeping in mind my main area of expertise and mechanics is with the human body, not so much the automotive body!

These are remarkably reliable little cars, aren’t they?

If you have a service manual for the car it should tell you how to adjust the linkage. I wouldn’t attempt any adjustment without a manual. An incorrect adjustment could make things worse.

Do you have a regular mechanic? If so I suggest you consult with him or her about this. I don’t think you need a transmission specialist. Yet.

And, yes, it’s time for another transmission fluid change. If a fluid change and a linkage adjustment doesn’t fix it you’ll have to find a transmission shop.

If it comes to that avoid the large chain places and look for an independent transmission specialist.

Thanks for the advice. I have a manual, so I guess I’ll do some reading tonight. Fortunately/unfortunately I live in a small town (pop. around 1500) so my local mechanic is the Ford dealership in town. Labor rate is competitive with everyone else at $60 per hour and free loaners. They even pick my car up from my office and drop the loaner off! I’m spoiled :slight_smile: Anyway, I’ll look a little closer, just wanted an opinion without having to commit to taking it into the mechanic. Thanks!