Manual Geo Prizm won't shift into gear from neutral

1993 Geo Prizm with some odd 275,000 miles on it. Was at a stop sign, in first gear, and gave the car some gas. Very quickly it jumped out of first gear and stopped moving abruptly. Tried to get it back in first gear and it just stayed in neutral. Had to push it to the side of the road. Tried putting it in any gear and it wouldn’t go. Then tried to have the car running in neutral and let up on the clutch and as soon as I started letting up on the clutch, something (like metal) started grinding. Pushing the clutch it (in neutral) stops the grinding. So, do I need a new clutch? New transmission?

Sounds like the clutch needs service. How old is this clutch?

The car got a new clutch around 120,000 miles.

The clutch may be okay, it seems to be working…But the shift linkage (it’s probably a cable affair, much like the cable that adjusts your rear-view mirror) may have failed, leaving the transmission stuck or jammed between two gears…If the shift linkage checks out okay, then the transmission may have a problem…Will the shifter move normally when the engine is off?

When the clutch is pressed, the shifter move’s normally with the engine both on and off. However, when the engine is on and the clutch is released the grinding noises begin and the car is still in neutral no matter what gear you try to put it in. When the car is off and is in neutral and you try to roll the car forward or back, the grinding still happens with the clutch in or out. What are we looking at in terms of approximate cost for repair of clutch or transmission?

It appears you are at the point of taking the Prizm to an independent clutch/transmission shop. No matter what diagnosis is made, the transmission will have to come out at which time the clutch might as well be visualized and/or replaced.

I suspect that there is a problem inside the transaxle/transmission. If you plan to keep this car running for another 100k miles you could invest in a used recycled transmission and have it installed. However, have the engine, suspension, brakes, emission systems, and body inspected to see if the Prizm will last that long. To find out the cost of replacing the transmission call a few recycling yards to get a price. Depending on your locale a used transmission could be $300 - $400. You might check with a business that sells used Japanese engines and transmissions as these units are shipped from Japan; are relatively clean; and have low mileage.

One thing I would inspect if this were mine is the front axles to make sure that one of the half shafts has not broken or stripped its splines. That would not cost you much, relative to a transmission and/or clutch.

Hope this helps.

Realistically in dealing with a car with 275,000 miles on it and likely the clutch/transmission is not the only thing that needs replacing–I am guessing that the work needed to be done on this car is going to cost more then the car is worth. Any suggestions on good places to donate the car or any chance that I can get any amount of money for it anywhere?

Oh and the front axles were recently replaced.

One thing to look at is the possibility that one of the axles has pulled out of the transmission.

If you decide to donate, choose a PBS television or radio station near you. I don’t know if there is a way to donate a car to CarTalk – maybe the brothers or cyberbabes can help. Alternately, you could donate the car to an automotive trader school for the students to work on. It is nice to have something which is broken to diagnosis and train on. I once did a front clip for a family friend and got the engine and automatic transmisssion of the donor car as payment for the asking.

If you decide to sell for scrap, check with your local auto recycling yard, aka junk yard, and ask how much they are paying per poind. They should know the approximate weight of your Prizm. If not check in your owners manual if it is still in the glove box.

IMO any junkyard/used transmission will have fried synchros

Fact of life

It could still be the clutch. I had one clutch spring break and it was flopping all around the bellhousing, making horrible noises, all the while with the truck not moving at all.
Before you make the assumption the car is toast, have a mechanic look at it and don’t mention to him that it may be toast.

Mechanic is saying that I have a bad right front axle. Asking $285 for the work and then they can test drive it to see if there is anything else wrong. Not sure if it’s worth the risk of fixing the axle and possibly more being wrong. He did say “chances are” that’s it but I’m not sure how much I want to “chance” on this car. Dilemma now is to donate and get no money or fix it and hopefully sell for $600. Either way, I’ve driven this car for 15 years and the original $3,000 I paid for it I have more then gotten my monies worth out of it :slight_smile: