Revving and no power, a sad state for my Ford Escort

I have a 1996 Ford Escort (named Ruby)with about 36,000 miles. It was my grandmother’s car, and it was well maintained while in her care. I have had the car for the last 3 years, and have had regular tune-ups and oil changes. About 6-9 months ago, on a few rare occasions while driving at various speeds, the car would rev…VERRRRR!!!, then calm down and be okay. I would be driving on the highway or slow speeds. I couldn’t find a mechanic who knew what was wrong, because it wasn’t making this noise when they drove it.

About two weeks ago, it got worse. It would rev very strongly, and I had no power

to accelerate. I could only manage to get it to about 10 mph. I took it into a transmission shop, and the mechanic told me it was the fuel pump. He fixed it and it drove fine for a few days. However, yesterday the poor car seemed to be without power and revving really hard again (!), for about 1/2 a mile. I continued to drive it and it seemed to correct itself.

Can anyone suggest what might be wrong with this car?? I’d appreciate any thoughts you might have!

Automatic or manual?

It is an automatic.

I’m completely fuzzy on the description of the problem. Are you saying that the engine revs up all on its own without you applying gas? Or are you saying that you step on the gas, the engine revs up but the car doesn’t move? Which is it?

Initially, I’d be driving down the highway going 65mph, my foot giving constant gas, and it would start revving without any slowing down or change in speed. It almost sounded like the car was going to explode, as the sound of the revving was so loud. I’d slow down or pull over and the car would be fine. It would not rev again for a few months or weeks.

Now, I find that when I apply pressure to the gas, going at a slow speed, it will start to rev and NO POWER. Maybe unable to get into the next gear? I can’t get it to move. Then like magic (!) it starts to work again. I barely got it to the mechanic’s shop last week because it wouldn’t accelerate, but again, when the mechanic drove it had power and no revving. So, the problem is not constant, but I’m afraid to drive the car.
Does this help?

That’s a transmission problem. The first things to check are the fluid level and condition.

Thanks for the input. I appreciate it.

What kind of a transmission shop did you bring it to the first time? I would maybe try a different one - local, independent, good reputation - no corporate chains.

I live in Queens, NY. I took it to an independent transmission shop. I have no idea about his reputation, however, I informed him that the fuel pump didn’t fix the problem, and he said to bring back the car. But, if anyone lives in NYC, and knows of a worthy transmission shop?

As others point out, it does sound like you have a transmission problem, and it could be related to low fluid or slippage or some internal damage.

How often do you check the transmission fliud, and how was the level when the mechanic “fixed” it?

I would not drive the car much further since you may be risking significant damage.

Your best hope is just low fluid and the need for a fluid and filter change. Your worst case scenario is a rebuild for the transmisison.

The mechanics who have looked at the car have noted that the transmission fluid looks good. The correct color, level, etc. They seemed to discount the idea of a transmission problem because it looked good on the surface, however, it does seem like the transmission is on its last leg. Does anyone have any thought about a “re-built” transmission? Is this a good idea (since a new transmission would probably cost more than the car is worth)??

Thank you all very much for your thoughts/ feedback. It is greatly appreciated!

No one installs a completely new transmission in a car unless it is the dealer fixing a warranty problem.

A good independent shop, not a chain, will examine it and decide whether they can repair it in the shop (if the damage is not severe) or they should install a rebuilt unit (with a good warranty), or they should buy a good transmission from a wrecked model similar to yours. Rebuilds typically run about $3500-$4000 for a compact car. But don’t quote me on that. This is the figure you might want to carry in the back of your head.

Agree that for a car like yours, at that age, a mjor transmission fix might be more expensive than the market value of the car. However, if the car is in really good shape, has been well maintained and has relativey low mileage, it would be worth it. A used Focus like yours is almost guaranteed to have major problems soon after you buy it. Sort of like the devil you know vs the devil you don’t know.