Transmission & Clutch question -your opinions please SOMETHING'S BROKEN Update: the Outcome

So this happened to me yesterday, want to get the esteemed opinions of the experts here. I’m gonna go to a local respected transmission shop either tomorrow or Friday, hope to learn & gather as much knowledge as possible first.

Car, 1993 Ford Festiva, 199,800 miles, original clutch, 5 speed manual transmission. Had the shifter cable replaced about 2 years ago, so that’s not it. For almost the past year or so, there’s been a lot of freeplay in the clutch pedal, like you have to press about halfway to the floor before you start separating the clutch, but no slipping of clutch. Mechanic said usually when clutch is slipping it will grab near the top. Its been, like, for the past few months I really have to make sure I’ve got the clutch pedal pressed ALL THE WAY to the floor to shift the gears. Like it grabs way down at the very bottom. And it seems the gears don’t shift smooth like they used to, like the shifts are getting “crunchy” for lack of a better word, this is hard to describe in a post.

So ANYway, sitting at a light, light turns green, felt a ‘POP’ as I pushed the clutch pedal close to the floor. So now the pedal pushes down very loosely until about the last 2 inches or so, and at any rate, almost impossible to shift gears. I can kinda jam the gears if the vehicle is moving, but taking off from a stop is darned near impossible, I can kinda jam it into second gear and rev the engine to get going. (And I only did that in order to get home) Actually I was about 80 miles from home when this happened, fortunately I was near a major interstate, only had to contend with 7 traffic lights and managed to hit 3 of them green. Rolling along in gear (any gear) seems fine, almost impossible to shift.

Car now sitting on front lawn, tried (with motor off) shifting the gears, with or without clutch pedal depressed. Gears feel ‘crunchy’, i.e. doesn’t shift smoothly doesn’t want to go into a gear. Any ideas? Is my car toast? I was thinking along the lines of maybe a clutch spring or a synchronizer broke when I heard the ‘pop’.

And this is off–topic, but to top it all off, I get in my other vehicle to go to the store, and within half a mile the “check engine” light comes on, but that’s another topic, you can tell I had one heck of a day, someday I’m gonna buy me a new or newish car I’m getting sick and tired of patching up my rolling junkpiles, but for a variety of reasons which would be off-topic and thus verboten, I’m really not in a position to buy a new car right now. Does this sound like the transmission is done for, or do you think it can be fixed for less than $$$$$. Sorry for the long post, but its hard to describe a thing like this in words. Appreciate all of your esteemed input. Thank you in advance. :frowning:

Sounds like a clutch problem to me and possibly the pressure plate(off course replace both at once) you are doing good to get that much mileage out of these things,particulary in stop and go conditions of course the pilot bearing is probaly worn also,this should get you some replies.

If this thing is anything like the European Ford Fiasc… I mean Fiesta (cable activated), then there is a selfadjusting device for the clutch cable inside the car at the cable. That device often goes bad, giving the symptoms You describe, including the pop, Quite cheap to buy, quite a pain to replace.

Maybe as @asterix says, clutch cable, maybe pressure plate diaphram spring. I broke one of those once and had a similar experience with the clutch pedal until it would no longer disengage the clutch. Pilot bearing is likely worn out, too. Either way, with 200K on it, it should come out so you can inspect everything. Congrats on getting a clutch to nearly 200K, that IS impressive.

While I am unfamiliar with that vehicle and I didn’t see any promising finds on a search I do recall several cable operated clutches over the years that were self adjusting and could be reset by lifting up on the clutch pedal with enough effort to overcome the ratcheting spring on the self adjuster. And the cables that I recall were a real pain to replace.

Wait, you said “shifter cable”. That’s not the clutch cable, so original clutch cable, too? If you replaced the clutch cable two years ago, it still might have failed again. This is classic description of a cable failure. Other things may be wrong as well, but an audible pop, immediately followed by a very loose clutch that won’t disengage? Classic.

At this mileage, you’ve been very, very lucky not to have had to replace anything yet. But it’s most likely time. If you have to replace the clutch, don’t skimp on it. Resurface or replace the flywheel, new clutch plate, new pressure plate, new throw-out bearing. 199K miles is more than you should expect. With this car, though, it might be simpler to scrap it out and find a newer, safer ride (my truck is at 222K, so who am I to talk about that?).

You can try grabbing the center wire near the transmission with a pair of pliers and pulling to see what happens. If it’s got a lot of give (or comes out of the cable jacket completely), then you can be pretty certain the internal cable has given up.

Uh-oh, “shifter cable” “clutch cable”; I guess I’m revealing my ignorance; didn’t realize these were 2 different cables. The one I had replaced 2 years ago is the one that attaches to the metal lever on top of the transmission housing, goes through the {firewall- is that the proper term?} and presumably attaches to the clutch pedal under the dashboard.

I tried the thing with the pliers, Yeah the cable has a lot of give, can easily slide it out of the “cradle” it sits in on the lever its attached to. The lever itself feels about the same. In other words, I have no idea what’s going on so I may as well just admit my ignorance.

Went up to that transmission place today, 3 guys working behind desks as well as a cashier window, one of the guys pulled up a diagram on the computer and showed me, he said the clutch pedal / cable housing under the dash is a plastic housing which often cracks / breaks which causes what I’ve described (the flaccid clutch pedal). Obviously he can’t diagnose unless I bring in the vehicle. I’m gonna try to limp it up there either tomorrow or Friday.

I guess the bottom line is if I can get this thing repaired for a few hundred dollars its worth doing, but if they’ve gotta get into the internals and the bill is going to be closer to a thousand or more, its probably time to hang it up.

To your point, chassios, not so much about “skimping” on the clutch ,but I’m thinking about, what’s gonna go wrong 3 months from now, six months from now? At what point do I throw in the towel? I’ve already had to change mechanics because my old mechanic didn’t want to be bothered calling all over town trying to find parts for this long out-of-production car anymore.

I guess I’m ahead of the game because I already know what I would replace this car with, a new Honda Fit. My mother died very recently, we were very close. I stand to inherit money as a result of this, and everybody around me knows this. It just seems to me that it would be in VERY poor taste to run out and buy a new car at a time like this, almost as though I’m celebrating the death. I have nightmares about this. On the other hand, I had already done the research and decided this was the car I wanted before any of that happened. Its not like I’m running out and buying a new Ferrari or Mercedes, I’m talking about a practical commuter car which I would in all likelihood keep for at least 20 years unless my transportation needs change dramatically. And it could be argued that one NEEDS a good reliable car to get to work with. . .

It can take months to receive an inheritance. Anyway, anyone who isn’t happy about your new car doesn’t deserve a second thought.

Cool. So, something just snapped, either the plastic support, or the cable. They should be able to look and tell if it’s the support in a couple minutes, then give you a better estimate.

As for your new car, @insightful is correct. Settling estates can take a very long time (my MILs took over a year), but it can also go quickly - IF everyone is in harmony with what Mom wanted. It’s when there’s a question (and an ensuing battle) that it gets long. With luck, you won’t have to face that. There are certain family members we no longer have contact with.

So, fix the car, as cheaply as possible, drive it until something else breaks - hopefully well after everything’s settled, then get a replacement. Sounds like a plan to me.

True, I don’t anticipate actually receiving any money until next summer; was already getting my money lined up for a vehicle purchase; and its not a tremendous amount of money. Like, the things I was already planning to do in the next 5 - 6 years I’ll be able to do in 2- 3 years.

This death combined with my own recent health problems got me to thinking its time to get going on my own bucket list. I’ve been talking about getting a boat for at least the past 10 years, this would necessitate having a good tow vehicle. I’ve already determined that my Jeep is too old / unreliable to serve as that tow vehicle.

As my handle “Frugal” indicates, I couldn’t justify buying a new car, then buying a new truck in a year or two. I don’t drive enough miles to justify that, and I’ve learned the hard way that a vehicle will deteriorate from just sitting on the driveway, sometimes moreso than if it were driven regularly. I think what’s best for me is one “good” vehicle, and one “beater” vehicle for a backup.

So if I’m serious about getting a boat in the future, I should probably forget the Honda Fit and get myself a good workhorse truck like a Toyota Tundra, and keep my Jeep as my backup. I want to keep my Festiva as a backup, but its falling apart and getting exceedingly hard to find parts for. However, I’ve always preferred small fuel efficient cars for daily transportation. My primary cars over 25 years have been a 1987 Chevy Chevette and my 1993 Festiva. The Fit just seems like the natural successor. Hopefully I can patch up my car and buy myself another 6 months to a year to agonize over what I should do. I’ll post again when the mechanic tells me what’s wrong.

“I’ve learned the hard way that a vehicle will deteriorate from just sitting on the driveway”

That X10 with a boat. If you get one plan to give up other hobbies.

Yeah, I know. I’ve heard that acronym, boat stands for Bring On Another Thousand. Probably why I talk endlessly about getting one but haven’t followed through. As George Carlin once said, " I don’t have hobbies, hobbies cost money. Interests on the other hand are quite free."

I had a VW Rabbit with a cable clutch years ago, and it developed a similar symptom after it was about 6 years old. All I had to do to fix it was adjust the clutch free-play. As I recall there was a thumb-screw sort of gadget I had to turn, similar to how to adjust brake cables on bicycles.

I had the same problem with a 1984 Tercel. There was a plastic ratchet and pawl mechanism over the top of the clutch pedal that was supposed to allow adjustment of the clutch engagement. The teeth wore down and the popping noise was the sound of the pawl slipping off the ratchet until it caught on the teeth further back that were not as worn. The repair wasn’t too expensive and it fixed the issue. The Tercel did not have a hydraulic clutch. It was a mechanical cable affair and, for a small car, made shifting a task that was not as easy as you would think.

Well, I got busy with other things and will have to wait till Monday to get it to garage. Actually will probably run it up Sunday evening when traffic is minimal and I can mostly do “rolling stops”. Two places I’ll for sure have to stop, hate to abuse the trans that way, but if its toast anyway probably doesn’t matter at this point.

I have back problems too, but I managed to lay down next to the car and twist and shine a flashlight up in there. Didn’t see any ratchet and pawl, but there is definitely a metal bracket connecting the top of the pedal above the pivot point to the actual cable. One side is broken and the side actually connected to the cable is bent accordingly, although pushing the pedal does move the cable some. I think I’d have to find someone from Cirque du Soleil to get up in there and replace that part. I can see why these type of repairs are expensive, although I suppose with the right equipment, a hydraulic lift, and a mechanic who does this daily for a living its probably not so bad.

The thing that worries me is did that bracket just fail from fatigue, OR, did something fail in the transmission / clutch that put more pressure on the cable / bracket and made it pop? I guess I’ll find out on Monday. Since I posted this topic here to begin with I thought I’d post this update. I’ll let you all know what happens Monday.

P.S.- As some of you have pointed out, 200k is way more than I could have reasonably expected from a clutch. I’ve kind of worn that info as a badge of pride, a testament to my ability to drive a manual transmission properly, although I know I shouldn’t toot my own horn like that. I don’t live in a particularly hilly area, but that car has seen an awful lot of surburban stop-n-go driving to work, the store, the mall, to grandma’s house, etc and so forth over the 20 years I’ve owned it. Heck, I probably should’ve burned out the clutch just during the great blizzard of '03 when I got stuck in multiple snow drifts and had to ‘rock’ the car back and forth until the tires were literally steaming in the snow. :smile: I’ll be a lot more happy and proud if I can just have that bracket replaced and squeeze another 10k miles out of it. Wish me luck. . . . .

My Corolla has over 200K on the original clutch. That’s not an uncommon thing.

UPDATE: Sorry it took so long for me to post this update. Turns out it was the clutch cable, it broke at the other end this time. Forty some dollars for the part (plus tax), $100 for the labor, and well worth it, as I said, I think one would have to be in Cirque du Soleil to contort themself up under the dashboard like that.

Still doesn’t shift like it used to though, I wonder if I may have bent something when I had to shift it without the benefit of the clutch. Kind of afraid to inquire though, under the theory, if its working, don’t mess with it. Took it on a 1,000 round trip to the Festiva Madness last week and made it home alright. Hopefully I’ll get another 6 months to a year out of it while I decide whether I want to buy a Honda Fit or a good workhorse pickup truck.

I know folks here like to hear about the outcome to problems, so I posted this update.

I just Goggled Festiva Madness and there is an annual meet for people who have ford Festivas and Aspires . I never would have thought possible.