Transmission does not engage until it warms up

I have a 1997 ford escot wagon and it does not want to shift gears when it is cold (20F). The rpm go to 4000 and the car just barely moves. After a few minutes it will respond normally. Does the trans fluid freeze. I can’t seem find a filler opening

How many miles on your Escort? When was the last time the transmission fluid changed? When was the last time you checked it? Was it clean, and did it smell burned? manual or automatic transmission?

If the OP continues to drive the car, he will soon wind up stranded when that failing transmission finally gives out.

As was said, the first step is to check the trans fluid for correct level, color, and smell. If the OP doesn’t know where the trans dipstick is, that pretty well proves that the fluid has never been checked, but the Owner’s Manual will solve this mystery for him, albeit a bit late in the game.

As was also implied, if the trans fluid has never been changed, the transmission is almost surely at the end of its life span. After checking the fluid, have the car towed to an independently-operated trans shop–NOT to AAMCO, Lee Myles, Cottman, Mr. Transmission, or any other chain operation.

Chances are you have killed the poor thing through neglect and now through revving it up while the trans is slipping.

Do check the fluid. The owner’s manual will tell you all about how and where it is - basically, the car needs to be warmed up and running on a level surface. The dipstick is on the driver’s side, just beyond the engine, a little low down - look sort of between the battery and engine. The top of the dipstick is just a round rubber cap - if the color has survived the time, it will be topped in yellow.

Are you saying that the engine is winding up to 4000 rpm’s and the trans is in FIRST gear and its not shifting to second?? The way I’m reading this is the trans is cold and because of the age of the trans, worn, hardened clutch piston seals are leaking keeping the trans from shifting. The only cure for this of course is overhaul. You can however pour a can of Berrymans B-12 Chemtool in the trans which will soften the seals and cause it to shift correctly. The Berrymans will confirm whether your problem is hardened clutch piston seals or not.

Heres what you need to buy, I get it at O’Reillys, Pep Boys, Wal-Mart, and Auto zone.