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Weird Gear Problem/Mystery

I procrastinated too long to call in to the show, but I’m hoping some of you here can help! My car has a long-standing weird problem that has stumped all the local mechanics. The car has a standard transmission with 5 forward speeds and reverse. I purchased it new in early1993. It has about 85,000 miles on it.

After the car has been sitting for a while (generally overnight), when I back out of my driveway, the gearshift will not move out of reverse UNTIL I shut off the motor. Once the car is off, the gear easily moves out of reverse. All gears work smoothly the rest of the time. (And when I say it won’t move out of reverse, I mean it won’t move out of reverse! It won’t move in the slightest. It is totally stuck.) This has been going on for a few years now. Once in awhile, the same thing happens with first gear. Again, shutting off the car solves the problem. (It’s almost like a vapor lock.)

However, today it escalated a bit. I left the car in reverse while parked in a parking space on a downhill slope. When I returned to the car, the gearshift wouldn’t budge. Turning off the car didn’t work. I even tried backing up in small bits to see if the gear was just in a funny place. No effect. The solution? I had to run the engine for a minute or two. Then turn off the car. It moved right out as if it had never been stuck. All gears have moved easily the rest of today.

Any ideas, folks? This has been stumping my local mechanics for several years now. They all say that turning off the car should have no effect. But it does. And it’s the only thing that works. They all become believers after they keep the car and experience this themselves.

Thanks in advance for the help. I’d really like to get this fixed before it decides to get worse.

Dunno what you’re driving, but if it’s a 1993 it might have a hydraulic clutch. Check the hydraulics, and then check the clutch to be sure it’s actually disengaging when you step on the pedal.

Does this only happen when it is below freezing? Could be ice in the linkage.

Does it only happen in reverse, and not 1st?

All fluids were recently checked, but I’ll check the hydraulic possibility. And, yes, the clutch is definitely disengaging. It happens even when the car has been in the heated garage, so ice isn’t likely. It happens in reverse 99% of the time, but it has happened at least once in 1st. Keep 'em coming!

It’s an Acura Vigor. 1993. A quick Google search says that it does have a hydraulic clutch, but that if that is leaking, then the clutch would have no resistance. The clutch appears to be fine.

A master cylinder with an internal leak (no visible leak and no fluid loss) will keep the clutch from fully disengaging.
It’s old enough to have this problem, especially if the fluid has never been changed.
I would replace the master and slave cylinders (they’re not very expensive) and replace the fluid every 3 years from now on.

I read an interesting article today. I have been one to believe that manual transmission fluid is a lifetime fluid, and it is, but as the syncros wear in your transmission, the gear oil may not meet the needs of the worn syncros, even though there is nothing wrong with it.

There is a gear oil made by a company called Red Line. This is the stuff Jay Leno recommends for older manual transmissions that are getting hard to shift in the cold, yes, that Jay Leno. He is a car buff with an extensive collection of antique and special interest cars.

Make sure your transmission calls for gear oil and not ATF or 10w40 motor oil. It was around this time that they were experimenting with alternatives to gear oil to improve gas mileage.

Thanks, guys! Any idea why turning the car off would make the clutch fully engage if the master cylinder is the problem?

With the engine off, you don’t need the clutch to be engaged or disengaged. You also don’t need the syncros to work. I doubt that it is the clutch.

I bet it is the clutch not releasing completely. Either you have a hydraulic problem or the clutch needs adjusting.

next time, get an automatic!!