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Discussion Starter #1
Well as the title says, it would appear we have a problem, or at least I do. To give some background, after taking delivery of the my car I had a couple instances where fifth gear wouldn't engage on the drive home from the dealer and I'd get locked out when trying to upshift from fourth. I was a little concerned but the next few thousand miles it didn't reappear and I chalked it up to a break-in related quirk.

Fast forward to a few months to the beginning of February with the car around the 6k-mile mark I was driving home from work one night and on what I recall being a three-to-four upshift, while the clutch pedal was still all the way to the floor and in mid-shift I had to apply the brakes for a sudden stop in traffic. After doing that the car sort-of shifted into first but didn't want to go into third and fifth gear. The shifter would have positive engagement into 2nd, 4th, and 6th gear but when trying to put the lever into 3rd or 5th it would feel like it was being locked out and applying slightly increased pressure on the shifter made it feel like a hard limit had been reached and after that point the shifter cable or bushings were flexing.

After working the car through the shift gate quite a few times and over the course of ~20 miles, by the time I got the car home it was acting somewhat normal again. By the end of the next day it was shifting just like stock again. I thought about scheduling a visit to the dealer but when no symptoms are present there likely wouldn't be anything they could do.

For the last few weeks it has shifted exactly like stock and no problems but two days ago I was on the way home from work again and it happened again under almost identical circumstances. From what I recall, during either a three-to-four upshift or possibly a four-to three downshift moving with the flow of traffic, with my foot to the floor on the clutch and mid-shift I had to brake and with how touchy they engage I ended up stopping a little harder than intended. Immediately I was not able to get the car into 1st, 3rd or 5th but was luck to be on a flat surface and did a careful second gear launch from the next stop.

I had to do this for a couple more starts as first gear was completely locked out but with the engine's thick torque curve it isn't too hard to drive in the lower shift quadrant gears. Unlike the first time this occurred it didn't really get better by trying to keep working the shifter through the quadrant doing 1-2-1-2-1-2, then 2-3-2-3-2-3, etc. a bunch of times. Eventually it improved a touch where I could sort-of get 1st to engage but it will pop out of gear if you're not extremely careful. Third gear isn't much better for engagement and doesn't pop out but has a lot of issues getting it to engage. Fifth for the most part doesn't feel right but seems to be working okay-ish.


My first thought was that the poor stock rear powertrain torque strut mount allowed the powertrain to shift under hard braking and if the shift cables moved enough might have caused the counter-weighted shift selector to slam the internal shift forks too hard at the incorrect time causing them to bend I'm never ham-fisted and never slam the gears when shifting and it doesn't seem logical the issue would improve like it did the first time with continued driving/shifting. Also I need to reference the service manual but I'm pretty sure those gears aren't on the same internal layshaft and would likely have different shift forks.

Next thought was a damaged cable or maybe a bushing or retainment clip came out but a good visual inspection underhood shows everything looking normal. I haven't dug into the dash to look at the shifter-side bushings but if one were loose I wouldn't expect it to feel like hitting a hard limit and not being able to get the shifter into the gear and instead would think it would go all the way into the shift quadrant and beyond and not feel locked out coming just out of neutral.

Right now just off symptoms I'd lean towards something in the shift selector being damaged. If that's the case and it did occur due to cable flex mid-shift due to the powertrain twisting on its axis that would make another great case for ditching the stock rear mount. Just like on my old SVT Focus if you try to upshift the ST slightly quicker on harder throttle applications the shift gate doesn't feel quite as precise and it's almost certainly due to the car using a cable actuated shift mechanism and the powertrain rotating on the upshift and the cables and their stiff outer housing/sheath moving or bending.


It kind of sucks but stuff happens and no mass produced cars are perfect. I may try to poke around a little more but the car will be going in for service anyways just to get it documented even if I did find something. Due to some work commitments it may stay parked and not get to the dealer for a week or two but I'll keep the thread updated as I find out more.
 

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Sorry to hear of your troubles but interesting problem to solve. Will be curious to hear your progress with this.

One thing i really wonder about with this car is just how hard we can really drive it. It wasnt produced with high quality parts for racing so i suspect that stock is gonna break more readily with aggressive driving. As much fun as this car is it was still made on a passenger car production line. And im not sayin there was anything you did to cause this i just wonder how long it can hold out under aggressive conditions.
 

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Sorry to hear. So you are running the stock mount when this occurred? That would make sense with the way the engine pivots under hard shifts. But how would it improve and come back? Odd, keep us posted.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Yep, thought it was really odd when it happened the first time and made me think it might have been something in the cable routing or attachment that worked itself out. After it happen this time and stayed like it, when shifting into gear, especially 1st and somewhat less into 3rd it feels like the hitting a hard stop and if you try to push further the cables and/or bushing flex so I'd be surprised if it is a simple cable issue.

And yes, the car is bone stock to include the mount. I've been getting ready to order the Focus Electric mount but put it off as I'm going through and making a list to order some other stuff for my SVT Focus at the same time. Maybe I should have ordered it sooner but if this is an inherent design issue I'm kind of glad it popped up now.

One thing i really wonder about with this car is just how hard we can really drive it. It wasnt produced with high quality parts for racing so i suspect that stock is gonna break more readily with aggressive driving. As much fun as this car is it was still made on a passenger car production line. And im not sayin there was anything you did to cause this i just wonder how long it can hold out under aggressive conditions.
I wouldn't be worried at all if you're stock, but the rear mount would definitely be an upgrade/improvement. If you're not abusing the car from every stoplight it has likely passed extensive durability testing. Ford wants even more than us to have a car that isn't going to break since they have to pay out on warranty work if it does.

For owners that do equivalents of clutch dumps, hammer the throttle on broken pavement and get excessive powertrain movement and wheel hop, shift with disregard and hammer every gear change, don't let of the throttle while shifting and generally beat the car they'll likely find the service life of stock parts is reduced. I'd count my issue as minor design defect if it ends up being related to the rear mount and if not just one of those defective parts that slips though. It doesn't matter so much that the ST is built on the same production line as the Focus as much as the quality of engineering, durability of testing, parts, and reserve capacity/overhead built into the parts that get bolted onto the car. Until more people start modifying the car and find the limits of stock parts when subject to increased power, forces, loads, etc. I wouldn't be too concerned. If you're stock you should be fine having some fun and flogging the car around and if something comes up due to that type of use that's why we have a warranty.
 

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Thanks Eric for the clarification. I dont really consider myself an aggressive driver and probably baby the tranmission compared to some younger drivers. I tend to short shift 1-2 and to some degree 3-4 so i havent even heard the 1-2 bang yet with the stock rmm. I have felt the "engine rock" though under harder accels. No wheel hop. One thing i do like though is more aggressive down shifting under decels so i am interested if this is more of a trans/shifter issue or a rmmm issue. I would probably be convinced pretty easily to change the rmm if there is proof that the mount in some way puts other parts of the car at risk. As to which mount? Thats what makes this forum so helpful ... Holding out somewhat to see which one works out in the long haul.
 

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It sounds like the problem might be the synchros. Have you tried double clutching to see if you can shift then, matching engine speed and tranny?
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I dont really consider myself an aggressive driver and probably baby the tranmission compared to some younger drivers. I tend to short shift 1-2 and to some degree 3-4 so i havent even heard the 1-2 bang yet with the stock rmm. I have felt the "engine rock" though under harder accels. No wheel hop. One thing i do like though is more aggressive down shifting under decels so i am interested if this is more of a trans/shifter issue or a rmmm issue
I’ve been around the smaller, front drive performance cars for a long time now and there are a lot of weak transaxles and many that are extremely tough, can take double their rated input torque, etc. and provide long service lives. But even then when they start to break the owners will complain and not factor in operator error. I can’t vividly recall someone with an older turbo Dodge talking about shifting problems and noise and asking do you do anything to abuse it or are hard on the trans. No, absolutely not and I don’t understand why this piece of trash is doing this, and so on being the answer. After riding along while he drove every stoplight was a high-rpm launch with an aggressive aftermarket clutch and every shift and on-ramp was a foot-to-the-floor clutch dump between gears as they slammed the shifter.

Short-shifting and even an occasional quick shift and getting on the gas hard shouldn’t hurt the car as long as you’re using the clutch. If you launch hard on irregular surfaces and get wheel hop due to the stiff sidewalls on performance summer tires that will likely increase the chance of a broken axle, trans case, etc. but we’re talking violent wheel hop that you don’t let off the throttle. The rear mount should help quite a bit to reduce the powertrain movement but some common sense should help with the rest.




It sounds like the problem might be the synchros. Have you tried double clutching to see if you can shift then, matching engine speed and tranny?
Didn’t seem to make a difference. The car would synchronize and engage the gear fine on each shift but it would feel like the shift level wasn’t moving the shift forks to their full stop so it was easy for it to pop out of gear.




UPDATE: As last evening it appears I have “fixed” the issue. I use quotes as I’m not sure it won’t reoccur again in the future but I’m back to complete, positive engagements in each gear with normal operation. I drove the car to a work site and noted first and third were acting worse than before with first popping out of gear much more and third gear not wanting to engage on the up-shift.

Thinking back about the circumstances and conditions the problem developed I was pretty sure it happened on a four-to-three downshift with the clutch fully to the floor and having to brake hard before the down-shift was complete. So I decided to do the opposite engine direction and perform a slightly harder than normal up-shift. After ensuring it would stay in 1st and not pop out I rolled heavily into the throttle and on the 1-to-2 up-shift performed a quick shift and immediately got back on the gas fairly hard, fully using the clutch but using enough throttle the engine would likely have banged into the end of the mount’s travel.

After a wheel chirp and slightly harder than normal driveline shock it was immediately back to shifting normal. Odd, very odd. I suspect if I keep the stock rear mount in it will do it again if I’m caught under the same circumstance but without looking through the shop manual on the internal operation of the transaxle I can only guess that it may be related to something in the shift selection mechanism or possibly cable routing issue due to something happening to the cables housing/sheaths when the powertrain rotates excessively on a sudden or hard up or down-shift.
 

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Wow, that is VERY odd Eric. Have you had a chance to re-visit the cable brackets? Give everything along the shift cable path a good tug. I wonder if one of the brackets is lose and causing the shift cable alignment to go out if they are jerked hard against the cable sheathing.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I did a quick check from above and everything seemed tight and in place but will have to look it over when I get the car up on jack stands to do an oil change and can take a closer look at the cable routing. On one of the other Focus forum I thought I skimmed over a threads mentioning where a transaxle or two have been swapped already and could easily see a tech incorrectly diagnosing something like this as an internal problem if everything looks okay and the car is popping out of gear or won't stay in gear. Then again mine might actual be something in the internal shift selection mechanism so I guess it will be a waiting game to see if it does it again.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I didn't get it in due to my work schedule and not being able to pick it up before they closed for the next couple weeks. If it happens again though I'll be tempted to drive straight to the dealer while it's at the worst and 1st, 3rd, and 5th won't even engage at all.
 

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I’ve been around the smaller, front drive performance cars for a long time now and there are a lot of weak transaxles and many that are extremely tough, can take double their rated input torque, etc. and provide long service lives. But even then when they start to break the owners will complain and not factor in operator error. I can’t vividly recall someone with an older turbo Dodge talking about shifting problems and noise and asking do you do anything to abuse it or are hard on the trans. No, absolutely not and I don’t understand why this piece of trash is doing this, and so on being the answer. After riding along while he drove every stoplight was a high-rpm launch with an aggressive aftermarket clutch and every shift and on-ramp was a foot-to-the-floor clutch dump between gears as they slammed the shifter.

Short-shifting and even an occasional quick shift and getting on the gas hard shouldn’t hurt the car as long as you’re using the clutch. If you launch hard on irregular surfaces and get wheel hop due to the stiff sidewalls on performance summer tires that will likely increase the chance of a broken axle, trans case, etc. but we’re talking violent wheel hop that you don’t let off the throttle. The rear mount should help quite a bit to reduce the powertrain movement but some common sense should help with the rest.




Didn’t seem to make a difference. The car would synchronize and engage the gear fine on each shift but it would feel like the shift level wasn’t moving the shift forks to their full stop so it was easy for it to pop out of gear.




UPDATE: As last evening it appears I have “fixed” the issue. I use quotes as I’m not sure it won’t reoccur again in the future but I’m back to complete, positive engagements in each gear with normal operation. I drove the car to a work site and noted first and third were acting worse than before with first popping out of gear much more and third gear not wanting to engage on the up-shift.

Thinking back about the circumstances and conditions the problem developed I was pretty sure it happened on a four-to-three downshift with the clutch fully to the floor and having to brake hard before the down-shift was complete. So I decided to do the opposite engine direction and perform a slightly harder than normal up-shift. After ensuring it would stay in 1st and not pop out I rolled heavily into the throttle and on the 1-to-2 up-shift performed a quick shift and immediately got back on the gas fairly hard, fully using the clutch but using enough throttle the engine would likely have banged into the end of the mount’s travel.

After a wheel chirp and slightly harder than normal driveline shock it was immediately back to shifting normal. Odd, very odd. I suspect if I keep the stock rear mount in it will do it again if I’m caught under the same circumstance but without looking through the shop manual on the internal operation of the transaxle I can only guess that it may be related to something in the shift selection mechanism or possibly cable routing issue due to something happening to the cables housing/sheaths when the powertrain rotates excessively on a sudden or hard up or down-shift.
Bizarre...

Thanks for the input. Yeah i always shift with clutch. I havent worn one out yet. I do like using frequent downshifts with rapid braking but try to down shift so the rpms end up about 3000 - 3300 rpms. When you downshifted from 4-3 what rpms did you hit?
 

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Discussion Starter #14
It definitely could be something binding in the cable sheath but I'm not sure I'll pull the dash apart to get to the shifter until it happens again, and at that point I'll let the dealer have a go first. If it's something really simple I'm all for fixing it myself and avoiding the dealer techs but just in case it's something that might redevelop down the road I'd rather have some service history to document it.

It happened both times in the same area on the way home from work and with the normal traffic flow it was likely 30-40 mph range from what I sort-of recall traffic was likely slowing enough where 3rd gear was appropriate (probably slowed to around 25 mph range) and while the clutch was fully depressed and I was shifting I had to brake sharply mid-shift. The rpms should have been getting fairly low as I personally don't like downshifting until I'm slowing to a point where I'd need to be in a lower gear to accelerate at an acceptable rate. I'm not big on using engine braking to slow the car in regular driving as it is more clutch and shift applications where the synchros have to speed up the input/lay shaft(s) significantly unless you double-clutch and I only do that on the track. The brakes might not last that extra 5-10k miles but a set of pads and rotors are cheaper than trans internals.
 

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Good point. And I haven't got a good feel yet in this car which causes the back end to get loose more... braking firmly in turns or down shifting. I tend to like to tap the brake getting into the corner and then downshift while keeping my foot lightly on the gas through the corner apex to prevent lift oversteer.
 

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Well my tranmission is frozen in 2nd this am where i left it a few days ago. Wont move into neutral. Hoping it frozen from sitting for two days in freezing temps but hoping not broken gear tooth or shifter linkage. It worked fine two days ago before snow
 

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That sucks! Keep us posted, I hope it gets sorted out fast.
 

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Well my tranmission is frozen in 2nd this am where i left it a few days ago. Wont move into neutral. Hoping it frozen from sitting for two days in freezing temps but hoping not broken gear tooth or shifter linkage. It worked fine two days ago before snow
My ZX3 did something similar to me years ago. I drove through a big puddle in my parking lot on a mild afternoon. Got really cold overnight and the next day I found my car was stuck in 1st. I ran the car for a while to generate as much heat as possible, then just starting yanking on the gearshift until either the ice or the shifter broke.

Luckily for me, I heard the ice let go with a nice 'crack' and it's been fine ever since. I can't recommend this approach since there is a good possibility of bending or breaking the shift linkage. I do make a point of not driving through puddles and parking during cold months.
 

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My ZX3 did something similar to me years ago. I drove through a big puddle in my parking lot on a mild afternoon. Got really cold overnight and the next day I found my car was stuck in 1st. I ran the car for a while to generate as much heat as possible, then just starting yanking on the gearshift until either the ice or the shifter broke.

Luckily for me, I heard the ice let go with a nice 'crack' and it's been fine ever since. I can't recommend this approach since there is a good possibility of bending or breaking the shift linkage. I do make a point of not driving through puddles and parking during cold months.
Thanks for the reassurance that the thing can freeze up. When i came home from work last night all was well with the shifter and everythomg worked just fine. In retrospect i drove it home in the rain on tuesday and then didnt touch it through 3 days of freezing weather and snow and then it was 25 on friday am and it was locked up. But we finally got into forties yesterday so must have been enough to thaw it out.

My question now is do i need to check anything else out. Ive never had a gearbox to lock up on me from ice before? Is this normal or is there something else wrong?
a
 

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There shouldn't be any permanent damage so long as you didn't bend anything in your attempts to free up the shift linkage. If it's working fine now, then there's very little chance that you need to do anything else.
 
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