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Car runs and sounds good but the shifter will not drop into gear.

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  • Car runs and sounds good but the shifter will not drop into gear.

    I went to look at a 1993 Festiva that is a 5 speed manual. The car sounds good running and looks clean. (180k miles) No leaks, funny sounds or major damage to the body. The AC runs and works well. When you sit down in the car and try to put it into gear the shifter will not drop into the gears. The owner says it was running good when he bought it a few months ago and suddenly the "clutch went out" He replaced the clutch cable but does not know what else could be wrong. Any tips? The car is only $600 and I figure for that price even if it is a major issue I still get a decent car out of it. (Festiva's are getting hard to find in decent shape, at least in the Oklahoma Area. Usually if you find one for sale they are $2500 and up)

  • #2
    You can try putting it into second gear with the ignition and engine off, then try to start it with the handbrake off and still in gear. The car should start to jerk forward and move and carefully, you should be able to drive it away in second. This will all be possible if the transmission is in working condition. It will be somewhat difficult to get the car going but it will go. Just be careful to not run anyone over or crash or what have you.


    • #3
      "shifter will not drop into the gears" is a bit too obscure to diagnose over the Internet. If the car is in gear it's hard to push so you can try shifting from neutral to any gear and see if you can push it. You can ask someone to depress the clutch while you try to push it as that should be the same as in neutral. As to what's causing any problems it could be the shift linkages or something inside the transmission. Shift linkages are easier to fix.
      Original owner of silver grey carburetted 1989 Festiva. 105k km as of June 2006.


      • #4
        I will try that on Monday Mexaspire. Might get lucky and drive her home. Or maybe get the car cheaper. Wish me luck!


        • #5
          What I meant WmWatt is that with the car running the shifter will not actually go into gear at all. It is idling in neutral and when I push in the clutch and try to find a gear (I tried several gears) the shifter “stiffens” and will not go in. It is floppy and wore out. Maybe the shifter is so loose it isn’t lining up?


          • #6
            Sounds like maybe the shifter has fallen- see the thread here from last week or search it. If that is the problem- it's actually a fairly easy and cheap fix.

            Three years ago my Aspire did this and I was shopping for trannys- but when it failed completely- and I couldn't get into any gears but 3 and 4, and limped home from St. Augustine- buying the Accent I'd looked at on the way- cause I really thought the car was dead- I could tell the shifter had dropped from it's frame- I was almost ready to call and have it hauled off, but I've driven it maybe 12K since, with no issues, cept lleaky transaxle.
            Last edited by harpon; 10-05-2019, 07:15 PM.


            • #7
              If the clutch isn't working should the gears not grind as you try to shift with the engine running? That's what happens when my timing is off and I don't push the clutch in fully when trying to change gears. Is there any difference trying to shift with the engine running and trying to shift with the engine not running? Yes if the shifting is really sloppy you can push the shifter all the way right or left and it won't move the linkages far enough to shift into gear. Sloppy shifting due to worn bushings should be a gradual, not sudden, problem. Sloppy shifting due to a broken or disconnected linkage would be a sudden problem.
              Original owner of silver grey carburetted 1989 Festiva. 105k km as of June 2006.


              • #8
                When my shifter failed, It started gradually- reverse was hard to find and the gears started gradually grinding when driving- I checked the transaxle fluid (topping this off may help too- it's at the end of the speedo cable- DON'T unhook that- take the 10mm nut off the cover plate and pull the gauge up by the cable) So anyway- my fluid was waay down and that's when I found it was leaking- I added first expensive syncromesh fluid it helped immediately, but maybe made the leaking worse being thin. At first I thought the problem cured, but the grinding returned- my thought was failing clutch or synconyzers.

                The car was still drivable and I was actually going to look at another car 30 miles away. When I got off the Interstate- the whole assembly fell toward the floor and I couldn't get any gears except 2 and 3 barely- I limped home but made it. I still though the clutch and/or tranny was gone-

                upon further searching here I found this falling shifter thing- actually happens a lot- the circle the shifter rests in breaks off from the ring on the floor surrounding it- you fill it with black window weld- comes in caulking gun form and let it harden overnight-

                before I got that I actually had a temp fix (you can also drill and put in set screws) but my solution may help you move this car.

                I took a salsa jar lid I think it was and cut a round hole in it the size of the outer ring- actually just a bit smaller or un-round as its hard to get round- so I had to jam it on hard- and I then put a radiator worm clamp on the art of the circle sticking through on top-

                it wasn't going to be much of a fix- but it finally did allow me to hold the assembly u while the window weld set up. If the shifter has fallen a jar lid and worm clamp of a couple inches would probably work to move the car, and only take 5 minutes to put on, once the rubber boot is pulled up around the shifter.

                I hope for your sake that this is the problem and solution- you can window weld the circle back into the frame at home- I just left the jar lid and worm clamp on afterwards, but it the window weld that's the real repair.

                The green bushings for the shifter wear out and the shifting gets sloppy and may even cause grinding- but don't generally represent the problems you are describing- I still have some in my glove box I've never had put in. They aren't really difficult- I'm just too old at 65, and the cars shifting fine w/o them- just sloppy.

                My transaxle is stilll lleaking and I have to top it off a couple of times a year- I use heavy gear oil and even mixed with grease, hoping to slow the leaking down. When I had rebuilt CV axles put in last summer, the mobile mechanic quoted me about $250 to put in new transaxle seals- too expensive and I can buy a lot of gear oil and put it in by loosening on 10mm nut for that money.
                Last edited by harpon; 10-06-2019, 06:03 AM.


                • #9
                  I hope that it turns out to be an easy fix! Thanks for the help and kind words! I am getting the car this morning (had to wait for him to get the title reprinted) I rented a Uhaul truck to tow it home with, only 20 minutes away. I will be tinkering with it once I have it into my garage. I have a daily driver car already this is just for a side project and I have plenty of time to work on her. Aiming for a motor swap to like a B6T or B8 later down the road but I will be driving it with the factory motor until she gives out. I will add some pictures on here once I have it and post updates when I find the issue.


                  • #10
                    Edit: I actually saw the question about the failing reverse gear but didn't read it lol I thought that seemed like a different issue to the one I was given for this car. Thanks Harpon


                    • #11
                      I pulled the boot off around the shifter, it looks nice and does not look broken or dropped out of the floor. The shifter itself is just super floppy. We can jimmy it into each gear and the car will drive in reverse and I finally got it into 1st gear this evening. It pulled forward some but I didn't take it out to try and drive it. Day one seems promising! I need to adjust the clutch pedal (It measures 6 inches from the floor and the shop manual says it needs to be 8.2-8.4 inches) not sure if that will help with it going into gear. The other owner replaced the clutch cable, need to cross check their work. What is the proper adjustment for the clutch cable under the hood? (it has like a 3 inch bolt but the manual never says how far to tighten it). It also seems like it needs all of the shifter assembly worked over and rebuilt to fix the floppiness.


                      • #12
                        For the shifter assembly it's usually worn bushings at the conections one of which is right below the boot, access from under the vehicle.
                        Original owner of silver grey carburetted 1989 Festiva. 105k km as of June 2006.


                        • #13
                          My guess would be something up with the Clutch itself which is pretty easy to fix as long as the Car isn't Rusty underneath. As long as you can drop the Crossmember down the Transmission comes out pretty easy and the Clutch stuff is easy to access.
                          "The White Turd" 1993 Festiva 144k miles. (Winner of FOTM November 2016)
                          "The Rusty Banana" 1990 Yellow 5 Speed Mud Festiva (Lifted with 27" BKT Tractor Tires)(Winner of "Best Beater Award" - Madness 12 - 201

                          "Papa Smurf" 1992 Blue 5 Speed Shell
                          "Cracker?" (name pending) 1992 White Auto Shell (Future BP Swap)
                          "Green Car..." Scrap Car that Runs?!?
                          "Red Car..." Complete Scrap Car

                          "El Flama Blanca" 1993 Festiva 104k miles. (Lil Brothers Car)


                          • #14
                            And DON'T IGNORE the transaxle level. I just topped off the old Aspire again- leaks like a sieve, but falls on the ground. so I never see it.