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Questions and Answers

Ford Escort Has 1-2 Shift Problems

Q. I hope that you can help me. The problems I am having are as follows, all are seemingly transmission/shifting-related.

1. The transmission feels like it slips (or falls) into second from first too soon or before it should. It doesn't seem to cycle completely through first gear. I guess it would be improper shifting, but only from first to second.

Ford Escort Has 1-2 Shift Problems

2. When downshifting while coming to a stop, sometimes the car will hold second until I am almost stopped and it will slam into first, jarring and jerking the car.

3. Sometimes, when trying to accelerate quickly, I will press down the accelerator in an effort to proceed quickly but it won't find a gear. It's almost like it doesn't know what gear it's supposed to be in so it just kind of hesitates and, eventually, gets into gear.

The main problem in connection with the above problems is that they are all sporadic. They usually happen together or close in proximity to one another but they do not happen with any kind of regularity, although, they usually don't happen in the morning.

I have taken the car to a transmission specialist who drove the car 5 or 6 times over a span of two days trying to get the car to act up but it wouldn't, it shifted fine for him. He told me that, since the problems are more erratic and sporadic, it probably isn't a transmission problem, more an electrical or related problem.

I tried to take it to a Ford dealer/service center today and they told me to bring it back when it's acting up, which I understand, but it's not that easy to bring it in since much of the acting up occurs after their service hours when they're not open.

I just wish I had a better idea about what the problem might be. When it's not acting up, it runs just fine. There are no indicators telling me that something might be wrong before, during, or after it acts up.

The service engine light does come on occasionally but that code is related to the car idle speed (it has come on since I bought it). Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

  • 1999 Ford Escort Wagon SE
  • 2.0 liter
  • Automatic Transmission
  • 121,000 miles
  • Fuel Injection
  • P/S, A/C, Cruise Control
  • Rack & Pinion Steering


A. A harsh 1-2 Shift could be caused by a bad Vehicle Speed Sensor. But, and I'm sorry to say, with this transmission, the problem is most likely internal. Either the 1-2 Accumulator Assembly or the 2-4 Band and Servo are worn out or damaged.

About all you can do is try a transmission filter and fluid change and hope that it is just a partially clogged transmission filter causing the problem.

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© 2003 Vincent T. Ciulla

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