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Unread 11-11-2011, 04:57 AM
 
Location: Victoria TX
37,602 posts, read 31,193,090 times
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Default Stick Shift won't shift---what's wrong?

My wife phoned to report that she can't get her '01 Nissan Sentra into gear.

It had just run 1200 miles in two days, without incident. Pulled off into rest stop, and then she couldn't get it back into gear. Shift lever wouldn't move, without excessive force, but finally could get it into gear enough to drive 100 miles, mostly in 4th. (Arrived at her daughter's house, and awaiting chance today to take it to a shop.)

She described a sound that occurred when trying to force it into gear, that made me think synchromesh is trying to work. When in gear, it stays there normally, without popping out, and seems to run asymptomatically once in gear. Never any prior experience to cause any alarm.

My thought is that something has come loose and is out of alignment, impeding action of the mechanical linkage from shift lever to gear box. Or that some lubricant reservoir has run dry. All 6 speeds exhibit the same recalcitrance.

Like any stick, this has always occasionally happened trying to reverse, and she knows the remedy to that, but doing that has no effect.

Any thoughts, anyone?
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Unread 11-11-2011, 05:03 AM
 
Location: The cupboard under the sink
3,574 posts, read 3,354,363 times
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First thoughts would be a clutch failure.

Does it go into gear ok when not running ?

Does the clutch pedal operate as usual, or does it not return ?

If not clutch, then possibly a gearshift linkage has fallen off or broken. There are often rods or cables if the stick doesn't fit directly into the box.

Normally a failed synchro would only be a problem with one particular gear, rather than all

Last edited by bobman; 11-11-2011 at 05:15 AM..
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Unread 11-11-2011, 05:30 AM
 
Location: Victoria TX
37,602 posts, read 31,193,090 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bobman View Post
First thoughts would be a clutch failure.

Does it go into gear ok when not running ?

Does the clutch pedal operate as usual, or does it not return ?

If not clutch, then possibly a gearshift linkage has fallen off or broken. There are often rods or cables if the stick doesn't fit directly into the box.

Normally a failed synchro would only be a problem with one particular gear, rather than all
Aha, clutch failure sounds sensible. Could be the same as trying to shift gears without stepping on the clutch. But clutch pedal does feel like it's operating as usual.

I will ask the driver further questions as soon as people wake up.

Would that sound like a clutch rebuild? Or just maybe a throw-out bearing or something? It never "crept" while sitting with clutch depressed.
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Unread 11-11-2011, 05:47 AM
 
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The car drives "normally" in any respective gear that is selected, right? No noises or loss of power transmission from engine to rear wheels?

So the problem is isolated to being able to move the shift lever from neutral to a gear range?

If so, the problem will be that the clutch is not disengaging fully when the clutch pedal is depressed. IIRC, this car has a hydraulic actuation for the clutch, so the first place to check would be the fluid reservoir. The problem could be as simple as a loss of fluid (typically due to worn hydraulic cylinders) in a now cooler climate, and remedied for now by topping up the reservoir and pumping on the clutch pedal a few times. This may be adequate for your wife to continue her trip without any further difficulty except to be aware to top up the reservoir should the problem show up again.

It's also possible that either the clutch master or slave cylinder is failing internally and will need to be replaced now.

It's unlikely that the clutch or throw-out bearing has failed.

FWIW, we used to see this problem very frequently on hydraulic actuated clutch linkages on several year old cars that were driven from a warm climate to a colder one ... or vice versa ... especially on cars that used a clutch slave cylinder that was exposed outside the transmission bell housing. All you had to do was to see the fluid drip off of the slave cylinder after checking the low fluid reservoir to confirm and isolate the problem.
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Unread 11-11-2011, 06:07 AM
 
Location: Victoria TX
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Duh. Really embarrassing that I never thought of the clutch. If I'd been driving it myself, I probably would have.
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Unread 11-11-2011, 06:23 AM
 
Location: The cupboard under the sink
3,574 posts, read 3,354,363 times
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It depends.
Most clutches are hydraulically operated nowadays.
If the master or slave cylinder fail to sustain pressure, then air will get in the system, just the same as it does on your brakes.
Either that, or there just won't be enough pressure in the system to operate the release arm.
Some are a total PITA to get to, but probably a cheaper option than clutch replacement.
Most of these can be done without removing the gearbox, although there are some cars which have the slave cylinder inside the box. SAAB 9-5 is one IIRC.

I can't speak for your model, not familiar with it.

If there is a fault with the clutch plate, cover, or bearing, then I'm afraid it's a gearbox out job.

As I say in my first post tho, it's always worth checking gear linkages, they have been known to fail. I don't know if your car has a stick which directly fits into the tranny or not.

Even if the clutch is gone, it's still possible to drive the car clutchless.
Start the engine in first gear, the car should drive off. Then try to shift as normal, but you'll have to work harder to make sure the revs are well matched with the speed.
Put GENTLE increasing steady pressure on the stick to shift it into gear, if the revs are right, it should just drop in. It will need some force, but too much and CRUNCH !
Many synchro boxes are easy to upshift clutchless, but it's much harder to downshift.
Blipping the throttle will sometimes help it drop into gear.

It's a skill every driver should learn to drive with no clutch. It's saved my bacon a few times.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jtur88 View Post
Aha, clutch failure sounds sensible. Could be the same as trying to shift gears without stepping on the clutch. But clutch pedal does feel like it's operating as usual.

I will ask the driver further questions as soon as people wake up.

Would that sound like a clutch rebuild? Or just maybe a throw-out bearing or something? It never "crept" while sitting with clutch depressed.
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Unread 11-11-2011, 07:33 AM
 
Location: Ohio
571 posts, read 739,093 times
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That sounds like the clutch wouldn't disengage.

If it was cable-operated (unlikely), the cable may have snapped. If it was hydraulically-actuated, something in the hydraulic system is amiss (leak, not enough fluid, etc.). In both cases, the clutch fork may have deformed/broken/worn out.

Bobman got good instructions to drive the car w/o a functioning clutch pedal. Add one thing, plan the drive carefully; try to avoid lights, stop signs, or heavy traffic needing stopping.
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Unread 11-11-2011, 08:26 AM
 
115 posts, read 152,818 times
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great advice in here. The first thing I would check is the cheap stuff! Ie if your clutch is hydraulic check for fluid. If you don't have any in there then replacing the clutch master/slave cylinder hopefully is an easy job.

Had a similar thing happen in my car, it wouldn't go into gear and I found that if I pumped the clutch pedal it would go into gear - no fluid! likely I had a leak somewhere, but I didn't think about it too hard because replacing the clutch master/slave cylinder on my car is cheap/easy, so I swapped them out and bled the system, problem solved.
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Unread 11-11-2011, 10:51 AM
 
Location: Arizona & Wisconsin
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Safe to say that the clutch isn't disengaging (partially or fully).

I think it's a hydraulic clutch on that car but not positive. The hydraulic system could be low, or the system won't pressurize enough to disengage the clutch due to a faulty component.

There could also be some mechanical problem with the clutch, but I'd look at hydraulics first thing.
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Unread 11-11-2011, 11:55 AM
 
Location: Victoria TX
37,602 posts, read 31,193,090 times
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Level of clutch fluid was normal. Clutch needs to be replaced. Clutch kit sells for about $200, and is being replaced today. Son-in-law is installing.

Thanks, everyone, for the help.
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