By on June 1, 2012

 

TTAC commentator hidrotule2001 writes,

Sajeev,

I’ve got an intermittent, befuddling problem with the manual transmission in my 2011 Ford Fiesta:  The shifter will periodically refuse to move into 4th gear.

This usually happens 10-15 minutes after the car is started, and mostly during warm weather (but I’ve never been able to consistently reproduce the behavior).  When i say it refuses to move into 4th gear, I mean with the clutch fully engaged (peddle to the floor) attempting to move the shifter into 4th position feels like trying to shift into 1st gear when going 60 miles an hour; like there is some sort of synchro problem.

Moving the shifter back to the neutral position and trying again doesn’t change the behavior (the shifter never gets far out of the neutral position to begin with).  Down-shifting to 3rd, and then trying to shift again does get rid of the problem (at least so far), which is why I haven’t been able to demonstrate it to the dealer.

The car is 100% stock, and only has 10.5k miles on it.  I’ve done some searching on various forums and the closest I’ve found is a couple of posts on Mustang forums with similar issues where the transmission fluid was low, but I’ve had that checked and everything is within spec.

Any ideas on what might be causing this?  The problem is an annoyance right now, but I wonder if it might indicate an underlying issue that could get worse as time goes on…

Sajeev answers:

Befuddling is a good word: Google search fail FTL.  So I think the hydraulic clutch could be out of alignment (master or slave cylinder not grabbing/releasing as they should), or maybe the fluid level is low (already been checked, I know) , or maybe the 4th gear synchro is munched and you need a new transaxle.

Since this Ford still has a warranty, ask the dealer if they once again…deep breath…checked the fluid level, bled and inspected the hydraulic clutch assembly, inspected the shifter linkage and ask how they can determine if the 4th gear synchro is bad. Starting a dialogue on these items is important.

OR…

Get your camera phone ready, go driving and record the problem when it happens.  Edit, say some clever (not douchey) things before and after the raw footage and post on YouTube.

Email/show to dealership, take off your glove and demand satisfaction like a proper Southern Gentleman (kidding), then post it everywhere the Ford customer service/social media peeps exist. I suspect that after videotaping the problem you’ll have a new gearbox in a matter of weeks. If you’re really lucky, they’ll spring for a rental and it’ll be a Crown Vic…son!

Not that I have any foundation for my beliefs, nor does Piston Slap own a time machine to witness the future or find a case study from the past. No, the Panther Chassis doesn’t count. But do yourself a solid, get your phone ready and make it Lights/Camera/Action when you can’t grab 4th.  If some musician dude brought United Airlines to their knees with a corny, yet catchy song…well,  YouTube beckons.

 

 

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51 Comments on “Piston Slap: Demand Satisfaction…via YouTube?...”


  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    FYI… manufacturers often instruct dealers they will not pay for fix attempts on such things, as to not have 3 failed repairs and have the Lemon Law kick in.

    • 0 avatar
      Philosophil

      If true, that’s pathetic.

      • 0 avatar
        Detroit-X

        A dealership service-writer told me this, so yes, very true.

      • 0 avatar
        tresmonos

        What your service writer told you is bogus. He or she should keep their watercooler gossip away from the customer. And if a OEM rep told them this, then that rep is deviating from corporate policy.

        Warranty work is a continuous battle, brokered by dealers and OEM service reps. Sajeev, if you have this cat’s email, send him my gmail address and I’ll get him in touch with some Ford Service department contacts in charge of he or she’s corresponding dealership.

      • 0 avatar
        nikita

        It seems there also is a basic problem on warranty work that unless the dealer actually replaces a part they dont get paid. Like with medical insurance, there has to be a diagnosis code for billing. How does it work when a car comes in and no parts replaced, one hour minimum or does the dealer eat it? Just curious how that works. I took a Chevy in for a known problem and they wouldnt look at it until I signed a work order that stated thay I had to pay one hour labor if they didnt replace that part. I thought that was bogus.

      • 0 avatar
        tresmonos

        nikita,
        I’m not positive, but you may be correct.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I don’t know at what level the policy originates, but this does happen.

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    I’m no lawyer, but I’d be careful not to say anything that could be potential for a liable charge (litigious action seems to have become the default for many people these days).

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      I agree and would also advise hidrotule2001 not to mention the word “lawyer” at all. At one time I worked for an OEM, and when working with a customer to resolve a problem we were instructed to end the conversation immediately if the customer said the words “lawyer” or “sue.” The customer was then given the number for our employers legal department and no further contact was allowed.

      Some customers had problems that I could have easily solved, but if they started threatening litigation it was like they pulled a pin on a grenade; I felt bad for them because they lost any hope of help. Of course, if they wanted to sue they found out most lawyers would not take on a case against an OEM period, and the few who would wanted retainers that were higher than any repair costs.

      If you need an OEM’s help ask nicely, at least at first; it can’t hurt and will most likely bring better results. Good luck.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    You’re not imagining this nor enjoying the coffee in their service waiting area so everyone knows the box has to come out. This is a major problem that will eventually take out the transmission, possibly when you can least accept the inconvenience.
    Speak to the area service rep and demand some action. The fact they can’t duplicate it has a lot to do with the special circumstances it occurs under, and the motivation exists not to pull the box because it’s a PITA.
    It sounds like the gears are unable to move freely along the main shaft when cold, could be an assembly mistake or defective bearing. But you should not have to eat this out of warranty when it finally fails.

  • avatar
    rpawlows

    I had a similar issue with my Acura RSX 6-speed. Make your problems vocal (i.e. at the dealer, forums, youtube) to gain momentum. There was eventually a service-bulletin, not recall, issued for the RSX transmission and recommended that the 3rd gear synchros be re-aligned by dealers.

  • avatar
    talkstoanimals

    Ask your dealer to check for a slightly leaking slave cylinder. That’s what caused nearly identical problems in my Mustang. The leak was so slow that fluid levels seemed to remain normal, but was just enough to make the slave cylinder ineffective.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    The video is a good idea. Sharing it widely with “clever” comments strikes me as awfully hazardous. If you video it for sharing, stick to the basics. “Clutch on floor” “Won’t go” “Back to 3rd” etc.

    Naturally, have a friend along to do the video… It’s not something you can do and give 100% attention to driving.

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    Car dealers are VERY leery when you keep coming back for the same problem re: the Lemon Law.

    Ford dealers did everything possible to tell us that our Fiesta Powershift AT wasn’t broken when it clearly was. Eventually they would just tell us that the transmission is fine, document it, and ask us to leave.

    The only thing you can do is take it to another dealer, if they document that there is something wrong with your car when you have paperwork from another dealership telling you there isn’t… then you have a good case against Ford.

    Filing a lemon law case, and then winning it, is a huge pain and should be a last resort.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-X

      Or a first resort, if you can see the direction it’s heading, and you want to save time.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      It won’t take long to accumulate 3 visits in one year (PA’s lemon law kicks in after 3 failed attempts in the FIRST year). I hope you’re not past that timeframe already. I’d stick with the same dealer for simplicity.

      Our 05 Odyssey’s problems began when it was brand new on Day One. By the time I filed the Lemon suit, fought it, and settled, the car was 20 months old. The suit itself took 9 months from filing to conclusion.

      I hope the dealer can fix it, or else you’re in for a long fight.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    If you live near the dealership where you purchased the car, call your salesperson and get them involved. Come in and have them go down to service with you. I’m always willing to stand on top of the service department for one of my past customers and most other salespeople will be too – they want you to be happy with the car and with your experience at the dealership to earn your repeat business in the future.

    Have the salesperson talk to the service writer, the general sales manager, and the customer service/satisfaction person at the dealership, they will open up a file to track the progress of what’s going on and make sure that it gets to the service manager instead of letting a service writer sweep it under the rug.

    • 0 avatar
      Nikko River

      I thought about doing this when the issue first turned up, but unfortunately the salesman I worked with no longer works there.

      I went back and checked the service records for the previous two times I’d taken it in to complain about the transmission, and there aren’t any records or notes regarding the issue at all.

      It sounds like a bit of kicking and screaming is in order…

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Even if you did have documentation of your previous and under warranty complaints, the dealer will claim it’s a new problem and there was nothing discovered at that time.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        It is not uncommon for the complaint to be written up differently each time to try to disguise an issue so as to prevent a lemon law issue. You have to be polite but firm.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        I don’t know if I’d start kicking and screaming, but it could be worthwhile to try some different channels. If you believe you are being brushed off through the service department ask to speak with the dealer principle. Nine times out of ten that will get you redirected to the general sales manager, who will have an interest in making you happy to keep the heat off of his boss’s desk. In most dealerships the sales department has a more direct line to those in charge than the service department.

        Sit down and explain your situation and the difficulties you have had with service. A decent sized operation should have a dedicated customer service director, who will probably sit in on the meeting. Your concerns should be documented and should be followed up on. If you bring the car in for service you should also receive a survey back asking you to rate the experience and if the problem was fixed – the dealership pays attention to these, so fill it out honestly and explain the entire situation in the comments.

        Being professional and persistent will get you a lot further than being threatening and aggressive. At the end of the day the dealership will want to help you out. No one goes to work every day with the goal of pissing people off or screwing them over. Making a video isn’t a bad idea, but I’d take the route of using it to demonstrate the problem to those who have the power to do something about it. Since it’s an intermittent problem being able to show video proof to the service writer/service manager/general sales manager/etc will make sure they realize there is an actual issue to be addressed and that you aren’t imagining the problem.

  • avatar
    supersleuth

    I wonder if Ford reads this site and will understand the great publicity they’re getting from this. It already had a result: the Fiesta just got crossed off the list of cars I will shop when it’s time to replace my Fit. (Especially because I would only have considered a manual-transmission Fiesta) Pity, because it seems to be the nicest highway cruiser among B cars.

    • 0 avatar
      windnsea00

      That seems a bit extreme.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      A bit extreme indeed.

      Every so often, any manufacturer is going to build something not quite right. And while in an ideal world it would be GREAT if as soon as Customer A says “my car does this funny thing” they spent $1000s of dollars to fix it, the reality is that if the dealership tech cannot reproduce the issue, they will not be allowed to spend $1000s of dollars to TRY to fix it. Sucks, but this is reality. Hopefully, this person can figure out how to reproduce the issue in front of the dealer, or it gets bad enough that it is more readily apparent.

      Afterall, if cars were perfect they would not need any warranty at all.

    • 0 avatar
      kuman

      I was about to shop for a fiesta 1.4L manual coz it was cheap, but ppl around me keep saying its ford because you have to Fix Or Repair Daily, and to be frank, the dealership service was unpleasant. I want to choose Honda Fit RS ( Honda jazz we called it here ), but my parents really like the Yaris S limited.

      We ended up with the Yaris, im glad i didnt bought the ford coz i do heard lots of ppl complaining about it breaking down… just that i kinda regret not getting the honda, its much more fun in the highway.

  • avatar
    troyohchatter

    I would not post the video anywhere. I would do the following:

    -Take the video, burn two DVD’s, one for the dealership and one for you. Mail the one to yourself, that way you have an official postmark.

    -The lemon law allows a cumulative total of 30 days to fix the problem. After that, they get it back. With the DVD, you have a documented record of the issue and with the postmarked DVD combined with any and all documentation from the dealer, you have the time they had it.

    I did this with my Ford Ranger. I had an A/C issue. The second time in I required a loaner. Went back, drove the truck around the block, A/C still broken, so I took it back and parked it. They said “Bring it back next week” and I said “OH, take all the time you need.”

    They forgot I had the keys to the loaner. I got in the loaner and drove off, with three people so dumbfounded they were speechless.

    I got my truck back THE NEXT DAY fixed. As long as it’s sitting on their lot, it’s considered “broken”….give em their 30 days, get a loaner, and be prepared for them to take it back. The youtube idea is bad as it can be considered slander and such, IMHO.

  • avatar
    Nick

    I’d also contact Ford’s head office, and get ahold of someone to whom you can send either a registered letter or, at a minimum, a fax (retaining the cover sheet). I’d include a copy of your post here as well as the replies, so that if any of that goes wrong you can say that Ford was forewarned this could be the problem. Hopefully, Ford has more integrity that Mercedes, but in my experience with them if a conversation is documented it didn’t happen.

    • 0 avatar
      vwbora25

      @ nick A fax? who the hell sends faxes in this day and age when an email will suffice and is the beginning of a perfect evidence trail

      • 0 avatar
        Nick

        Because you get a ‘confirmation’ from the fax machine. With an email, they can simply say that ‘somehow’ they never got it. I know with Outlook you can get ‘delivery’ and ‘open’ receipts, but with hotmail and other email programs, you can’t.

        • 0 avatar
          corntrollio

          Nick is right on this. The fax confirmation is much more valuable than an email where you don’t even know if the email even arrived.

          The Outlook receipts are not a robust system, and when I’ve used Outlook, I’ve also had it ask me before it sends a receipt.

  • avatar
    redav

    My first guess for the problem is that it’s a Ford transmission.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      Actually, there was a point in time that Ford manual transmissions were excellent. The in-house designed/built 4-speed manual transaxle in the ’78 Fiesta I once owned was a super-robust unit that was way overbuilt for the application. Rally/race teams continued to use it even after the 5-speed replacment was introduced because the old 4-speed was virtually unbreakable.

  • avatar
    highlandmiata

    I don’t think a video is that great an idea, as I can’t imagine anyone would care enough to actually watch it, and I definitely think that posting it on youtube is a bad idea.

    To riff off of field of dreams; if you force it, it will break. Viola! Actually broken = actually fixable under warranty. Of course you should not do this either, as it would be sort of shady or something… I’m just saying, after you are certain it is not the hydraluic system, you should drive it as if it worked like a normal, well built car… It has not been my experience that a lot of questions get asked, either before or after they have to send the transmission back to the factory in Japan for analysis (was the old, pre-miata Protege5… that poor thing had a lot of issues).

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    The dealer absolutely knows you have a problem, but it’s little and you’ll likely be out of warranty before it gets huge. Or you’ll be some other dealer’s problem or trade the thing in.

    Go to an AAMCO for a free diagnosis/estimate and they will try hard to find the problem, but just don’t let them work on it. Video record their diagnosis/recommendation if you want YouTube satisfaction. It may be the clutch, slave/master or TO bearing for all we know.

    Then you’ll be armed with independent documentation and paper trail from a known industry ‘pro’. Mostly you’ll let the dealer know you won’t go away or get pushed down the road.

  • avatar
    hidrotule2001

    I thought I would note here that I’ve been contacted a representative of Ford (thanks to Sajeev) who’s been they’ve been very helpful and is looking into the matter.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s pretty sad that we need blogs (and other Web 2.0 stuff) to get the job done, but such is life. Glad to see things are working out.

      • 0 avatar
        daveainchina

        Pretty much. But one customer vs a corporate giant has to try to even the playing field somehow. Otherwise we become too easy to ignore.

        this is a chance for Ford to do the right thing, I’ll be curious to see how this turns out.

  • avatar
    Tinker

    And remember to document every trip to the dealer, every time, as you may be able to get post-warranty repairs on a problem found to exist before warranty expiration. So keep ALL the paper work.

  • avatar
    stuart

    I’m betting it’s a bad synchro.

    Sajeev/hidrotule2001, it would be lovely if we could see a followup article in a month, letting us know how this worked out. We’re all hoping for a happy ending, but we’re interested in the result, *especially* if it’s not a happy one.

    stuart

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    I’m a lawyer, and I can tell you that car manufacturers and dealers are not afraid of lawyers as much as they are afraid of bad publicity. In appropriate cases, I have suggested clients post youtube videos and drive up and down the street in front of the dealership with the word “lemon” (and more) written in washable paint all over the car. More often than not, this gets their attention enough to get a workable deal.

    Remember, you are protected by the First Amendment if you publish true factual statements and/or statements which are clearly expressions of an opinion. If you post a false statement of fact that hurts someone’s reputation, you may be guilty of libel or slander.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    This is a fine idea, but Ford would probably send a cease order, if not delete the video altogether.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    NulloModo I took my 05 escape to my local Ford dealer for an oil change. Service tech reported needs front brakes, rotors turned, new A arms, rear rotors need sanded, and spark plugs need replaced. Never mind my Escape has 85,XXX miles on it and the plugs are supposed to last to 100K. No, I didn’t buy Escape there. I took it to the Lincoln dealer’s Quick lane service. Their techs said I did not need any of the work the Ford tech had written up

    Yes, this is the 2nd time a Ford dealer has tried to hose me over.

    What say you?

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Caveat Emptor

      Never forget that in the US dealers are NOT arms of the car manufacturer to any degree. They are independent businesses, and some are great and some are particularly slimy. They can be influenced by the manufacturer, but not controlled to any extent. Unfortunately, the way techs and service advisors are typically paid leads to exactly this sort of thing.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      I can’t speak for every dealer or service department. Some places are going to try to upsell you, and as you mentioned going to the Lincoln dealer your experience was completely different, even though both dealers are certified under the same corporate umbrella.

      You could likely find the same variation in recommendations among dealers for any brand or even independent repair shops.

      It obviously pays to keep track of what the recommended maintenance is. Most people can hear the squeal of brake pads that need replacement, feel or hear suspension problems and clunks, and will notice a rough running engine and/or decrease mileage from bad plugs. You can download all of the owners guides as well as maintenance schedules for Ford/Lincoln vehicles going back to the late 90s at http://www.motorcraftservice.com for free.

  • avatar
    wilsop

    Different car, older, but I have the same problem with 3rd gear.
    It’s a synchromesh issue in my case.
    I just double declutch on my way from 2nd to 3rd (clutch out in neutral, short stab of the throttle to get everything spinning in the gearbox, clutch in, on to 3rd, clutch out)…smooth as.
    Double declutching soon tells you if it’s a synchromesh issue.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      I was about to suggest declutching as well, but on the way up, do not blip the throttle. You want the engine rpm to come down.

      Declutching for a down shift, however, needs a throttle blip because you want the engine rpm to come up.

      @hidrotule2001 – I am guessing this could happen if you really wind out the engine in 3rd before shifting to 4th. Do you shift near the redline?

  • avatar
    el scotto

    krohodes1 and nullomodo, thanks for your replies; you two are some of the “sane” ones on here

  • avatar
    mvm912

    I had a very similar problem with my civic, but with both 2nd and 4th gear. Same thing. Shifter wouldn’t move into 2nd or 4th, just like you describe “like trying to shift into 1st while doing 60 mph.” Had the transmission checked, clutch, clutch master cylinder, replaced shifter cables. Problem wouldn’t go away. Turns out I simply needed a new shifter assembly as it was periodically binding. After the shifter assembly was replaced car shifted like new. Your car is much newer than mine was at the time, maybe your car just got a poorly manufactured part in the shifter?


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