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First Generation Legend (1986-1990) Discuss the 1st Generation Honda/Acura Legend (US 8

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Old 08-05-09, 01:32 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Manual Trans Stuck in First Gear

Sorry for the long post, but I want to make sure that I include all the information that I can about the problem.

Background:
The car with the problem is a 1988 Acura Legend Coupe base model. Iíve had the car for about a year and it has a decent amount of mileage on it.
For whatever reason my clutch master cylinder as well as my slave cylinder decided to go about the same time my clutch started slipping. Iíve replaced both the slave and the master cylinder and have driven the car about 500 miles since the replacement. Though, during those 500 miles, I have not replaced the clutch disc and the related parts.

The Problem:
One night about a week ago I was driving home and experienced what can be best described as my clutch exploding. I pulled over into a parking lot and tried driving it around to make sure the car was drivable. It was a little on the noisy side, but the car had no trouble moving or shifting. So, I continued driving home.
After about a two miles worth of driving, it became more and more difficult to shift. Within the span of a quarter of a mile, the stick went from shifting fine to being fully stuck in first gear. I pulled over again and found that I was unable to yank it out of first gear with the car on or off.
The rest of the car soldiered on as if nothing was wrong and I limped home in just first gear. Since then, the car has been sitting in front of my house.

Trouble with Diagnosis:
Iím hoping that this is just my poor clutch getting fed up and throwing a temper tantrum. Though, after looking over the car, I think there might be some bigger transmission problems to deal with.
Since the car has been sitting Iíve tried a multitude of thing to get the gearing unstuck. As suggested by some friends who are more mechanically inclined, Iíve rocked the car back and forth with both the engine on and off trying to get it disengaged. Unfortunately, the technique has not worked.
Iíve also done a visual inspection of the hydraulic section of the clutch system. As best I can tell, everything is working fine there. Iíve also inspected the shifter linkage (Iím not sure if that is the proper name for it) that leads from the stick to the transmissions and everything looks as it should be there.

From what Iíve read on other parts of the Internet about lesser cars, Iím going to have to remove the transmission to figure out exactly what is going on. I should be able to get it on a lift sometime later this month and get the better view of everything.
If anyone has experienced this, has some ideas on how to diagnose this, or just wants to chime in, Iíd really appreciate the input.
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Old 08-05-09, 07:52 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I am not an authority on transmissions, but I can tell you that it's not just your clutch. The clutch is a separate mechanism from the transmission, both logically and physically, arguably being more a part of the engine considering that's what it's bolted to and primarily interacts with. The fork and throwout bearing are the only parts of the transmission that interact with it directly.

The only reason the transmission wouldn't at least shift into neutral due to a clutch problem would be if the clutch were completely locked up and the input shaft was putting pressure on the gear train, which happens (in reverse) for instance when you take the parking brake off with the clutch engaged on an incline. The wheels transfer force to the transmission which can't turn because the clutch is immobile due to the stopped engine so the friction between the gears makes the slight rotation and slippage necessary for demeshing impossible.

The failure modes of a clutch - in this case referring to the clutch disc, pressure plate and flywheel - are limited almost entirely to those that will prevent *any* force transfer, with failures that cause complete lockup almost entirely in the "freak accident" category.

If your clutch disc shredded itself or the hub broke loose the engine would just race and the vehicle wouldn't move. Same goes if the friction material wore down until it was too shallow to be pinched between pressure plate and flywheel. The springs on the pressure plate press down by default so if they failed, the same thing would happen. It's possible that the tips of the pressure plate springs have broken off or been ground off by the metal case of the stator side of the throwout bearing (this is not crazy: I saw the gruesome remains of this scenario today) but that's irrelevant since it's incredibly unlikely and wouldn't cause the problem in question - as I explain in a minute. And that outlines virtually everything that could happen. The remaining things that can go wrong are basically your pressure plate or flywheel breaking in half and going tumbling around inside the bell housing which is both unspeakably unlikely and, again, would just cause the same problem, no force transfer.

The other part of the system that deals with the clutch is the throwout bearing and fork. If the throwout bearing were frozen you would get nasty grinding noises but it might still shift. If the bearing were missing somehow you would get really nasty grinding noises and the fork would probably get kicked out of the bell housing. If the fork were broken or had popped off its pivot you would know because the clutch pedal would go straight to the floor and stay there.

All of the above problems are varying levels of improbable, but none of it matters since this problem wouldn't occur due to clutch lockup. If you weren't able to shift into neutral while driving then it's not a clutch problem, since the transmission will shift out of a gear as long as it's moving. Rocking the vehicle with the clutch engaged and brakes off would also permit you to pop it out of gear. It is notable that in the former case I could be wrong if you aren't correctly "powershifting". Generally, in my experience, in order to get a car out of gear without using the clutch you have to accelerate just slightly. So get the car moving at idle in e.g. a parking lot and, while pulling back gently on the stick, tap on the accelerator just a little. If it still won't pop out of gear then the clutch is not the issue, since this would work if the input shaft were welded directly to the crankshaft.

The shifter linkage (I don't know a more formal name for it either) attaches to the transmission with a "wishbone" bracket. In short, there isn't much slop in how it can be attached so it's either bolted on or dangling from the bottom of the car.

In conclusion: there's a fairly high probability that your transmission has catastrophically failed and will need to be replaced.

I will tell you one thing that should not work, taking into account your whole story, but which you can try if you become desperate, because god knows stranger things have solved problems in the past. When I was reinstalling the transmission on my car after a clutch swap it was almost completely installed, a friend had been in the car shifting and it was shifting fine, and then we bolted some things on and it suddenly became stuck in fourth. After a lot of swearing we realized that the one thing that had changed was that we had installed the neutral and reverse sensor switches, which operate by poking little metal rods into the workies of the transmission and, apparently, can cause it to become frozen in whatever position it's in when you install them in some ill-defined conditions. If you want a simple, fairly harmless thing to try before you get crazy and pull the whole thing apart, you could try removing these, since they aren't essential to operation except that you'll have no backup lights. They're two cylindrical devices with two wires attached to each and rubber dust boots, bolted into the "front" (facing the radiator) of the transmission, I believe. Get up in there with an end wrench, break them loose and then spin them out of the transmission. Like I said, I don't think this is your problem judging from the detailed failure history, but it's worth a try before you tear the car apart.

Good luck with your problem. I hope I'm wrong.
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Old 08-05-09, 08:21 AM   #3 (permalink)
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If the transmission is stuck in first with the engine off it isn't due to the clutch, though it sounds like the clutch is also bad. My guess is that when the transmission was shifting hard due to the bad clutch it damaged the first gear synchro or something in the shift linkage. The transmission has to come out and be disassembled to see what is wrong. While the transmission is out replace the clutch.

You don't need a lift to remove the transmission. Just get the front of the car up on jack stands and rent a transmission jack.
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Old 08-05-09, 09:10 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stephen View Post
You don't need a lift to remove the transmission. Just get the front of the car up on jack stands and rent a transmission jack.
No offense to stephen but I want to append some advice to this: It is harder than it sounds. With a lot of other cars, even Hondas from the same time period, yeah, you just throw a jack under there, take out some bolts and yank the transmission. For the Legend it will be an ordeal if you're experienced and almost impossible if you aren't. A transmission jack will be extremely helpful but what's probably more important is knowing exactly how the whole thing goes together and comes apart, having several people to help you by handing you tools and having someone with small arms and hands but lots of muscle. I had the latter two and they didn't do nearly as much good as I now realize having the first would have.

Get the Chilton's or official Honda shop manual. Unless you're interested in removing things like the radiator or removing and replacing all the hoses on the side of the engine in order to get to bolts, get small-profile ratchet wrenches with different length handles, lots of extensions and sockets of different depths. Three quarters of the bolts have to be taken out and put back in blind with your hand in a place it barely fits and which can't be seen without a fiber scope.

I don't want to insult anybody or anything because I love the Legend as much as the next guy, but you have to admit, compared to working on... virtually anything else, it is an unimaginably complex and tedious experience. I made the mistake of saying, "I know how to do a clutch swap, it's a weekend project that I've seen done in one day" when I'd never done it on a Legend before and I know now how easy it is to bite off more than you can chew with this vehicle. I tore the car apart in a friends relatives garage (it stopped working just as he parked it there and that's the only open space I had to work) thinking they wouldn't even be back from their trip before I had the car home. It took me four days to get the transmission out and another five or six to get it back in, plus time wasted driving back and forth to another town to get parts that are only available at the auto store warehouses. I drove it out of that garage thirty days later in a semi-drivable state and now I'm finishing it up in the parking lot of my apartment complex. Even if you know what you're doing, if you intend to do the job yourself you should get your own shop to work in with lots of room and plenty of versatile tools.
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Old 08-08-09, 10:26 AM   #5 (permalink)
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my red coupe doesn't have reverse and while having one of my instructors (who is a master tech) standing outside i put it in reverse so he could hear it. the shifter got stuck in reverse, all he did was push the car front and back and it popped right out. give that a try.
it is entirely possible to get the trans out without a lift but unless you are slow to anger or a pro i wouldn't do it without a lift. i suppose that easy for me to say because i have access to a lift that's how i did the clutch in my red coupe. also if you are not a pro be ready for you car to be down for some time. with a lift it took me three weeks working on the car 3 days a week for about 2-4 hours.
that being said, go for it, it's a valuable learning experience and hopefully you don't end up laying on your back while cussing at that difficult to reach starter bolt
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Old 08-09-09, 02:31 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Yeah, I've tried my darndest to get that thing unstuck for the last few days. I've had someone rock it back and forth while I tried to pull it out of gear (with the vehicle off and on.) I've also run the vehicle forward and backward, on and off, trying to get it pop out of first with no luck. I've done a small inspection of the underside as well as the hydraulic components (to the best of my limited availability) and have come up with no solutions.

Unfortunately, like Antlion has concluded, all signs are started to point to dead transmission. I will admit though, I haven't messed around with the reverse and neutral sensors yet. As soon as I find my stupid Haynes manual, I'll go and test that out. So there may be some hope for it yet, though I'm not going to hold my breath.

I really appreciate everyone who has opted to chime in. If it wasn't for the poor shape that the rest of the car is in, I'd almost consider finding a replacement transmission for it. I'd wish I had some more money right now because this would be a perfect canidate for the whole "cash for clunkers" thing. Ohh well, I'm done whining.
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Old 08-09-09, 03:59 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Acura Legend Online Service Manual (Pages: 1658-1681, current: 1673)

There's the page about the switches from the iffy shop manual. Worth a try.
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Old 08-09-09, 01:49 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Thanks for the link to the shop manual. I know exactly where those switches are now. One question: If I remove those switches, can I expect to transmission oil to drain out?
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Old 08-10-09, 04:57 AM   #9 (permalink)
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I'm going to take a chance here and say no. I think I pulled them out of my transmission before I drained the oil and they didn't leak but I could be remembering incorrectly. Either way, you don't actually need to remove them all the way. They're screwed in by about ten threads, and the offending switch on my transmission is actually unscrewed by two or three turns right now and its neither leaking nor interfering. So take them out, see if it fixes the problem, and if it does, put them most of the way back in.
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Old 08-10-09, 12:47 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I was looking at the shop manual instructions for the manual transmission and it doesn't
look that hard to fix the transmission. It is necessary to separate the case halves and then the mainshaft and countershaft lift right out. I would look for a jammed first gear synchro assembly or some kind of linkage damage. Alternatively most shops don't charge that much to disassemble and go through a manual trans.
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Old 08-10-09, 02:28 PM   #11 (permalink)
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This picture shows a typical front wheel drive trans removal.

Civic trans removal picture by swalch - Photobucket

Not really that difficult. I used a chain hoist to support the engine and have a basic trans jack, but one could rent an engine hoist and trans jack.
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Old 08-17-09, 05:12 AM   #12 (permalink)
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its not that hard to repair the trans just take your time and see where everything goes take some pictures like i did and commond sense i will post pics soon that will probably help you on my tranny swap tread hope that helps
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