2002 3.8l Mustang 5-speed - cable or hydraulic clutch?

My 2002 3.8l 5-speed mustang has always (since I bought it in April '09) exhibited an annoying "clunk" sound when i put it in first gear, and less so, in 2nd gear. However, if I wait a half second or so (after depressing the clutch), then I can engage 1st gear (or 2nd) and there is no "clunk" sound. One retired mechanic told me that this was due to the high speed of the main transmission rotor having to spin down (after the clutch is depressed), which takes a half second or so, and, that, when i try to just slam it into 1st then that "clunk" sound was the main rotor being jarred into a slower speed by the synchromesh as 1st gear was being engaged.

He suggested that there was no solution but for me to stop trying to engage 1st gear so abruptly, but, to either wait a half second (after depressing the clutch), or, to just hold the clutch depressed waiting for the red light to change, and then 1st gear can be engaged without any clunking sound. I didn't like that answer, because i was always taught not to "ride the clutch", and that the clutch should only be engaged at the moment a gear change engagement was imminent, and that a good driving habit was to promptly depress the clutch, engage the gear evenly but without any pause, and then to smoothly but promptly release the clutch.

Yesterday a Ford parts person told me that my mustang had a hydraulic clutch, and that, probably what was happening was that the reservoir for the hydraulic clutch was probably low, and that it was taking a half second longer for the clutch to be fully disengaged even after I fully depress the clutch pedal. He said that by waiting a half second, it was allowing the sponginess (due to air bubbles) in the hydraulics to finally separate the clutch plate and then the gears could be engage without any jarring. He told me to look for the reservoir under the hood on the driver's side lateral to the brake reservoir. I can't find it, even after a thorough search with a flashlight and I looked everywhere under the hood.

So, is the clutch on a 2002 3.8L 5-speed mustang driven by hydraulics? Or a cable?

Does anyone know where the reservoir, if it is hydraulic, is located?

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

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I don't know which actuation method your clutch uses.

I have had a number of different cars whose various clutch actuators worked well or not-so-well. When they worked not-so-well, and the transmission behaved the way you describe, I found one action that /usually/ worked, but it took the half-second you seem to be missing, to be effective: put in the clutch pedal, pull the shift lever toward the 2nd gear position, but stop when you encounter a little resistance, then shift to the gear you want to use. Apparently the resistance you feel is enough to actuate the synchros, to better match input and output speeds. It worked on my early MG non-synchro first gears as well as the 1500-mile-old five-speed in the new-new-new GT/CS convertible.

--
Frank ess


surface9 wrote:
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When I bought it in April, the previous owner did not have an owner's manual, and I couldn't find one anywhere - if you know where I can get one, please advise. I did look and I see that my clutch is cable controlled, not hydraulic (so much for the Ford parts guy). I had the transmission level checked and it is full - I also had the rear end checked and it is good also, as well as the u-joint, which is good. This jarring sound I hear may be normal for a 2002 mustang 5-speed, but it caught my attention because my 1997 Ranger 5-speed works flawlessly with no jarring sounds at all. It is true that I can minimize this sound by nudging the gear either towards 1st or 2nd (with the clutch out), but stopping short of engaging either gear. Just by nudging the shift in that direction (1st or 2nd), I hear the jarring sound (but less loud), and, then it goes away and I can go ahead and depress the clutch and go right into 1st or 2nd. That is my current work-around when waiting at a red light or after coming to a full stop at an intersection. I just leave the clutch out and nudge the gear towards 1st gently and I hear a slight jarring sound and then i when I am ready to go into 1st there is no sound at all. But, after I gain speed in 1st, and am ready to shift into 2nd, I again hear that jarring sound when i go into 2nd because I don't have time to pause since there are usually cars behind me with impatient drivers. If no one is behind me, then, when I shift from 1st to 2nd and take a half second pause, there is no jarring sound. Ditto for shifting from 2nd to 3rd, but, much less pronounced (I didn't even notice it from 2nd to 3rd until I starting taking special care to listen for it).

So, what I am wondering is whether or not this intermittent jarring sound (which I can repeat any time I want, and can avoid with the pausing or pre-engagement nudging maneuver), is doing any damage to the clutch or gear box - if not, then I'll just live with it. It makes me think that somehow the parts of the synchromesh that make the initial contact when going into 1st or 2nd may be worn and not doing the job up to spec - in that case, i would want to consider having those parts replaced. I just don't know. Other than that, this car is a really fun car to drive, it is peppy, and the mileage is low (68K) so I think I should have many years of good service from it. I really would like to have a better understanding of this jarring sound, just so I can know what whether or not I need to do something about it.

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On Sat, 25 Jul 2009 00:20:04 -0700, surface9 rearranged some electrons to say:

You can download one from Ford's website. Then you can perform the adjustment procedure.

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You should be able to download a copy of the owners manual at Motorcraft.com or at myford.com. Both of these should be free downloads...

As for your concern... it may be something as simple - even small amounts of contaminants can offer a "dragging" effect to the pressure plate keeping things spinning a tad more than desired... Could be a concern with the pilot bearing that is keeping the input shaft turning a bit longer than normal...

The more I read, the less convinced I am about understanding the nature of your "jarring" sound... is there another description you can give it that I might understand more easily? A "ratcheting" noise perhaps... especcially if you are having problems with a "rushed" 1-2 shift?

Have you tried selecting reverse first to stop the transmission turning? I cannot recall which transmissions are equipped, but I recall reverse gear "brakes" in some transmissions...

HTH.

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I found the owner's manual at the ford website, and read about how to adjust the clutch (motor off, 1st gear, pull up on the clutch, then press all the way down and listen for a clicking sound). I did this but it didn't seem to have any effect on my "jarring" sound when going into 1st gear. I make sure always that I fully depress the clutch (a neighbor kept insisting that I probably wasn't pushing the clutch all the way in). And I can say that when I first start the car, I have to back out of the garage (in reverse), and I don't hear any sound at all when I then go into 1st gear after that - I noticed that the way it then goes in so smoothly I wished it would ALWAYS engage like that. But, when I get ready to go into 2nd, if I follow my normal cadence (like I have done for years in my Ranger) by a) letting off the accelerator, b) fully and quickly depressing the clutch, and, c) straightaway moving the gearshift lever down into 2nd, then I hear a jarring sound, which also seems to reverberate all throughout the underside of the vehicle (one observer thought it might be the rear end, but I had that fully inspected when I first got this car back in April).

As to the jarring sound, I guess it is a little like the sound you would hear if you suddenly stopped a spinning object like a gyroscope by thrusting a screw driver into the spokes. THUD! After I come to a full stop, such as at a red light, and I am sitting there in neutral (I notice it tacks at around 900), then, when the light changes, I follow my lifelong cadence of a) depressing the clutch, b) moving the gearshift lever forward into 1st gear, and c) releasing the clutch as I depress the gas pedal. I have been driving standards ALL MY LIFE, and my cadence was taught to me by experts a long time ago. I never hear anything when I am in my Ranger. But, when I do this in my Mustang (as above), then, just as I am moving the gearshift lever down into 1st gear, I hear this THUD before it goes clean into gear. It does sound like the whole undercarriage is jolted somewhat. If, however, while I am still waiting for the red light to change, I nudge the gearshift lever towards 1st gear (or 2nd) with the clutch still up, and only moving the gearshift lever slightly towards 1st, I hear a small thud, and it does truly sound like if you were apply a brake to a free spinning suspended wheel, but, since I am not hard pressing it, but only nudging it, then, the jarring sound is diminished, and only lasts for about 1/2 second or less. After that, I can continue waiting for the light to change, and, then go right into 1st gear with NO sound or jarring at all. But, even then, when I go into 2nd, I hear (and feel) that THUD.

The mechanics I have had look at it so far have not been very much interested - mostly because (I think) they do NOT KNOW what is going on (as revealed by some of their suggestions, like maybe being a loose u-joint), and, also, they can't make it happen if they pause slightly after depressing the clutch before engaging either 1st or 2nd gear. I get frustrated trying to get to the bottom of this - I am figuring it probably is the main rotor still spinning for a half second or so and maybe my normal shifting cadence (which has always worked fine and still does with the ranger) is just too speedy for this mustang - maybe this is just the way it was designed. But, then, I don't really believe that either - I rather think that something within the transmission is worn and not doing its job somehow or other. I wouldn't describe my cadence as "slamming" it into gear, but, just NOT PAUSING, but promptly and immediately moving the gearshift lever into 1st after fully depressing the clutch to the floor. I am sure that the clutch pedal is bottomed out, but, then, I am not in the habit of lingering after that, but, going right ahead and moving into 1st gear. That seems so natural and it shouldn't be a problem or cause any jarring or thudding sounds.

I sure wish I could resolve this nagging problem.

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On Sun, 26 Jul 2009 00:55:46 -0700, surface9 rearranged some electrons to say:

Try double-clutching when you drive it... if that causes the noise to diminish, then the problem may be worn out synchros in the transmission.

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I am embarrased to admit it, but, I don't know exactly what "double- clutching" is.

Do you mean just depressing the clutch twice? (depressing, releasing, and then depressing again)?

I must have heard that term before, but, I don't really know what it means.

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surface9 wrote:

Double clutching is pressing foot down, popping it out of gear, letting the clutch out, pressing the clutch again and shifting to the next gear.

I think you said that you checked your fluid level and it was fine, but you might try changing it, maybe with some synthetic.

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On Sun, 26 Jul 2009 20:04:22 -0700, surface9 rearranged some electrons to say:

Kids.... <:-/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_clutch

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I drove a lot yesterday and used the double-clutch method when changing from 1st to 2nd and it did lessen the thud sound, but, the time it takes me to effect a double-clutch is more than what it would take to do a regular shift with a slight pause, so, I wonder if the lessening of the thudding sound is more due to the longer time period before going into 2nd. But, anyway, i am wanting to know more about how this transmission and clutch are put together - are there any online sites where they might have a diagram of the inards of this transmission? The parts guy has that on his screen, but, he is a bit embarrassed now and doesn't really want me to hang around and pester him about this now (since he thought it was a hydraulic clutch).

I need to find somebody locally here (Dallas area) that really knows how these transmissions work and can figure out what is going on and give me a straight answer. Maybe I don't need to do anything but modify my shifting method when driving this mustang - but maybe there is a part inside that would solve this problem if it were changed out. I really want to know and I need to be able to see a picture of the insides and how it goes together.

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surface9 wrote:

Quantum Performance

www://quantum-perf.com

972-620-4440

They are around there, and are a Shelby-approved mod shop. I'll bet they would be able to tell you something, or know someone around there, who can.

--
Frank ess


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I took it to quantum-performance in Dallas and they rode around with me for a bit and told me that it was not a problem, but, was typical of the stock transmission that comes standard on my 2002 3.8l mustang. He said the synchros might be wearing a bit (after 68k miles), but, it was not anything I needed to worry about, and that to do anything about it would be very very expensive (taking the transmission out and apart and all that goes with that). I am relieved and I have been modifying my shifting (slowing down just a tad) and I can live with that.

Now that I have been driving a mustang since April, I have started noticing mustangs on the highway - I stumbled into this sale but I am sure glad I did. I had been looking for an economical car with a standard transmission and it turns out that most economy cars all have automatics, and that is the only reason I went to look at this one in the first place - glad I did. Mustangs are very well designed and put together - I expect to get many many miles of use of this.

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surface9 wrote:

I'm glad you found a trustworthy agent to help you with your problem.

Enjoy that Mustang.

--
Frank ess


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I've been driving standards all of my life too.... going out on a limb, I'll suggest that this may be a day or so longer than some in RAMFM. This doesn't mean much.

You keep mentioning YOUR normal cadence... In all honesty, both you and the car have a personality... the car will win...

The more you write, the less convinced I am that you have a problem.

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