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Old 10-09-2018, 06:10 AM   #1
P.S.
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Default Trouble shifting into 2nd or 3rd- BUT.. Unique situation

I have a somewhat unique situation, seeking advice before I dig in.

I have a 29 Model A standard fordor that has never been apart. A "preservation car" if there ever was one. It was featured as the July car in the 2017 Hemmings Model A calendar. Still has factory paint, interior, drivetrain, etc. Car has about 69K miles on it and drives and rides like a dream. However, since it is an absolute time capsule, I don't exactly go touring in it, but to keep things operating, it goes out every 2 to 4 weeks or so for a little exercise (weather permitting). It has the quietest, smoothest Model A drivetrain you ever heard.

About one out of 50 times: When shifting from 1st to 2nd, you get sorta locked out. The shifter simply will not move into either higher gear. It feels like there is a solid block keeping the shifter handle from moving fore or aft, but it still moves very easily side to side. The only way to get it to go into 2nd or 3rd is to slow down and shift back in to first, THEN it will easily go into any gear after that. Then, everything works perfectly again for another many shifts. Other than that, the gears feel excellent and there is almost zero slop in the shifter.

I was thinking of pulling the shift tower this winter and doing a closer inspection. Kinda suspecting a sloppy shift fork. Since I have to turn some bolts that were last turned at the factory to do this, I'm obviously going to be disturbing some "historic fabric", so I want to be minimally invasive. If you have ever had this same thing happen to your Model A, what was the culprit? And, what was the solution?

Thank you in advance for your time and expertise!
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Old 10-09-2018, 07:33 AM   #2
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Default Re: Trouble shifting into 2nd or 3rd- BUT.. Unique situation

I would remove the tower and take a look. If you don’t, you could be looking at something more serious down the road.

I would think that over the last ninety years and 69,000 miles some other bolts and screws have been removed to check on things,
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Old 10-09-2018, 07:50 AM   #3
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Default Re: Trouble shifting into 2nd or 3rd- BUT.. Unique situation

Probably the ball at the end of the shift rod is out of round. A very common problem. A look-see would not hurt. Not much to disturb. Take pictures or video.
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Old 10-09-2018, 07:52 AM   #4
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Default Re: Trouble shifting into 2nd or 3rd- BUT.. Unique situation

I would drain the trans and refill it,might help,worth a try.
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Old 10-09-2018, 07:52 AM   #5
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Default Re: Trouble shifting into 2nd or 3rd- BUT.. Unique situation

I have a similar issue on occasion with shifting up into second in my 29 Tudor. If I push the gear shift lever hard to the far right and then up, sometimes it doesn't go. However, If I'm more gentle and push up just MM's before far right, it goes everytime. Double-clutching also helps, but in traffic sometimes I feel pressured to get into 2nd quickly so as not to get rear ended.

Never any trouble with Reverse, 1st, or 3rd, or downshifting from 3rd to 2nd, or starting in 2nd when rolling downhill.
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Old 10-09-2018, 10:53 AM   #6
BILL WILLIAMSON
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Default Re: Trouble shifting into 2nd or 3rd- BUT.. Unique situation

1 out of 50 ain't too BAD, but try shifting with an OPEN palm & sorta' SLAP it into gear. Minerva had "CRISP" detents & required that.
There's another post going on, with a similar problem.
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Old 10-09-2018, 11:27 AM   #7
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Default Re: Trouble shifting into 2nd or 3rd- BUT.. Unique situation

My '28 had that problem with only 40K on the dial. Replaced shift lever with a NOS one, problem solved.
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Old 10-09-2018, 01:48 PM   #8
marty in Ohio
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Default Re: Trouble shifting into 2nd or 3rd- BUT.. Unique situation

I had the same problem. It turns out that the 1/2 inch round ball on the bottom of the shifter was actually a 1/2 inch square cube. A Model A friend welded the cube round again and ground it to 1/2 inch. Now it shifts like new.
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Old 10-09-2018, 04:42 PM   #9
Tom Wesenberg
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Default Re: Trouble shifting into 2nd or 3rd- BUT.. Unique situation

I like to shift to 2nd at about 5 MPH.


Shift lever in neutral, move lever to left and check fore and aft freeplay.
Shift lever in neutral, move lever to right and check fore and aft freeplay.
This will let you know if the round ball is worn too much.
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Old 10-09-2018, 08:02 PM   #10
J Franklin
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Default Re: Trouble shifting into 2nd or 3rd- BUT.. Unique situation

No one will know you R&R'd the tower, take a quick look and change the gear oil while you are in there.
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Old 10-10-2018, 12:01 AM   #11
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Default Re: Trouble shifting into 2nd or 3rd- BUT.. Unique situation

Thank you all for the replies.

WHN: Yes, that is exactly what I am thinking. That is why I posted here. Thank you!

Jacksonlll: Yep. I was hoping that is all it might be. Thank you also.

rocket1: All the fluids on this car get changed every year. Since the car seldom goes more than a few hundred miles per year, the fluids usually have less than 300 miles before they get changed. It probably has the cleanest tranny fluid you ever saw in it right now.

mfarley: Good info. Thank you!

Bill: It shifts waaaay smoother than that. Slapping is not necessary to get it into gear. When it locks out of 2nd and 3rd, it feels like there is something metal stopping fore and aft shifter movement. Slapping it is futile. Thank you anyway.

1928Mik: Excellent info. Thank you! That is kinda what I was hoping to hear. In the interest of keeping this car all original, I will seek to rebuild the shifter it left the factory with, if that ends up being the case.

Marty: As above, that is what I was hoping to hear. Thank you for your input.

Tom: Very little freeplay in either the left or right positions. That was a test I did before coming here to ask. You know what they say about "great minds"! Thank you.

J Franklin: Of course that is correct. I have no issue with pulling the tower or repairing it. I was just hoping to hear from the pros here that it didn't sound like a transmission problem. Like I said, it is so quiet and smooth, I have never heard a Model A drivetrain so quiet, and I don't want to disturb the historic fabric by pulling the tranny if I don't have to. Also, the fluid in the tranny right now only has about 100 miles on it, if that. See above- The fluids are changed every year, with less than 300 miles usually.
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Old 10-10-2018, 06:23 PM   #12
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Default Re: Trouble shifting into 2nd or 3rd- BUT.. Unique situation

I had this problem with my coupe. Was real scary when a double-bottom was on my tail and I bogged down. Likewise in traffic from a stop at a light. I rebuilt the tower to no avail. I swapped with an extra used tower, not much different. I swapped towers with a Townsedan we have and it was ok. Oddly, the Townsedan afterwards shifted ok. So, none of this makes any sense. Of course none of this helps you. Have owned twenty Model A's so this was truly a mystery.
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Old Yesterday, 07:07 AM   #13
RonC
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Default Re: Trouble shifting into 2nd or 3rd- BUT.. Unique situation

The problem is first gear is not completely disengaged preventing second gear from engaging. A common problem with the shifter. Most likely as others have said is the shifter ball is no longer round
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Old Yesterday, 09:34 AM   #14
Jim Mason
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Default Re: Trouble shifting into 2nd or 3rd- BUT.. Unique situation

While looking, check for wear on the shifter forks. riding with your hand on the shifter wears the face of the 2nd/3rd gear fork. Swap the forks. If the wear isn't too bad.
Also make a deliberate H pattern shift, not a S. That acertains you are completely out of 1st prior to trying for 2nd
Also shift out of 1st early.
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