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1989 Ford Probe:
Replace Manual Transmission Fluid?

Alex Steele
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My son bought an '89 Ford Probe last year. It has 94,000 miles and a 5 speed manual transmission. We don't know if the transmission fluid has ever been changed or if it even needs to be. I've called several Ford dealers in the area and they can't give me a definite yes or no. Will you please give me your opinion and any suggestions for maintaining this vehicle at least for the next four years?




Did you know that your 5-speed manual transmission uses automatic transmission fluid? The reason behind using a lighter weight fluid is the ease of shifting during extremely cold temperatures. In the old days you would get in your car on a cold winter morning, and it would take two hands to get your 4-speed into first gear. The problem was the 90w gear oil they were using at the time, which becomes thick as molasses below freezing.


As for the question about servicing your transmission, Ford, along with several other manufacturers, does not specify a time or mileage to replace manual transmission fluid as part of the maintenance schedule. A simple way to determine if the fluid warrants replacement is to look, touch and smell. If it looks black, feels gritty or smells burnt, then it's time. It's an inexpensive service that requires little labor and only a few quarts of fluid. When in doubt, change it.


As far as your son's Probe is concerned, nearing the 100k mark on the odometer and no record of previous maintenance, I suggest giving it the once-over. If it's got the four cylinder engine, have your mechanic check the condition of the timing belt. It should have been replaced at 60,000 miles. Get a safety inspection of the brakes, tires, steering, suspension, lights, mirrors and horn. Check and/or service the coolant system, belts, hoses and battery. Go over the tune up status (including ignition wires). Also be sure there are no serious leaks at the engine or transmission.


When you get the estimate on the work, sit down and compare what the car is worth and what you are about to invest. You really want to be money smart in this situation.


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Ford | Transmission | Maintenance
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14 Mar 2014, 15:38
Check the fluid level and condition. It's most likely in internal failure which will require a rebuilt or used replacement.
12 Mar 2014, 14:15
Need help with 91 probe auto trans slipping
07 Feb 2012, 13:57
My Ford Probe 1991 did same thing. It ran fine then would not come out of 2nd gear. Changed the slave cylinder, helped a little but still wont go in 1st or reverse. Think it still needs to be bled.
26 Jan 2011, 10:46
If the shifter linkage is disconnected, and it still will not come out of second gear by moving the levers at the transmission, then it's typically going to require removal of the transmission and at least a partial disassembly to see exactly where the shift forks are hanging up.

If the levers at the transmission seem to be moving correctly, but it stays in second gear -- same thing. Take it apart and check for a broken shift fork, syncro, etc.

Be sure the problem is occurring both with the engine running or not. Not coming out of gear only with the engine running indicates the clutch is not being fully released with the pedal depressed.
Ron Keller
25 Jan 2011, 19:54
I too have a 1989 Ford Probe, and when I had shifted from neutral to 2nd 1st back and forth too quickly, this had locked up something. The transaxle has never made any noise and shifted fine. Now it seems stuck, and it is in 2nd.
I have disconnected the shifter and have determined it is in the transaxle.
Could this be from low oil? I have not checked the oil yet. I have heard from a garage (I called) that I way have to pry/hit it out of gear.

I can drive fine, no noise, but only in 2nd gear. Any suggestions ????


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