Having returned home for Christmas I borrowed my Dad's Ford Transit Connect van for a small errand I had to run. I'd stopped in the queue for some traffic lights and dropped it into neutral as normal whilst I waited for the lights to go green. When they eventually did, I shifted into first (the gear stick felt slightly odd, kind of loose) and as I went to pull away there was no drive engagement, I tried to reselect the gear again and the same thing happened - nothing. I even tried second, third, forth, fifth and reverse, all had nothing. Fortunately a driver behind me helped me push the van to the side of the road and I called the AA for roadside assistance. About 30 minutes later the bright yellow recovery vehicle showed up and after 15 minutes inspecting the cause the AA mechanic concluded that something in the transmission had gone wrong which meant a tow back to the destination of my choice. Being Christmas and with no local mechanics at work until after the New Year the only place we could take it was home. The AA guy mentioned that Ford Transits are quite susceptible to problems with the gear selector mechanism and the two cables that connect it to the gear stick. So once we had it home I did a bit of research on the internet to see if it was a common problem, turns out it is, but as is often the case there isn't a good tutorial out there to follow. So with the help of this post on the Ford Transit forum I decided to investigate for myself.
You will need the following:
15mm deep socket
Extension bars for socket set
Universal socket adapter
Small wire brush (optional)
Impact wrench (makes life a lot easier)
Penetrating oil (optional)
Small heat gun/blow torch (optional)
Flat bladed screwdriver
Cross head screwdriver
Telescopic magnetic pickup tool
THE HOW TO
(Amateur mechanic job time approx 2-3 hours)
Before I started taking the vehicle apart I took some time to confirm that it was indeed a problem with the transmission selector mechanism and not the two flexi-cables that transfer the movements of the gear stick in the cabin to the gear selector in the engine bay. This is relatively easy to do but you need someone else to sit in the cab and move the gear stick forwards/backwards and then side-to-side whilst you peer down into the right-hand side of the engine compartment with a good flashlight (You should be looking in the area marked by the red circle in the 1st image further down this post). If the cables are okay you should see movement here above the transmission when the gear stick is moved side-to-side and then separately forwards/backwards. If either of these two operations doesn't make anything move then you have a problem with either/both of the cables or the gear stick itself. You can check the cables at the gear stick end by just pulling up the rubber gator and you will see they are attached to the stick.
In the case of my Dad's van we had movement in the engine bay when the gear stick was moved in both directions so this meant the cables were okay and that the problem was somewhere deeper in the transmission and more specifically the selector mechanism.
To get things under-way you first need to remove the air box (next to the battery) in the top-right corner of the engine bay, undo the four screws on each corner of the box and cut the big cable tie that secures the box to the air intake tube. You should then be able to wiggle the top half of the box free (blue arrow shows top half of airbox sitting on engine after removal) and expose the air filter and lower section of the air-box (this has been removed from the picture but it sits in the area where the orange circle is). Put the air filter somewhere clean and remove the the lower section of air-box which is only pressed into place - so a good tug and wiggle will remove it.
Now you should then see the right hand engine mount; the centre nut secures the mount to the transmission and the four surrounding nuts secure the mount to the frame of the vehicle (marked by the orange circle below).
Next you need to place a trolley jack underneath the transmission, this is to support the weight of the transmission and engine when you come to remove the right-hand engine mount.
Important: Remember you are NOT jacking up the car, you are just using the jack to support the weight of the transmission.
Before you remove the engine mount it's a good idea to disconnect the positive and negative wires from the battery, undo the bolt from the battery clamp along the front edge of the battery. Then lift and remove the battery completely free from the vehicle to expose the battery tray below. Not only is this necessary but it will give you more space to work effectively.
With the transmission supported, you can now release and remove the large central nut in the centre of engine mount. This detaches detaches the transmission from the mount. You may notice the van rise slightly as the weight is released due to the van's suspension. Compensate this by jacking up the gearbox slightly more.
Next you need to remove the engine mount itself, which is secured by four nuts, one of each corner of the mount. For us, this was the hardest part of the whole job as the nuts were seized (probably because any water that gets inside the engine bay just sits here as there is nowhere for it to drain). Even wire brushing the threads, using penetrating oil, an impact wrench and heat we only managed to remove three of them, the fourth one in the top right corner had to be drilled and cut with a nut-cracker to remove it - but we did it. Once the nuts are removed the engine mount can be pulled out, it may take a bit of effort depending if it rusted to the black tray below. We had to tap ours with a hammer to initially break the rust seal.
After this, undo the three bolts that secure the plastic battery tray to the vehicle (shown by the blue arrows below).
Before you can remove the plastic tray you will probably find that all the wires and hoses that surround it are clipped to it. Think there were about hlaf-a-dozen clips to press/lever out with the blade of a screwdriver before the tray would come completely free.
With the battery tray removed it's time to undo the two 10mm bolts (see blue arrows in the picture below) that secure the air-box tray to the vehicle. With these removed you can now remove the air-box tray.
Before we can truly get the selector mechanism we need to remove the engine mount support bracket (shown inside the red circle below) that is attached by three large bolts (see blue arrows below) to the transmission itself. Some extension bars, universal socket adapter and the impact wrench made light work of these. You can now remove the engine mount support bracket and you should have an almost clear view of the top of the transmission and the ends of the gear selector cables where they attach by ball-joint to the selector mechanism and the selector mechanism itself.
Disconnect the cables (see red circles below) from the selector mechanism by pressing the black plastic button on (centre top) of the ball-joint on each.
Now depending how dirty it is around the selector mechanism you might want to give it a clean down before you remove it. This will avoid any grit and general crap falling into the workings of transmission when you remove the selector.
To remove the selector mechanism there are 6 x 10mm bolts that surround it (shown by the blue arrows below). Undo each of these, the one on the far right is longer than rest so pay attention where it goes when it comes to put things back together. Also make sure you disconnect the electrical sensor (see red arrow below) that attaches to the housing too.
With the bolts removed you can now carefully pull the whole selector mechanism up and free from the transmission and manoeuvre it out of the engine compartment. Picture below shows the hole where the selector mechanism used to be.
At this point it's a good idea to dip a telescopic magnetic pen into the transmission hole and deep into the oil as far down as it will go. This is simply a precautionary measure to pick up any bits of metal that may have broken off from the selector mechanism. Fortunately in our case we had a clean break so no fragments of metal were found.
Here is the selector mechanism assembly completely removed from the car.
Next, take a look at the main shaft that runs through the selector mechanism. The pin that Ford use is called a 'Roll Pin' (see example picture below), they do not sell this part on its own, instead they prefer you to buy the whole selector mechanism which is totally unnecessary and costly at around £250 for the whole unit you see in the above picture.
If you can see a hole on the shaft (see the small red circle below) then the pin has snapped. The pin is used to attach the shaft to the selector mechanism (see blue arrow). If you're lucky like me all 3 pieces of the pin will still be stuck in the holes of the shaft and selector mechanism. Disassemble the selector mechanism by pulling the shaft all the way out. You then just need to tap the remnants of the pin out with a similar diameter bolt/screwdriver and hammer. This is good time to give all the components of the selector mechanism a good clean ready for reassembly.
With the pin removed, reassemble the shaft into the selector mechanism components and select a bolt that has a snug fit for the hole. You may need to cut the bolt length down so that it doesn't interfere with the motion of the mechanism. Use a nyloc nut on the end of the bolt. You should end up with something like the picture below. Bolt inserted from the green arrow side and blue arrow shows the nyloc nut and margin of acceptable thread left.
All that is left to do is put the selector into neutral and reverse the whole process to put the car back together.