Does Fred have to learn French to coax his Comanche into gear?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jun 01, 1992

Dear Tom and Ray:

I recently purchased an '89 Jeep Comanche pick up. It's 2 wheel drive, five speed, straight six cylinder, and has only 26,000 miles on it. Unbeknown to me at the time of purchase, I am already the fourth or fifth owner. Now I think I know why. At a dead stop, it is next to impossible to get the truck into First or often Second gear. It's actually getting dangerous. I've almost been rear-ended several times because I couldn't get the car in gear, and the cars behind me started moving. The Jeep/Eagle dealer tells me there's nothing wrong with the transmission. He says the transmission comes from France, and that the vehicle must be in motion for the gear to catch. I've never heard of such an absurd thing. Have you?

TOM: Fred, it's clear that your international experience is quite limited. Everyone knows that in France, no one ever stops. They just kind of slow down at intersections, then try to zoom through before anybody hits them.

RAY: Of course that explanation is absurd, Fred! The dealer is whacko if he thinks there's nothing wrong. But he might be right that there's nothing wrong with the transmission. It sounds to me like you may have clutch problems.

TOM: There are two ways a clutch can go bad. One is by slipping, which makes it hard to make the car go. The other is by failing to disengage, which makes it hard to get the car into gear. And when that happens, you'd have the most trouble getting into First gear and Reverse. As it gets worse, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth get harder, too.

RAY: So try an experiment. Next time you're stopped at a light, try getting the truck to go into Reverse. If it's just as hard as getting it into First, then I'd suspect that the clutch is not disengaging.

TOM: And if it goes into Reverse easily, write to us again and we'll tell you how to fix a tail gate after you've backed into the car behind you at an intersection.

RAY: Seriously, Fred, have your mechanic check the clutch master cylinder, slave cylinder, and pressure plate, and my guess if you'll find the problem there.

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