1997 Dodge Dakota 5-speed manual transmission hard to shift on 1997 Dodge Dakota

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I have a recently acquired 1997 Dodge Dakota Sport, 3.9L V6, 5-speed AX15 manual transmission, with 160,000 miles on the odometer; not sure how many miles on the transmission.

Here is a summary of the symptoms that it is manifesting:

The majority of the time it is hard to shift into 1st, 2nd and 3rd gears, although occasionally shifting into all 3 gears is perfectly smooth (what I would consider normal). I would estimate that it shifts normally around 10% of the time.

When it does shift normally, ALL 3 gears engage normally (after shifting into 3rd normally).

When it does not shift normally, ALL 3 gears are hard to engage, but each has a different relative level of difficulty, with 1st being extremely hard to engage, 2nd moderately hard and 3rd the easiest (but still not normal)

Once 1st gear has been successfully engaged 2nd and 3rd engage normally when up shifting.

At a dead stop, all 3 gears are hard to engage as described above.

Since 1st is basically impossible to engage the majority of the time when I try to shift directly from neutral or any other gear, here is my workaround when coming to a stop (with each gear engaging with the level of difficulty summarized above):

1. Shift into 3rd
2. Shift into 2nd
3. Shift into 1st

On the rare occasions when it slips smoothly into 3rd it also slides like butter into 2nd and/or 1st.

Double clutching does not appear to have any effect.

Does anyone have an idea what the problem might be given these symptoms?



(3) Answers
Hard shifting is usually caused by a low lubricant level, improper or contaminated lubricants, component damage, incorrect clutch adjustment, or by a damaged clutch pressure plate or disc.
Substantial lubricant leaks can result in gear, shift rail, synchro and bearing damage. If a leak goes undetected for an extended period, the first indications of a problem are usually hard shifting and noise.
Incorrect or contaminated lubricants can also contribute to hard shifting. The consequence of using non - recommended lubricants is noise, excessive wear, internal bind and hard shifting.
Improper clutch release is a frequent cause of hard shifting. Incorrect adjustment or a worn, damaged pressure plate or disc can cause incorrect release. If the clutch problem is advanced, gear clash during shifts can result. Worn or damaged synchro rings can cause gear clash when shifting into any forward gear. In some new or rebuilt transmissions, new synchro rings may tend to stick slightly causing hard or noisy shifts. In most cases, this condition will decline as the rings wear - in.
Problem diagnosis will generally require a road test to determine the type of fault. Component inspection will then determine the problem cause after road testing. Drive the vehicle at normal speeds during the road test. Shift the transmission through all gear ranges and observe clutch action. If chatter, grab, slip, or improper release is experienced, remove and inspect the clutch components. However, if the problem is noise or hard shifting, further diagnosis may be needed. The transmission or another driveline component may actually be at fault. Careful observation during the test will help narrow the problem area.
Recommended lubricant for AX 15 transmissions is Mopar 75W - 90, API Grade GL - 5 gear lubricant, or equivalent. Correct lubricant level is from the bottom edge, to no more than 6 mm (1/4 in.) below the bottom edge of the fill plug hole.

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Sounds like your clutch is not completely disengaging. The reason you can shift after getting it into 3rd, is that you have matched RPM to gear ratio (dry shift). Most likely a warped or worn clutch.
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Does the transmission row through the gears with the engine stopped? If yes where does the clutch pedal start to engage. At the bottom of the carpet or right at the top of release? If it's really down near the carpet then make sure nothing is obstructing fluid disengagement. If it's worse on a cold mornings but better after the transmission oil heats up then change your fluid using Redline MTL and get some Syncromesh from Amsoil. Good luck, Hal
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