Question: I have a 1989 Ford F-150 with a five-speed manual transmission and only 75,000 miles on its 300cid six-cylinder engine. I was surprised when I put it in first or second gear and it was as if it was in neutral. The other gears were fine. This never happened before when my father had it (he was the original owner), and I've been the owner since he died in 2000. It has never been driven in snow and has never been in an accident.

Answer: Your dad's F-Series has either a Mazda or a ZF five-speed standard gearbox. If you didn't hear any grinding, grunting, or loud clunks from the transmission before or during the loss of first and second gears, the unit may be salvageable, especially if you feel little or no resistance at the shifter when you move it back and forth between the two gears. You may be moving the shifter and little else. It's possible that a retaining pin, which holds the 1-2 shift fork to its shaft, came loose or sheared off, or part of the linkage even closer to shifter has broken. If it was a major internal breakdown of a gear or synchronizer, you probably would've heard or felt something. Either way, before ordering a new five-speed, find an honest, experienced technician who specializes in transmissions. Have him remove the gearbox if necessary and do a partial teardown to determine the fault. Who knows? It may be a $20 part causing you grief. Good luck.

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If you have a technical question regarding your pickup, SUV, or van, feel free to contact Alex, a master technician with the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. Send a letter to him in care of Truck Trend Garage, 831 S. Douglas Street, El Segundo, CA 90245, or e-mail us at Please include the VIN with your question. Due to the volume of questions received every month, we cannot guarantee that everyone's question will be personally answered or will appear in the magazine.

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