Hi Rob, I just recently purchased a 1998 Mercury Sable station wagon. It only has 46,000 km on it. It sat for two years before I purchased it. The transmission is shifting very hard. Do I need to buy a new transmission or would a transmission fluid and filter change help???
Yikes, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the Ford's front-wheel drive transaxles were plagued with problems – as were many vehicles at that time. This grief crossed over from the infamous AXOD to the AXFS or the AXFN, one of which will be in your car. Over the years, Ford has upgraded these models because they have hundreds of thousands of them on the road, so any replacement unit you get – should you choose to go down that road – should have these upgrades available and installed.
For now Jack, your suggestion of a fluid and/or filter replacement won't help. I'm afraid there isn't much you can do without replacing the transmission with an upgraded model, and you'll be looking at a fairly significant bill of around $3500, unfortunately.
As you are still getting used to your Sable, try driving it for a while to see if you can live with the shift quality. If not, check around and ask your local transmission shops what they have on hand as a replacement for your transaxle and make sure they can prove that they have installed the updates.
With the upgrades, you and your Sable will be humming along for years.
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