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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I’m thrilled to be the owner of a 1999 Esprit I just purchased via BAT. This is a bucket list car for me and I can‘t wait to get a few miles under my belt with it. I have a few questions for current owners - what can be done to improve the shifting feel? It’s really mushy. I‘ve heard the gearbox isn’t know to be smooth, but I was surprised it’s so sloppy. I also noticed when the steering wheel is cranked all the way (either way) the front wheels judder a bit - almost like they’re turned too much. Is this normal? I’ll check out the suspension when I’m doing the brakes.

I would love to meet local Esprit owners that can drive my car and tell me if it needs anything else. I’m in Napa if any other owners are nearby!
 

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Wheel judder at low speeds is normal . Changing out my tranny oil did wonders for my Esprit shifting and it couldn't be easier.
 

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Congrats Patmandu! Looks like you got the pretty silver car. Nice work.
It depends on what you mean by "mushy". If you're used to a gated or Honda shifter then yes it's different. Redline MT-90 did wonders on my transmission so you may want to try that. You'll need the 10mm square socket and just over 3 liters of fluid. I'd give that a go. Also change out the engine oil. Cheers!
 

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Great choice Patmandu, I'm sure you will enjoy your V8 Esprit.

Yes wheel judder at full lock is not uncommon since the suspension geometry goes out of whack at that point. My Esprit actually has much less of it than my Corvette, but it's still there.

Good advice to change out the fluid, but also take a look at the shift linkage cable attachments at the rear of the transaxle just to make sure everything is in good shape and no slop.

If you don't have the square socket in your kit you can also use a short 3/8" drive extension inverted. The female end of the extension fits snugly onto the transaxle drain and fill port plugs, couple light taps will seat it fully (3/8" is just a few thousandths under 10mm). Then use an 11mm 12-point socket on the male end of the extension. Remove the fill plug before you drain the oil, wouldn't want to get it drained then discover your filler plug is frozen in place.

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I also recommend changing the transaxle fluid. Make sure all of the linkage is tight with no play. I had stiffness so I lubricated the cables by injecting oil under air pressure which helped. The shifting is not as precise as most would like so there is only so much you can do. Now that you have the car you need to make sure all of the maintenance is up to date. Plenty of threads on what that means. To do the fluid change it makes it SO much easier if you remove the floor in the boot and gives you a chance to inspect everything and clean things up.
David Teitelbaum
 

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Your '99 (congrats!) has the updated linkage, so it shouldn't feel anything close to what I would call "mushy". The '97 V8s have a significantly worse linkage, and if you are used to driving the newer '98+ version, you'd swear you were going to break something putting it into gear sometimes.

Aside from checking the linkage and the trans fluid that was mentioned, issues with the clutch can also cause some shifting problems. If it feels like the gears just disappear sometimes, grind slightly, or you have difficulty going into reverse, it might be time to look at replacing the clutch discs, or the clutch entirely. I've also seen input shafts that have the splines hammered by the clutch discs from abusive driving that prevent the discs from sliding smoothly.

For the record: this is not to scare you. I think it's unlikely that the clutch is the cause of the problem you've described, but the symptoms were worth mentioning.

Jake
 

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When you get over 40,000 miles the clutch becomes suspect or if you are leaking clutch fluid and don't get enough motion to disengage the clutch. The pedal gets hard and you have to push it all the way down to shift. You start grinding gears, especially 1st and reverse. Before considering the clutch you change the trans fluid, check the linkage, and flush the clutch (brake) fluid with fresh making sure you have flushed all of the old stuff out and bled out any air. The '99's do have the newer, improved shift mechanism without the translator that wears and adds some lost motion. I wouldn't call the shifting "mushy" just not precise and "tight" like some better gated shifting cars. If the trans fluid is low, old, or not the correct stuff you notice the shifting is not right. The right stuff makes a lot of difference.
David Teitelbaum
 

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Welcome...I'm a fellow BaT alumnus/owner of a 1991 SE. Congrats!

Like others said, if you don't know exactly when the transmission fluid was last done, go ahead and do it with some Redline.

Enjoy!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks for all the great advice! I’m going to change the transaxle fluid this week. I’m not getting any grinding or clutch slippage, nor are there any leaks anyplace. I suspect the trans fluid has not been changed in quite a while, so that’s my first avenue of addressing the issue. Do you use straight 90W or 75-90 oil?
 

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Redline MT-90, 4 quarts, is what you want. You will use 3 1/4 qts and have a bit left over. Best to do it after some driving so you warm it up and it comes out easily and any dirt is suspended in the oil. As mentioned in a previous post you should remove the level plug FIRST! You do NOT want to remove the drain plug and then find out you can't get the level plug out and put fluid in!!!!!!! BTW, your "judder" when turned to full lock is normal. Due to the suspension geometry and the very wide tires. Make sure you have the correct size tires and proper air pressure.
David Teitelbaum
 

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Congrats and welcome @Patmandu! I’m also a relatively new owner, picking up a low-mileage ‘91 SE a couple of months ago after lots of good advice on this forum. I’m in Auburn so not too far from you. You’re getting plenty of great advice from MUCH more knowledgeable folks than I, but I’ll reiterate along with everyone else that you should definitely do a full fluid change, ALL FLUIDS. That’s the first thing I did when I got mine, and I went with the recommended Redline MT-90 for the gearbox. These Renault boxes are definitely NOT rifle bolt precise. I was used to my 2015 VW GTI daily driver so the Esprit was a BIG change. Being out of an ‘80s Renault it just is what it is. Coddle it. Talk nice to it. Maybe buy it a drink from time to time. It’ll take care of you. 😁
-Eric

PS: I picked up the correct male socket for the transmission drain and fill plugs off of Amazon for like five bucks. Yes it’s made in China like everything else these days so it’s probably garbage, but it gets the job done. Do yourself a favor and pick one up.
 

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Believe me, those square drive sockets are worth the money.

Get one before you change the trans fluid...I've seen more than one fill plug chewed up from improper tools being used.
 

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Congrats and welcome @Patmandu! I’m also a relatively new owner, picking up a low-mileage ‘91 SE a couple of months ago after lots of good advice on this forum. I’m in Auburn so not too far from you. You’re getting plenty of great advice from MUCH more knowledgeable folks than I, but I’ll reiterate along with everyone else that you should definitely do a full fluid change, ALL FLUIDS. That’s the first thing I did when I got mine, and I went with the recommended Redline MT-90 for the gearbox. These Renault boxes are definitely NOT rifle bolt precise. I was used to my 2015 VW GTI daily driver so the Esprit was a BIG change. Being out of an ‘80s Renault it just is what it is. Coddle it. Talk nice to it. Maybe buy it a drink from time to time. It’ll take care of you. 😁
-Eric

PS: I picked up the correct male socket for the transmission drain and fill plugs off of Amazon for like five bucks. Yes it’s made in China like everything else these days so it’s probably garbage, but it gets the job done. Do yourself a favor and pick one up.
Eric, you got a linky so I can be lazy and not look up the correct size, etc?
 

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Wingless Wonder
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When you get the square socket don't be afraid to hammer it ALL the way onto the plug so it won't come loose while you are trying to remove it. Sometimes those plugs are really tight! The level plug is surrounded by the transmission mount and you really can't get to it without a proper socket. One of the plugs should be magnetic and it is supposed to be the drain plug.
David Teitelbaum
 

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And some other Must Have tools: Stubby metric combination wrench set. Mirror on a stick.
 

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Hmmm. Well there's nothing wrong with having a 10mm square socket in your tool kit, if you must. But I submit the inverted 3/8" extension works fine on both plugs, at least on non-stuck, normally tight plugs.

I tried it on my 2003, no problems. Not aware of any difference on a 99 but maybe I'm missing something, and/or maybe it's also used somewhere else on the car.

10mm = 0.39", 3/8" = 0.375"

So if anything the female end of the extension is a slightly more snug fit on the square plug than a 10mm socket.

Incorrect tools for the job:
Adjustable wrench
Any open end wrench
Pliers
Vise grips

Just sayin... 😀

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And a magnet on a stick, USB borescope camera. Smooth jazz on the stereo in the garage for valve shim adjustments...
I like the USB borescope idea, still looking for the best bargain on that one.

But valve shims are 4cyl only, the V8 doesn't have them, correct?
 
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