2001 Escape XLT V6 3.0L. It is always something with this vehicle! After having the second transmission replaced recently, the truck was throwing code P0708 'Transmission Range Sensor', aka neutral safety switch. I have another thread on here describing the process of replacing it. Within a week, the gear shift locked-up while trying to put it in Park - it stuck in Neutral. Okay, so is it the transmission again, a problem with the new TRS, or something different?
Since the gear shifter would not budge at all, not even pull out of safety position in order to change gears, I thought maybe it was the brake light switch. In case you didn't know, the brake light switch not only controls when the brake lights come on, but when you press the brake pedal, the switch also allows the shifter to be pulled out of the safety position and moved into a gear. The brake lights were working when the pedal was pressed, so I figured the switch was fine. To be sure, though, I by-passed the switch with a jumper wire, which illuminated the brake lights, but still no change with the shifter.
To test the transmission, I detached the shifter cable from the gear lever (after clipping the zip tie holding it in place) that comes directly out of the tranny, and tried moving the lever by hand. It worked fine, and I was able to easily change the gears in the tranny by hand. I also grabbed the cable and slid it back-and-forth to check for sticking; it moved very freely. I re-attached the cable to the shifter lever on the tranny, and put on a new zip tie.
The only problem was that now the gear shift lever on the steering column moved all over the place with no resistance or slipping into any gear. Great. I reached underneath the steering column and quickly realized that the gear shifting linkage was disconnected somewhere. The rod coming out of the bottom of the steering column was totally loose. After removing the bottom steering column cover (three screws; one is underneath the adjustment lever), and the small under-dash trim piece (just pull straight out), I could see the problem. The rod at the end of the cable has a ring on it which slips over a ball joint coming from the shifter. The plastic grommet that holds the ring onto the ball joint was broken, so the ring had slipped off and everything was loose. I guess it had gotten into an awkward position and locked-up earlier, and when I pulled on the cable while checking the tranny under the hood, it came totally loose. I went to Home Depot and got a couple of sizes of e-clips. The 5/16th size clip fit over the ball joint and held the ring on. I also wrapped a little electrical tape around all of it. After a successful test run, I put the covers back on, and called it good.
Again, my question remains: What next?!?