View Full Version : Transmission not engaging when cold

12-03-2012, 11:57 AM

Got a problem that driving me nuts. When the boat is cold (2000 Maristar ZF trans) the transmission will not engage. This has happened last year int he fall and I had the transmission fluid changed and I did not have the problem until the weather got cold. Fluid looks clean and normal. The linkage is all good, but the boat will rev until the trans catches.

Any suggestions please???? Search didn't help much.


12-03-2012, 12:14 PM
which fluid was used ATF or 15w40?

12-03-2012, 12:21 PM
I would also check the oil that was put in

12-03-2012, 12:44 PM
Is it doing it when going into both forward or reverse? If the shift linkage is slightly out of adjustment, it can present similar symptons, which may be more apparent when cold. When mine was slightly out, it would take several seconds to engage the forward gear. If it only does it in one direction only (F or R), it could need some adjustment. Different boat/transmission I realize, but something to check.

12-03-2012, 01:52 PM
I would start with visually checking the shifting mechanism. Put the shifter in gear and see if it's actually moving all the way on the transmission. Wiggle all the mounts and make sure nothing is loose as well. One loose screw can cause shifting problems. Next, I would change the fluid. Cost you less than $10 and takes 15-20 minutes to do both of these things.

12-03-2012, 02:15 PM
I too would be suspect of the cable. Since things contract when cold, the cable may be just a bit too short. I would have to look at mine (which is not near me) to figure out if it would be in both directions or only one. There should be an adjustment on the cable.

Also of note, I have the ZF tranny book for mine. I dont think that yours is the same tranny as mine (45c or 63c), but I believe that you do have a ZF. If you find out is it, I can Email it to you. I down loaded the manual from either ZF direct or from skiDIM. skiDIM has lots of manuals you can down load. Just go to their site and shop for manuals. Maybe the manual will help you out?

12-03-2012, 05:42 PM
Thanks guys for the help.

I've had the MC dealer change the fluids on an annual basis and last time I'm pretty sure they use 15w40. I can check when I get home.

The problem happens both in forward and reverse. When I mean cold.. well that is a relative term for us in AZ. The air temp is about 70F when it happens. I will double check the linkage.

Jake - the manual would be a big help - [email protected]

12-03-2012, 05:54 PM
On my '88 Velvet drive, the shift cable locks into a bracket on top of the transmission with a simple clip that can be 'opened' or 'closed' manually with no tools. You could easily check whether the linkage is causing the issue by opening the clip and pulling the cable away so it isn't operable. Then, while still 'cold', manually shift the transmission linkage into gear using the linkage on the transmission, not the throttle (you might want to be away from docks, etc. if you're by yourself). Again, no idea how your transmission is set up compared to what I'm familiar with. In my limited experience, just looking at the cable moving the linkage into F-N-R doesn't really tell you if it is slightly out of adjustment or not. The adjustments can be very slight.

04-04-2013, 02:21 PM
Bringing back this thread from the dead....

If the linkage was the issue I would suspect that it would work in either in F or R. Mine does not. I'm thinking if the linkage was out of adjustment for F then R would work no problem.

Am i wrong here?


04-04-2013, 09:27 PM
No, I think you're on the right track, as that was what I was indicating in my first post above. I'm not much help beyond that though. Good luck.

04-05-2013, 08:27 AM
This may be way too simple but make sure the fluid is at the correct level when warm also. If you have trans fluid there is a considerable difference in hot versus cold levels. You could be on the low end of the "hot full" level which would leave you low when the trans is cold.

To give you an example of how heat effects the level.... I changed the fluid on my first vDrive and filled to the full level with the trans cold (apparently I didn't bother to read the fill instructions). The boat ran great and seemed to operate well for a couple weeks in the spring with light duty. I took a rather long speed run back to the harbor a couple weeks later and was horrified to see a considerable amount trans fluid in the bilge when I cleaned up after I pulled the boat for the day. I was able to track the source of the fluid back to the breather. The next day I got everything back to temp and found that the fluid level was still a bit high although it was near the bottom of the fill marks when cold. This may not be your problem but it would be simple to check and may be a easy remedy.

04-06-2013, 12:20 AM
Bringing back this thread from the dead....

If the linkage was the issue I would suspect that it would work in either in F or R. Mine does not. I'm thinking if the linkage was out of adjustment for F then R would work no problem.

Am i wrong here?


^ x2. Have you actually checked the transmission fluid level yourself and not just assume since the shop serviced it is correct. A low fluid level will cause delay engagement until the fluid warms up which it also expands. I would check this.

04-06-2013, 05:31 PM
I only checked the fluid when cold and it's clean and also at the top. I know I need to check it when hot... will do next time on the lake, or can I check it just with the engine running at home ? I would think the trans would have to be engaged...

04-29-2013, 12:32 PM
5 min at 1500 RPM. transmission should be at operating temperature when checking fluid level.

05-05-2013, 10:11 PM
What is the best tranny fluid to use?

The manual say ATF Dex III but i've heard they now recommend 15w-40.

Is this correct??