There are 2 ways of adding tranny fluid to the '97 Escort 5-speed (some references to 99 Escort MT as well):
1. Most of the 5-speed trannys have a fill plug located on the forward, driver's side of the tranny. The plug is the same size and shape as the drain plug in the bottom of the case. It's easiest to get to if you remove the driver's side wheel/tire and the splash shield located inside the forward end of the wheel well. You will then have easy access to the fill plug in the tranny case extension located directly inside the wheel well on the forward driver's side.
Fill with Mercon or Mercon V (Mercon is what the Users Manual calls for, and Mercon V is an allowed lternate. Both are for Ford Vehicles). Becasue the plug opening faces downward at an angle, use a transmission filler funnel or a funnel fitted up with 5/8-inch plastic tubing. Ised a short section of 1/2-inch copper pipe to put on the other end of the tube and insert carefully into the fill hole. With the funnel positioned higher up, you and fill with three quarts of Mercon. Then add another a bit more than 1/2 quart (check capacity of the MT in your user manual, the 99 Escort is 3.55 qt.), If the car is level, you should have some of the new fluid weeping past the pipe/tubing. If not, remove the pipe/tube, check if transmission / vehicle is level. Again, the fill level required is the spill level at that hole with the transmission level.
2. Some of the trannys do not have the fill plug feature. On these trannys, you have to fill through the Vehicle Speed Sensor location (VSS). This is not fun. The VSS is located on the firewall side of the tranny, about in the middle of the tranny, down low. You can barely see it and reach it from the top of the engine compartment on the driver's side. You have to disconnect the VSS wire connector. Then, remove the VSS retaining bolt - this is a 10mm hex-head bolt in the tranny near the base of the VSS. The VSS must finally be pried carefully out of the case. Tranny fluid is filled through the VSS hole until full. Re-install the VSS and hook up the connector when complete. Have a box of Band-Aids ready.
If you have to change the fluid because you pulled the tranny, do yourself the favor of removing the speed sensor when the tranny is OUT of the vehicle. Then you can change the O-ring as well. Much easier not to damage the VSS which is a $60+ part to replace.
All manual transmission have a drain plug on the transmission pan. Above that drain plug is another plug used to fill with (check your Users Manual, it seems to be the only place this info (type and quantity) is listed) either gear oil, or (in some Ford models) Ford automatic transmission fluid (Mercon or Mercon V). Check the specifications on your car before adding anything, so as to avoid a hefty bill for replacing the transmission.
The transmission fluid is filled and checked at the speedometer cable drive gear hole. Find the cable for the speedometer from instrument cluster through the firewall to the rear of the transmission. There is a 10millimeter bolt holding the drive gear in place. Remove the bolt, slide the clip towards the passenger side, pull the gear up and out with the cable attached. The transmission is full when the fluid comes up halfway or so on the teeth of the gear. The gear is used as a dipstick and the fluid is put in through the hole. When empty, the transmission takes 2.5 quarts of mercon (Again, read your user manual, the 99 Escort takes 3.55 QTs of Mercon or Mercon V automatic transmission fluid)
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