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So you installed a new transmission and a whole new clutch kit? Did the kit include the pressure plate, clutch, throw out bearing and slave cylinder? Did you bleed the slave cylinder? The low and soft pedal is a clear sign that there is air in the hydraulic system. The loud noise after that tells me you're either grinding the gear trying to shift or there is a problem inside the transmission itself. If you installed everything correctly and torqued all the bolts correctly in the clutch assembly and transmission, then try bleeding the slave cylinder again, sometimes air gets trapped in the cylinder and it's hard to get out, If you let the clutch master cylinder run dry while you either had the clutch apart or while you were bleeding the clutch, then you have to start from scratch and re-bleed the whole system.
Reservoir drained=got leak. Should be evident on one or other. Sometimes leaking at firewall hard to detect. Replace both, if one wore out the other won't be far behind. My 88 toyota pickup leaked there but replacement master cylinder rod was too long so had to use homemade spacer on firewall in engine compartment. Slave cylinder was a pain to get mounted.
Need to know year and engine size. I know that the 1999 Dakota 2.5L clutch hydraulic system comes as a pre-charged, completely sealed system including the reservoir, master/slave cylinders and the connecting lines. There is no means of disassembly. If you use aftermarket parts, you must buy the entire aftermarket set and assemble and bleed it.
I know the regular sized Ford pickups had the slave cylinder inside the bellhousing, requiring transmission removal for replacement (not very smart, Ford!) So I suppose your Ranger, too, if you don't see the cylinder on the outside.; Most people who go through this replace the whole clutch and the slave cylinder at the same time, to avoid having to do it over again.
The solution is pretty cut-and-dry. Fix the fluid leak and your transmission will go into gear. I don't know what to tell you to fix exactly because I do not know where it is leaking from. If it is leaking from the slave cylinder, replace the slave cylinder; If it is leaking from the master cylinder, replace the master cylinder, etc.
Fixing just one part of the clutch may not be the best option for you however. Clutch parts seem to wear out all within a few thousand miles of one-another. Depending on how many miles are on your vehicle you may want to do a complete clutch replacement so you won't have any further clutch problems for several years.
use a bar to hold slave cylinder arm in towards the slave ,then open bleed and assistant pushes down ,then colse nipple and repeat till teh bar is being pushed against your pressure ,that should do it then leave a brick on the master pedal overnight so any air thats left will rise to the and through the master ,it will be perfect then
Make sure the clutch master cylinder is full and bleed the system at the clutch slave cylinder. This should make it work again. If there is leakage at the lever or slave cylinder , Buy the master cylinder kit and the slave o-rings and replace the seals. Bleed the system and you should be good for another ten years.
i would get the rebuild kit from the dealer you can get this as an O.E.M replacement as a kit or you can save some money and order it aftermarket in a kit threw parts unlimited, tucker rocky, or cruiser street, which is great quality and cheaper. it sounds like the rubber o-ring's are warn out, and thats letting the fluid leak, both kits come with the o-rings,piston, the spacer,and the snap-ring. Also you can request the dealer to print off you a "exploded view" of the slave cylinder to help replace all of the parts yourself.
The spacers are not important , And the rollers are not self lubricating , just add a couple drops of any weight of oil on the shafts before sliding the wheels on. You can add a few drops on the idler arm/belt tentioner as well while your in there.
Lube and clean dryer every year and it will last a long time.
Hope this helps.