Re: '04 Escape 2L MT half shaft replacement
I was finally able to get the new shaft in, and everything seems fine after driving it quite a bit the last few days.
I kept trying to get the new shaft seated - it was possible to engage the splines, but not much before the C-clip stopped the insertion progress. It became apparent that it was a very tight fit, and the addition of the C-clip impediment was enough to prevent advancement. This car has a MT, and I have an '06 Escape with AT that was much easier to remove and replace the halfshaft. MT Escapes are pretty rare, and I just think that's the way they are as far as the halfshafts. In fact, I have previously changed the clutch on this car and had removed the MT and driver's side halfshaft as a unit because I was afraid of damaging the transmission by levering the halfshaft out, since it didn't seem to want to come out. This time I bought some of those long-armed pry bars and that did the trick as far as removal.
What I ended up doing (after beating on the shaft numerous times) was using the car jack as a ram to get the C-clip started inside the female splines. I was able to brace the halfshaft against the jack, then against a 2x4 which was in turn braced against the foundation of my garage. Once the halfshaft was started and C-clip engaged, I banged it in the rest of the way.