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1999 Subaru Legacy Clutch

I have a husband (and car) problem. The clutch on my 1999 Subaru Legacy Outback LE has felt “soft” off and on for a few months. We had it bled in late June, and afterwards it was good for a week or so (we thought it felt better), then it started sticking halfway down (the pedal wouldn’t come back up like it should). We brought it to a nationwide chain transmission shop and they diagnosed it as having a bad clutch return spring and did a ghetto fix with a hardware spring. We would have GLADLY paid for a real fix, but the shop incorrectly assumed that since the car is old and high mileage, Subaru parts take forever to get in, and we live in a relatively poor area that we weren’t willing to put money into this repair.

The hardware spring does keep the pedal from sticking, but after the car warms up, the clutch still doesn’t feel right- it feels like it would definitely stick if the spring were not there. But, it feels normal on less than 30 minute drives.

Here’s the question. My husband is completely convinced that the mechanic was wrong and that it is the clutch hydraulic system (specifically the slave cylinder) which is failing. He thinks this for three reasons 1) He thinks that anyone who would use a hardware spring for a repair is a bad mechanic 2) My dad mentioned that it might be the slave cylinder when we talked to him about it (my dad isn’t a mechanic and hasn’t actually driven the vehicle) and 3) he thinks that a spring would not fail in this way and thinks the mechanic is just making a guess about what is wrong.

I disagree. I think that if the mechanic says it’s the clutch return spring, then we should order the part online (to avoid leaving the car at a mechanic while we wait on the part, which is only available through Subaru) and get this repair finally DONE. My husband wants to bring the car to yet another mechanic to get them to confirm that he’s right about the problem being the clutch hydraulics. Maybe the logical solution is to bring it to a dealership to avoid part wait times and mechanics who have probably never worked on a Subaru clutch. What would you do?

There’s nothing magical or special about a Subaru clutch. It’s a clutch.

“Old and high mileage?” My Legacy is older than yours. How many miles on your car?

Bad hydraulics might contribute to the “soft” feel, but I don’t think the hydraulic system is responsible for the pedal not returning all the way.

National chain shops are to be avoided like the plague. Isn’t there a decent independent mechanic in your area? Aren’t there other Subarus in your area? Where do their owners take them for service? The Subaru dealer will fix it, but it will cost a lot. Independent mechanics are usually less expensive.

Where do you live that you can’t get Subaru parts? FedEx delivers overnight.

Get away from the chain shop and find a mechanic.

Perhaps “The Mechanics Files” on the Car Talk home page will help.

Subaru clutches are no different from any other vehicle out there and as a matter of fact, the same company that manufactures Subaru clutches also makes them for other makes of cars also. You can easily get Subaru clutch parts anywhere.

You should avoid a shop that would resort to a hardware store spring so I agree with your husband although this could be caused by the clutch master cylinder also.
It doesn’t matter much. It’s a good idea to replace both at the same time because Murphy’s Law dictates that when one only is changed the other will fail soon afterwards.

There is also the slim possibility this could be caused by the throwout bearing hanging up on the transmission mainshaft nose. (This is inside the clutch assembly and is part of the transmission. Odds are this isn’t the problem; only pointing out a slim possibility.)
Even checking this would require transmission removal which would then mean a new clutch anyway. I’d go with the hydraulic end of the first.

I have a 1999 legacy outback, and last year i experienced a similar set of symptoms. After some research i found a technical service bulletin about said issues. Subaru recommends replacing the master and slave cylinder for the hydraulic clutch, but also noted that it is not damaging anything when it hangs out half popped back up, as only the pedal is not returning to the correct place. I finally got tired of lifting it with my foot over and over, and made the repair. I have 180k miles on the original clutch, mechanically (with the new master and slave cylinders) it is strong, never once slipped on me, and functions as you would expect. Good luck.