2002 Chevy Prizm Clutch/Gear Shift

My 2002 manual transmission Chevy Prizm (104,000 miles) has been having some problems shifting lately, specifically into first and into reverse. I’ve been having a lot of trouble getting it to go into gear (grinding like the clutch isn’t in all the way). Occasionally this difficulty happens going from first to second as well, or trying to get it out of first and into neutral. I’ve also had the car die on me several times when I stop the car with the clutch engaged at a light or pulling into or out of a parking spot. I had a new clutch put in around 80,000 miles, so I really hope it’s not that. Is it possible there’s something wrong with the clutch pedal, or with the clutch fluids? It’s getting to the point that I’m too scared to drive the car, because I never know when it’s going to act up, and I’ve started to get scared of stop signs and stoplights like I was when I first started driving a stick shift! Many thanks for any suggestions!

Generally you can adjust the clutch so that when you depress the clutch pedal, you disengage the clutch with less depression once the clutch plate has worn. This is very helpful, since the clutch plate will wear. You would as a driver adjust to the clutch wear over time, without even realizing it, but eventually you’ll find that you are depressing the pedal all the way and the clutch is not disengaging. At this point you might extend the life of the existing plate by adjusting the clutch cable, or you might decide to invest $700 or more in a new clutch plate.
Obviously see if you can adjust the cable first. The adjustment is almost free.
This will buy you maybe six months to save for either a new clutch or a downpayment for a new car. I’d lean more to saving toward a new car downpayment versus putting serious money into a Chevy with more than 100k.

It isn’t really a Chevy, the mechanicals are pure Toyota Corolla. They were built in a joint venture plant in Calif.
Doesn’t this have a hydraulic clutch? The first thing I would do is check the fluid level.

It sounds like the clutch is not disengaging fully. Check the fluid level in the clutch hydraulic reservoir. If the level is low there’s a leak somewhere.

It’s more likely to be a problem in the clutch hydraulic system (master or slave cylinder) than the clutch itself.