'84 Honda Civic Clutch

Background information:
I live in Minnesota. This car, as far as I know, has spent it’s entire 26 years in the north, starting originally in Canada.
My father owned this car before me, for a total of 4 years, and in that time, the only repair it has received in that time was a damaged muffler. Everything else it has received has been standard maintenance (regular oil changes, air filter changes, fluids topped off frequently, etc.) It was given to me earlier this summer as a wedding gift, which I picked ahead of a lot of newer cars he offered simply because I’d fallen in love with this little car.

Car is a 1984 Honda Civic Hatchback/Wagon (I’m not sure the correct term for this one). Originally produced for use in Canada, it moved to the states, as far as I’m aware, about 10 years ago.

The problem:
About a year ago, the clutch started acting odd. Initially, noone registered it was the clutch, as it was happening in winter, but it would fail to fully disengage, making it difficult to change gears. Still doable without grinding, just a timing/strength game. My dad thought it was just the transmission getting cold and decided to get an oil change done. Strangely enough, the problem lessened significantly with the oil change.

Fast forward 6 months, I take possession of the car as a wedding gift. It runs great, but I have to get it from Rapid City, SD to Minneapolis, MN. All in all, quite a haul for this poor little guy. Still, the car is running great, and continues to do so for most of the summer. Now, as the summer wanes, the clutch has started slipping. If I try to accelerate to hard (and by too hard, I mean, Oh dear God, he’s trying to get up to highway speeds in the acceleration lane!) it just refuses to transfer any more power than what will keep the car moving forward. Also, as I’m having to set the choke more and more often in the mornings, the good old problem of it not fully disengaging is showing up again, though it seems to only happen when the engine is at high RPM (when the choke is set).

Any Clues? What can I expect as far as repair complexity? I love my little manual transmission Honda, but if I can’t afford the repair on this one, it sadly might not be able to be kept.

Initially the problem was one of these three:
Stretched or frayed clutch cable, if it has one.
Bad clutch master cylinder, if it has one. Replace the slave cylinder too.
Oil on the clutch from a leaky shaft seal.

The first and second aren’t very major $$.
Now after driving with it messed up so long it needs clutch replacement.
Would be a good idea to open up the transmission and check the synchros too.

All the faults and symptoms are consistent with a worn out clutch. Once the clutch is opened up the mechanic can assess the condition of the flywheel and other parts. Best bet would be to replace most of the wear parts, clutch plate, throw out bearing, etc. The disengagement problem should be addressed as part of the new clutch job.

Clutches are moved by either a cable from the petal to the clutch mechanism, or a hydralic system. In case is the latter you have a “master” cylinder connected to the petal, a tube down to the clutch mechanism, and a “slave” cylinder that moves the clutch mechanism. These cylinders might seem OK but at the age of the car they should be changed and filled with new fresh fluid.

Once you have a new clutch the old Civic should be wonderful again. Those old Civic wagons are rare and I can see you wanting to keep it going. Hopefully rust won’t kill it for a while yet. It it has been 30K miles since the transmission fluid was changed I drain and refill it again too. The old fluid was likely “gummy” and thick which is why the shifting got better with the fluid change. Changing it again will get out more of that remaining cruddy old stuff and get more fresh fluid in the trans. I’d use Honda brand transmission fluid even if it costs a bit more. That’s what I use in my '03 Civic that I hope to keep for many more years.

This particular car doesn’t use transmission fluid (something that took my dad almost a year to sort out). Apparently it uses the same oil as the rest of the engine to lubricate the transmission.

Thanks for the input, now to find out just how much that’s likely to cost me… :frowning:

My Honda says you can use 10W-30 motor oil in the transmission, but as a temporary measure. They recommend Honda manual transmission fluid be used to replace the 10W-30 when Honda fluid is available. This is likely same for your Civic.

80’s civics used normal engine oil in the tranny. No special fluid was required or recommended.

My '82 Civic had a cable operated clutch with an adjustment at the engine end of the cable. With wear, the adjustment becomes “out”. The '84 may be the same.

The bottom line here is that you clearly need a clutch job. The good news is that this is normal wear.

Congratulations, by the way, on keeping this running well this long. You deserve to celebrate.

Hondas from the '80s and earlier did spec motor oil for the manual trans.
But motor oil has changed in the last 30 years and according to Honda the modern friction modifiers are not optimum for the synchronizers.
Back when I had my '88 Accord the shifter was starting to feel a little notchy when cold,
so I tried the Honda fluid.
It was $9 a quart (ouch!) and much thinner than 10W-30, but it did improve the shifting noticeably.

We had an 84 Civic wagon. The clutch was cable operated and adjusted at the point where it comes through the firewall. Failure to keep it adjusted properly may have something to do with the current condition. But now you are looking at a new clutch at about $6-900.

Just because Honda makes its own brand of manual transmission fluid doesn’t mean it’s any different than regular oil. My 1998 Civic’s owner’s manual says Honda MTF is preferred, but 10W-30 oil will work just fine if you don’t leave it in there too long. I’ve been using synthetic 10W-30 oil in my manual transmission since the powertrain warranty expired (110,000 miles ago), and it’s works just fine.

I can’t prove it, but I am willing to bet Honda MTF is just synthetic oil with a Honda label, and a Honda price tag.

Well, according to my nose the Honda MTF smells very different from both 0W-30 Mobil 1 and 5W-30 Penzoil I have on hand.
In fact it smells very similar to Penzoil 75W-90 gear oil.
Definitely not just re-labeled motor oil.

Maybe you could drop by the dealer and take a sniff.

Just thought I’d point out: The car is two years older than me, my own mechanical knowledge is relatively simplistic, as aircraft engines (which I have more experience with) are a lot simpler… and stuck in the stoneage in some cases… How many of your cars still use magnetos? Yeah, I didn’t think so. You’d be hard pressed to find a piston aircraft engine today which DOESN’T use magnetos. Alternator goes out on an aircraft engine, the engine suddenly gets more fuel efficient, and that’s honestly IT!

Also, the car was not in my posession until about 3 months ago. It was a wedding gift, chosen because frankly it’s my favorite care EVER! My parents have owned a lot of cars over the years, and I’ve driven quite a few of them, but I fell in love with this little car, complete with it’s manual transmission (now a big plus for me…) it’s disarmingly small exterior, the ability to fit a BED and kitchen table inside a car that makes my dad’s motorcycle look big. I really don’t want to see this car go to the junk heap. Right now, I’ve learned to shift at different times to allow me to get stronger acceleration through a weaker clutch, a skill that I’m sure I can use once the clutch is fixed to really get some nice acceleration out of this little thing. I expect that inside of a month I’ll have enough money saved up again to do this repair (I’m estimating it at about $700 based on what my mechanic has said about parts availability and labor). This car is in great shape, it has minimal under carriage rust, interior is in good shape, a couple of cracks here and there, but all around, a great little car. I just wish they still built them like this, I know one day it will die, and the question will be if I want to invest $5,000 at that point in fixing this baby up or getting a new car… I suspect my answer will be fixing it up.

Basically, I love this car, I appreciate the no nonesense answers that have been given, even if a couple have been in the wrong decade (the comment about motor oil, I’ve had a dozen different mechanics tell me to use the standard engine oil, and when my dad switched to regular engine oil about 3 years ago, The synchros started working BETTER than with the transmission fluid. For 1984… It’s engine oil, sorry. Thanks everyone for the input, wish me luck in keeping this thing safe for another month.