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Am I responsible for bad clutch?

BillRussell: If forced to eat lutefisk I would pay double the cost of vehicle repairs. I was only curious of coasting downhill and gear selected. The rental car had a mechanical failure which under normal driving conditions should not have caused any additional damage. If that is the truth renter has no liability.

I had lutefisk one time while on business in Norway, and thought it was pretty tasty … I guess that’s why they make ice cream in different flavors, everybody’s taste buds are different.

I know what I would do if in the OP’s shoes.

Tell them to take a flying ---- and pound sand.

Or more diplomatically, pay a lawyer a few bucks to send them a letter saying essentially the same thing in more diplomatic language.

Hey All - “OP” back again to answer your questions. Again, I REALLY appreciate your expertise here. Happy to learn from The Best. I have a phone mtg with the Rental Co in Norway in a few hours (5 am my time… end of their work day!) so am soaking up all you offer.
@BillRussell et al,
Thank you for the correction in my terms. I agree it was confusing. PEDAL was depressed, CLUTCH was DISengaged when the problem occurred. Afterwards, the Clutch became engaged regardless of the position of the pedal.

@JoeMario
When you were using the clutch to do moderate engine braking, was the engine turned on?
YES
Were you iterating from a fully depressed clutch to a partially engaged clutch as you were going downhill?
YES
If so, was the engine running when doing this?
YES

I was taught - right or wrong - to ease out the clutch when downshifting so there wouldn’t be a jolt. I always go down one speed at a time (EG 5 to 4, 4 to 3… ) and have NOT gone into Neutral in between, but (again, right or wrong) would hold the clutch pedal down (disengaged) between the downshifts so the engine wouldn’t rev too high.

@cwatkin
Did you hear any screeching like a cricket near the time of failure?
NO (?)
Also, YES, we did use a credit card, and DID have insurance. The Insurance doesn’t cover “Operator Error” (I should have smashed into the wall instead of navigating through the downhill tunnel and safely pulling over at the bottom – THAT would have been covered!)

We DID work with the credit card company. They sided with us and didn’t give the Rental Co th repair money. Rental Co did some other “mistakes” in their billing which upp’ed our bill a couple thousand, (Which they slipped on to our card and didn’t and we didn’t see till it was too late to contest) so basically at this point they have a couple thousand we want and I have a couple thousand THEY want. I told them that, considering the circumstances I was willing to call it even, but they’re pursuing it. Uncertain what kind of teeth they can put into their claim (Viking Bill Collectors sailing up to my house sounds mighty intimidating…)

One idea, run from the bill collector and hide in the fjords, they’ll never find you … lol …

Seriously, I’ve never had a problem like this w/a rental car, so can’t offer much advice. I expect as part of signing the rental agreement you also agree in the event of a dispute to not sue them, but instead to use their mediation service. If you can’t come to terms, that’s probably next on the agenda. I’d guess it will be their burden of proof to show you damaged the clutch, and not your burden of proof to show you hadn’t. So that gives you quite a bit of advantage. Hope it all works out. Best of luck.

The slave cylinder is external and if it fell clean off the car it would have had no effect on the clutch assembly.

It would not surprise me if this company pulls the same thing with other customers. If not the clutch then something else.

If I’m understanding this correctly , you were coasting down hill with the clutch pedal pushed down . Something popped & the clutch engaged while you were still holding the pedal down . I’m curious about how fast you were coasting & what gear the transmission was in when the clutch engaged itself .
By the way , I’ve been driving manual transmission vehicles all my life & I’ve never heard of anyone using engine braking the way you are describing it .

Maybe it was in neutral.

@cwatkin
I just edited my post a little & if I remember correctly the OP was using the clutch as a method of engine braking . If that was the case the transmission would have had to of been in gear & what would be the point in holding the clutch pedal down if the transmission was in neutral ?

I still don’t understand. When going down a grade I put the transmission in fourth gear and leave it there, no partial clutch engagement. All this in and out with the clutch sounds really busy, how many times did you shift in the tunnel?

What year was the car? Was it a diesel? Some Volkswagens have the through-out bearing combined with the slave cylinder, no clutch fork. Overheat the clutch and the slave cylinder can fail.

As with many of the other replies, I’m concluding that it’s very likely the master or slave cylinder suddenly gave out. If so, it’s difficult to lay blame on TVTom for that.

It could also be something in the throwout bearing or the arm that moves the throwout bearing. That’s less likely. And again not something to blame on TVTom.

@Sloepoke:
If I’m understanding this correctly , you were coasting down hill with the clutch pedal pushed down . Something popped & the clutch engaged while you were still holding the pedal down
CORRECT. I was traveling at posted speed. Sorry, as much of the trip was a blur (not from going fast) and speeds were in KmH, the number is not in my head. It was a highway, though.

@Nevada_545
Sorry, Uncertain of the year as it was not on the rental agreement. I believe it was 2015, and I also seem to recall it was a diesel.
This was a VW Golf. Do any of you know if on the Golf the (prone-to-fail) Slave Cylinder would cause further damage if it suddenly gave out under my circumstances, or as @ok4450 indicated, that would not be the case.

All - Is it better to use brake first to slow vehicle BEFORE shifting to a lower year and then let the lower engine compression maintain the lower speed, or (as I have ) ease the pedal out after shifting to next lower year and allow the compression do to the actual slowing. ?

OP, you may be getting confused with terminology again. You were actually coasting down the hill with the clutch depressed, the clutch disengaged? You get zero engine braking that way. This is NOT the proper way to do it.

Proper is to use a combination of engine braking and actual brakes. Try the highest gear first, and if that doesn’t provide enough braking, go to a lower gear, slowing down if required. This is with the clutch engaged. The clutch should only be disengaged while shifting.

We had a conference call with the Rental Co in Norway this morning. This time they included their head of maintenance/service. (Previously it was only the customer service rep, who doesn’t even drive!) Their service guy says that the new VW’s are esp. prone to damage if coasting with the clutch pedal depressed. Thoughts?

“prone to damage” does not mean you caused the problem. If that statement is on the record, I think you are free from that charge.

Although coasting with the clutch disengaged is not recommended and not a good practice, it should not cause damage.

TVTom-you may want to consider negotiating a settlement with the rental company, that might be less costly than hiring an attorney and not winning your case. Also you need to rethink all the things you know about driving manual trans.
This thread just reaffirms my not letting anyone drive the manual transmission vehicles I had in the past.

Their service guy says that the new VW's are esp. prone to damage if coasting with the clutch pedal depressed. Thoughts?
Did they offer any specific warning to you about this unique limitation on the car they rented to you when you picked it up? Seriously, this is not something that would cause total clutch destruction in any other make/model so it would seem that if they knew it was uniquely prone to this failure mode it should be pointed out beforehand.

BTW- that’s offered up as slightly tongue in cheek as I do not believe this is the reason for the issue but it does rebut their stated reasoning…

If the clutch was fully depressed the whole coasting time , nothing bad as far as clutch failure should have happened . If the OP was { as I believe } letting the clutch partially out to provide engine braking , one heck of a lot of heat could have been generated , causing failure .

I agree with letting the clutch out slowly to minimize shock, but it should only take two to three seconds.
I sometimes bump the throttle while letting out the clutch when engine braking so the clutch doesn’t have to work as hard.

I think it’s lighthearted story time. A Cleveland Browns fan who also happened to be a lawyer sent the following letter to the Browns’ legal department:

The Browns’ lawyer sent the following letter back: (note: semi-strong language)

I have adopted this method a few times when companies have tried to extract money out of me for absurd reasons. It’s never failed me yet. Perhaps OP needs to point out how stupid this is to their legal department rather than dealing with the counter monkeys.