Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Clutch pedal bite point sinking now too low

2001 Cavalier 5-speed manual 2.2 240K

I had my clutch master cylinder replaced 8 months ago. The reason at that time was because the clutch pedal bite point had dropped down to the last / bottom 10% or so of pedal travel. After the repair, it was the exact opposite - at the very very top way too high in the first / top 10% of pedal travel. Over the last couple of months, it has again dropped to the point where I am having problems shifting because it is again in the very last tiny bit before I hit the floor. The clutch is not slipping at all. I had a new clutch kit including a new slave put in back in 2015. The reservoir is so full that it almost spills out when you take the cap off - can’t add one more drop. No external leaks.

My question is - is there any way to adjust the pedal bite point without messing with the hydraulics, fluid, or lines in any way? Given this symptom, could it be anything other than an internally-leaking slave or master cylinder (past the seals)? Can someone tell me the procedure for replacing the master cylinder? I was already upset enough before I did some price/cost estimate checking on both of these. Even though I had known the slave was part of the clutch kit, for some reason I thought price and labor would be about the same no matter which one was the problem. But it appears that replacing the slave is the same job and the same $1000+ expense that getting an entire new clutch installed is. No way I can even come close to affording that so I am hoping it is something else.

Thanks for any info or suggestions.

Take some of the excess fluid out of the master cylinder. The excess fluid comes from the slave cylinder as the clutch plate wears down. I suspect you are going to need a new clutch assembly in the near future.

master replacement is 0.7 hours plus $160 parts. clutch slave replacement is 5 hours and $350 parts. the transmission has to come out to replace the slave cylinder I expect. If you aren’t losing any clutch fluid I think your best bet is to replace the master again. maybe you just got a bad one 8 months ago. The master can leak internally, so it doesn’t work but no external leaks. The slave, if it leaks, leaks externally and the clutch fluid would need replenishing from time to time. If it only take 0.7 hours the mc can’t be overly complicated to replace.

Hmmm well what you describe sounds like the master is doing its job… The reason after the repair it begins to grab at the top of the pedal is because the new part allows the clutch pressure plate to be pushed in (disengaged) further than previously. So…conversely it would then re engage the clutch at the higher up position of your pedal…as normal

There is one thing when installing a master cylinder…brake or clutch… It is called “Bench Bleeding” some “mechanics” never heard of this…and thats bad. You can look it up, but its a prerequisite to installation because after the part is installed it may not be possible to properly bleed the master if a bench bleed was not performed. Perhaps it wasnt bench bled properly or fully?

But imho it sounds like the master is actually working based on your description of the pedal changes. You could try bleeding the system again as it is installed in its completion. The bench bleed requires going back to square one in the bleed departments for master and slave… and bleeding is really only seeking to solve any “sponginess” in the pedal feel and u haven’t mentioned a spongy pedal… I’m just looking for options / adjustments for you…there aren’t many.

Some clutch pedals have an adjustment for clutch free play. But I don’t see any reference to that function for your car.

The slave cylinder used on that 2001 Cavalier is a Peugeot designed pain in the neck with its only redeeming virtue being that it eliminates several tep in labor on the assembly line. Of course the owners have for years paid dearly for the pocket change saved at the factory. But then what’s new?

Haven’t ever had to do it, but replacing the slave would be a very easy job on my early 90’s Corolla. Even on the 2017 Corolla it is only an hour job. 2017 Honda Civic, even less, about 1/2 hour. 2017 Mazda 3, about an hour. So yeah, the Cavalier seems to be the outlier for slave cylinder replacement labor. Good parameter to check before buying a car I guess.

Are you sure about this. That conflicts with what I have been told or read elsewhere but it would be great if true - because like I stated above, there are definitely no external leaks anywhere and I sure haven’t lost any fluid.

Then either your clutch is already worn out, or your clutch master cylinder is leaking internally.

What are the conflicting claims you’ve heard/read?

Did you remove the excess fluid yet?

Only that either one of them can leak internally. I know I can block the line to the slave but I am afraid that if there is a small tear in the master that doing that will blow whatever hole is there wide open and I will be stuck.

First and last and only time I will/have ever taken any car to a Firestone (only because it was a Sunday morning and no other place was open) - back in April 2018 to be told I needed a new master cylinder. I was expecting the .7 hours. What I got was being there literally from the time they opened at 745am - first person in the door - to the time they closed at 6pm. This was AFTER being told they’d need to keep the car OVERNIGHT. When I left, I had major damage to my exterior, interior and it looked like they had pretty much ripped out every possible item from under the hood and then half-assed-it all back in place. That was with a $500 bill.

So now I am either only doing all the work myself or calling a mobile mechanic so I can stay with the car and the mechanic the whole time.

Maybe that’s true on certain vehicles, but me – I’m just a diy’er w/repair experience on only a few make/model/year’s — I’m not aware of a clutch slave cylinder design that can leak internally. If a clutch slave cylinder leaks it’ll drip hydraulic fluid somewhere.

Many years ago I decided to do most of my own auto repair work after some unfortunate shop repair experiences, so I can see how you might decide that also. I took an adult night school auto-shop class to learn how.Works for me, none of my vehicles have been in a shop except for emissions testing since. The only exception was an automatic transmission rebuild. However, most folks these days would find keeping their cars in good repair too time consuming. Got to to take time to learn how, tool up, then do it all themselves. My suggestion is to ask friends, co-workers, family, fellow bar-hopper, fellow church goers, anybody you have a personal relationship with, ask them who they use to repair their cars. Then take some time to go to a few of those shops and interview the owner. Once you decide who to use, schedule a “general inspection” for your car, the objective of which is for the shop to put it on a lift, do a test drive, etc, and assess the condition of the vehicle and provide a list of what’s good to go and what needs doing, in order of priority. Then You’ll have a well-recommended shop at your disposal, a shop who has experience working on your car, has a file on it, a phone number to call if something goes wrong unexpectedly. The general inspection will cost $75-$200, and is well worth it. Be sure to tell the shop owner you decide upon who it was that recommended them to you. That’ll give the shop owner an add’l incentive to do a good job on your car: If they don’t, they know you’ll tell your friend about it.

Try pumping the clutch pedal a few times and see if the engagement point moves up.