Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Girl with clutch not returning

I’ve run into that very issue before and it’s one of four things:

1- Clutch pedal return spring inop/damaged/snagging on something.

2- Master cylinder piston is binding.

3- Slave cylinder piston is binding.

4- Binding issue in the mechanical linkage and/or clutch assembly itself.

Any one of these will cause the clutch pedal to intermittently hang-up somewhere in the stroke.

Given the specific gripe of call where additional information of the shift lever getting stuck in gear, more likely than not the problem is with the clutch fork and/or the throw-out bearing and/or the clutch assembly. If the problem was in the MC, SC or pedal, the stuck shift lever portion of the gripe would not happen unless it’s simply being hung with pressure on the gears - if no pressure on the gears and the lever is stuck, the problem lies somewhere downstream of the SC.

The radio show and the car-talk forum are two completely different things…Nobody here knows what you are talking about…

oopse, thought I was putting this in the right place … obviously not … been a long day.

Well, for those who didn’t hear the show, a girl called in stating her clutch pedal would stick in the depressed position and the shift lever hung in gear - she had to stop and pull the pedal up manually to get it to return. Tom & Ray suggested the cause was short-stroking the clutch and that’s not plausible as the pedal should return normally no matter where in the stroke it is released. Anyone who drives larger vehicles equipped with a clutch brake knows that when shifting while moving, the clutch must be short-stroked to keep from engaging the clutch brake, the brake is only used by depressing the clutch pedal all the way when catching the first gear from a dead stop.

Why are you jumping on this guy? He posted something about something mentioned on the show in a part of the forum called “The Show”. People sure are sensitive around here.

I have seen this specific problem in my 2002 Jetta TDi. I am pretty sure it is a hydraulic issue.

The symptoms for me:

  • clutch pedal returns only part way
  • clutch pedal moves freely and clutch is at least partially effective–that is, I can get enough of a release to shift to neutral with a hard tug.

The immediate fix:

  • put toe under pedal and lift.

When lifting the pedal it sure feels like fluid is being drawn around or through something. Overall the feeling is that fluid is leaking from the pressure side of the system. This happens rarely (not at all for the last few years) so it is not a slow leak. There is never fluid on the outside of either cylinder nor the line to the slave. The fluid level does not go down. Hence, I conclude the leakage is inside the master cylinder. I don’t know if the seal between the piston and the cylinder has a problem or if there is a by pass valve that allows fluid to flow around the piston to refill the pressure side that is occasionally leaking.

Here is what I know that might help fix or avoid the problem.

  1. Thoroughly flush the hydraulic system (the brakes and clutch share the same reservoir). Pressure bleeding is probably the best way to do this.

  2. Keep your foot off the clutch pedal. I think I was able to reproduce this problem once by resting my foot on the pedal for a half minute or more.

The person reporting the problem was about 5’ and conjectured that the problem may be height related. Both my wife and I have encountered this problem in our Jetta. My wife is 5’ 4", I am a bit over 6’. I don’t think height is an issue in causing the problem.

We have not had this problem in a few years so I suspect that pressure bleeding cleaned up something in a seal or valve somewhere.

Yes, turns out it was something from the Show.

VW around that period (2002-2003) are known to have crappy clutch slave cylinders. This happend to my 2003 GTI, and the solution was to pull apart the transmittion from the engine in order to get to the slave cylinder. This is much more labor intensive than the cost of the part. If you wait too long, it will leak brake fluid onto the clutch plate and you will also have to replace that (but then you should anyway since you are putting on that labor in and exposing the clutch plate.

agreed… this is a stump the chumps for sure… Ray said something about an automatic pedal travel adjuster ?!

when she takes he foot off the pedal, ANY pedal, it should come back up on it’s own. She said she had to pull over and stop the car, so she could get out, reach down with her hand and pull it back up. The guys recommended a block on the pedal, she’s only 5’1" and maybe wasn’t pressing the pedal down far enough!

What? If you press the clutch down half way, and let up, shouldn’t it come back up? Regardless of anything else?

actually, this forum is titled “The Show”

I had that exact same problem and I did three things to fix it.

New slave cylinder
New clutch
Adjusted return spring

Worked like new after that