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Honda CRV total clutch failure, then recovery!

Our 1999 CRV has had the clutch fail several times in the past year. The pattern is that you notice it slipping a bit now and then, but trending worse over a few days. Then it gets dramatically worse in a period of minutes: it does not engage fully when let out. The pedal feels fine, the engine is running fine, but power is not transmitted to the wheels.

On two occasions, we were able to take it directly and the mechanic resolved the problem with some adjustment to the master cylinder, or something like that (my wife spoke to the mechanic and it was many months ago).

Last winter, I was driving as the problem was recurring and I found myself nursing the slipping clutch up a steep one mile grade. At the top of the hill, totally flat ground, the problem continued to get worse for the next half mile, till there was no power at all! Engine fine, pedal action fine, but effectively the clutch was permanently disengaged. I left the car there over night. The next morning, before calling for a tow, I tried again and the clutch was working! I could tell it was still slipping a bit, but it was no problem to drive to the mechanic, who fixed the problem again for just a hundred bucks or so.

Yesterday, my wife again found that the clutch failed completely over the course of a few miles driving. She had to be towed. Today the mechanic says they can’t reproduce the problem!

What the heck is going on here?

I would replace the master and slave cylinders.
Not that expensive compared to clutch replacement.
From now on have the clutch and brake fluid replaced every 3 years.
Clutch and brake components will last a lot longer that way.

Before cars had disk brakes the drum brakes would overheat and in effect lose all the braking power. I had this happen once to me when a clutch overheated in heavy stop and go Jersey Shore traffic jam on the GSP. I think your slipping clutch overheats and stops working at all until it cools down.

Remedy is a new clutch. There could be some weak springs in the pressure plate so I’d get a new pressure plate in the job.

So the master/slave has some problem that causes some chronic slipping, which causes clutch to overheat, which causes the complete, but temporary, failure? Doesn’t this also suggest that the clutch plate is at the end of its useful life?

Sounds like it. I’m not sure if your problem is hydralic (master and slave cylinders) or simply a worn out clutch disc. Once they take the clutch apart it is better to replace any suspect parts. If you have 100K + miles on the car a clutch job is not out of line with that kind of mileage.

Clutch life is highly variable depending on the driver(s), and the kind of loads put on the clutch say if you live in an area with lots of steep hills.

Replaced the master cylinder 2 months ago,
replaced the clutch 2 weeks ago,
started a 4-day vacation last thursday and the clutch started slipping again just 2 hours into the drive. Same symptom: the clutch begins to engage with the pedal a little higher/farther out, then its a little harder to shift gears, then the clutch starts to slip, then it revs up even after the clutch has engaged. After sitting a few nights, the whole car runs fine again.