Hyundai losing power -- transmission issue?

Our 2002 Hyundai Elantra is having issues. It shifts fine, no need to double-clutch. It stays in gear. Doesn’t grind or anything crazy like that. It does seem like it isn’t getting power to the drivetrain, and is having trouble climbing hills. This all came on very suddenly. Hubby thinks it’s the clutch – I think it may be the bushings. Though now, I’m wondering if it’s something else? Since it’s not having trouble shifting, should we be looking at the fuel system? Sensors? Engine seals?


Which bushings?

The key to trying to diagnose this problem via cyberspace comes down largely to this question:

When it seems that power is not getting to the drivetrain…Does the tachometer indicate abnormally high RPMS, or are the RPMs normal for that speed?

In other words, is the engine racing while the car is taking a long time to accelerate, or does the engine seem like it is turning at a “normal” rate?

If the engine is racing, that would seem to point toward a slipping clutch, which would certainly not be unheard-of with an 11 year old car.

If the engine is not racing, then the problem is likely to be either an ignition problem (When were the spark plugs last replaced?) or a fuel supply problem (When was the fuel filter last replaced?)

If maintenance items like the spark plugs and fuel filter are up-to-date, then another possibility is a failing fuel pump. What this is not likely to be is anything related to engine seals or those mysterious bushings.

Sensors are also a possibility, but there are…a lot…of sensors on modern cars, and you would most likely have a lit-up Check Engine Light if there is a sensor-related problem. Is the CEL lit up? If so, having the stored trouble codes “read” at an auto parts store would help to focus on which of the many sensors might be involved.

Thank you! This is really helpful. The engine was revving, but the clutch was replaced about 60k miles ago. Plugs and fuel filter were changed about 30k miles ago. It’s been parked in the garage since Saturday, and when I went out today it wouldn’t start. Battery has a full charge. The check engine light still hasn’t come on through all of this. Still clutch??

“it wouldn’t start. Battery has a full charge”

We need more information!

Does, “wouldn’t start”, mean that the starter is cranking the engine when you turn the ignition key, but the engine won’t run on its own?
Does, “wouldn’t start”, mean that you don’t hear any sound when you turn the ignition key?
Does, “wouldn’t start”, mean that you hear only a clicking sound when you turn the ignition key?

There are lots of possibilities here, but it is possible that you have both a worn-out clutch and an additional problem–such as a failed fuel pump–depending on what, “wouldn’t start”, actually means.

More details, please!

“wouldn’t start” = engine is cranking, but won’t turn over. Could this be something with the flywheel??

Cranking=turning over, so I assume that you are trying to tell us that the starter is working, but that the engine is not actually starting and running on its own.

If there was a flywheel problem, the starter would probably not be able to crank the engine, but–from cyberspace nobody can tell you if the starter is turning but is not engaging the flywheel, or if the starter & flywheel are meshing properly, but that another problem is preventing the engine from starting & running on its own.

Under the circumstances, I don’t see any alternative to having the car towed to a competent mechanic. Please note that “competent” means not going to Midas, Meineke, Monro, Sears, Pep Boys, AAMCO, or any other chain operation. Ask friends, relatives, and co-workers for recommended independent mechanics in your area, and have the car towed to one of them.

After you get a diagnosis for the starting problem and the probable clutch problem, please come back to this thread and update us for further advice.

Good luck!

I guess I’m just trying to figure out where to start, so a) I know whether we can fix the problem ourselves (because we don’t have a ton of money to spend), and b) I don’t get screwed over when I take it to a mechanic, if it’s not something we can do ourselves. Some of your advice is helpful, and I really appreciate that. I apologize if I don’t use proper terminology for the car. I raise a kid and grow vegetables – I’m not a mechanic. That said, I have been able to work on our cars successfully most of the time. I was just looking for a place to start, because I am so confused by what this car is doing. :frowning:

With all due respect, if you are not a mechanic, I don’t think that you can resolve the problem(s) on your own. You need somebody who can properly diagnose the situation(s) after examining the car first-hand, and if you try to do it yourself–without much expertise–you are likely to just wind up “throwing parts” at random at the problem before you find the right fix.

Throwing parts at random will likely cost more–even if you do it yourself–as compared to having a professional mechanic diagnose and fix the problem(s).

If the car was losing power, especially while climbing hills and now won’t start at all then the very first thing that I would personally do is check the fuel pressure. (That is assuming that the clutch is NOT slipping). You need a special gauge for that and can probably find about 100 people on Youtube showing you how to do it - but basically the gauge screws onto a valve not entirely unlike those for air on your tires. Many big box auto parts stores have loaner tool programs - some might have a fuel pressure gauge among the loaner tools.

To be honest though, it might all be more than you want to get into. But if you want to wade in, then start here: get to an auto parts store and buy a can of starting fluid and a spark tester. Neither is very expensive. Follow the directions that come with them, check on Youtube, and/or come back and ask about what to do.

But if you do come back, you also need to fill people in some more about the car. How many miles are on it? Has the scheduled maintenance always been kept up to date? Especially the timing belt? Spark plugs and wires? Filters?

Squirt starter fluid in the intake and see if it starts/runs. If it starts and runs for a few seconds, then it is a fuel problem. If not it is a spark problem. Pull the plug wire and install a spark tester. If it lights up you have spark.

Back to this lack of power going up hills. Do you downshift for those hills? Did you try staying in fifth gear to see if the power was about the same as before, then downshift and did not get the expected increase in power?

Since this came on suddenly, I would suspect that you got some bad gas and that possibly the fuel filter is clogged, but you will need to do a fuel pressure test to determine that.