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Is it strictly necessary to bleed the clutch?

1991 Honda Accord

I have a clutch fluid leak in the clutch hose, and also a bit of a leak on the slave clutch cylinder. I need to get my car to the mechanic, but my clutch pedal is stuck to the floor and there’s no way I can get it into gear to drive it to the mechanic.

I have two options, I’m in no rush to do either, and so would love some feedback:

  1. Call my insurance company’s roadside assistance and have them tow me a mile down the road to my mechanic. Pros: free. Cons: embarrassing.

  2. Buy clutch fluid, pour it into the clutch fluid reservoir, but if I do this, do I then have to bleed the clutch just to drive it a mile down the road? I understand that the bleeding procedure is kind of involved and takes some time & expertise (I’m no good with my hands). Pros: DIY. Cons: costs time & money & may require skill.

Your advice is much appreciated :]


I would tow it to be safe. But yes bleeding is absolutely necessary as air in the system will make your clutch slip and hard to shift. Replacing the hose and clutch slave is not that hard and if you’re good with tools you could do it yourself it just takes a fair bit of time.

Bleeding is also fairly easy I did it myself using my handle on my jack to keep the pedal pushed down when needed to and removing it after closing the valve again.

Edit: Just read you said you’re not good with your hands so I would say it’s definitely best to have it taken to a mechanic sorry about that. I would just have it towed for safety reasons. Especially if your insurance policy includes roadside assistance using it once shouldn’t make your insurance go up.

If you have room to roll start it in 2nd gear, you could drive it in 2nd gear the whole way there (1 mile).

Free tow, nothing to be embarrassed about, that is why god made towtrucks, and you have no assurance fluid will solve the issue.


If you pay for towing service why would you be embarrassed to use it? It was purposely designed to help you get a broken down car to a repair shop. Use it for that.

Speaking from a repair shop side of things, it’s far more embarrassment to a customer for us to see him hobble a potentially unsafe car down the street than to call a tow truck.


Embarrassing : You are joking aren’t you?


For everyone commenting on the embarrassing part, it’s because I was there last week getting my tires balanced and they told me about the leak and I said, “No, don’t fix it, just fill the clutch fluid back up so I can see how bad the leak is.”

P.S. I replaced my shift boot today which for a non-greasemonkey is a huge achievement. It looks so cool! If I were to attempt the clutch hose replacement myself, and/or the slave cylinder, what sort of tools would I be looking at? Would I need a jack?

Ok, you ignored their advice and now the car is stranded, so that’s a little bit embarrassing. But imagine how much more embarrassing it would be if you tried to drive it with a slipping clutch and needed even more work, because you were too embarrassed to take an already paid for tow.

I did drive it while the clutch fluid was failing in order to get it home. The bite point was much lower, and there were a couple points where it wouldn’t go in gear, but it eventually went back in gear and I got it home. Are there any areas that should be checked for damage as a result of the driving with very low fluid?

Sure, overheated clutch, heat damaged flywheel or pressure plate, damaged syncro rings in the transmission, broken gear teeth… Need I say more?

Unless you are very skinny or the car is really high off the ground or Honda was nice enough to put the slave cylinder on top of the trans, yes, you need a jack, and jackstands, and metric flarenut wrenches and a bleed hose and bottle and maybe a few other tools depending on what is in the way.

And a good set of hands… :wink:

I am not sure if you would need a jack or not for your car. Like my car I didn’t need to use a jack to replace my slave or master cylinder for my clutch but every car is different do a little research on it to see what tools you need. Also a regular socket set would work and maybe a swivel joint.

If you’re an auto club member, just get it towed to a trusted shop

Considering your car’s pretty old, and probably has quite a few miles, I’d seriously consider getting a complete clutch job

Clutch disc
pressure plate
throwout bearing
pilot bearing/bushing, if applicable
clutch master
clutch slave
get the flywheel resurfaced and/or replaced, as needed

And I’d also get the clutch hydraulic line(s) carefully inspected

Don’t feel embarrassed just because you ignored a recommendation. It happens all the time. You wouldn’t be the first person to ignore advice, then arrive on the hook few days later

If you pour the reservoir full of fluid and then lift and depress the pedal until there is resistance, then repeatedly press the pedal and side step it to allow it to jump back until it feels firm you may get it to operate well enough to drive it but if you’ve already paid for a wrecker why not save yourself the hassle.

It was just a mile that I drove it, and I didn’t hear any bad noises or feel any bad vibrations. On a scale of 1-100%, given that there were no bad noises, how likely are the things that you mentioned to have gone wrong from me driving just 1 mile with low clutch fluid?

I doubt there was serious damage done by the drive, but the repair will be the same either way.

Agree with @Barkydog, likely no damage as long as you don’t actually try and use the clutch.

You can drive the car without the clutch if you are a bit clever and have some motor skills.

Car-off, put the car in first, press clutch pedal to trigger the ignition lock-out, crank the car until it starts and drive away. (Pointed in the direction you want to go with no obstructions!). IF you have practiced shifting without the clutch, shift up normally without the clutch. If you’ve never practiced doing this, leave it in 1st gear and slow-speed it to the service shop. Anytime you need to stop, pull the shift lever into neutral and stop. Turn the engine off. When it’s time to go, repeat the starting procedure. Do this until you get to the shop.

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Very interesting. When you say, “shift up normally without the clutch”, what exactly does that mean? In other words, how do I get from 1st to 2nd without using the clutch?

Pull the lever into neutral, and rev the engine to the proper RPM, and it will slide into the next gear without clashing. Takes a bit of practice.

I think this is called “double-clutching”

I once drove for a week that way.

Rev up first gear, let up on the gas, pull the lever into neutral, let the rpm drop and shift into 2nd gear. Don’t force it. If the rpm is correct it will slide ride in. If not, the synchros will block it. Same for 3rd and 4th. To down shift, repeat but rev the engine so that the lever goes into gear.

On some cars, this is easy to master. On some cars, it is virtually impossible. On my Honda S2000, it was easy as pie. On my '84 Corvette, a bit harder. My '07 Mustang, darn near impossible to get right

As I said in an earlier post, don’t try this if you haven’t practiced it before the clutch went out.

I believe the term “double clutching” actually does include using the clutch pedal

I mention that because the other guys mentioned shifting without using the clutch pedal

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