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Is my clutch going out?


My first language is not English so I apologize in advance if you are having trouble understanding me. I will try my best to explain my problem.

I drive an old 2001 Mazda 323 with a standard transmission. I don’t know much about cars but I have noticed that I am having a bit of a trouble shifting, specially in the first couple of gears.

It but it feels as if something under the shift lever is still “engaged”.

It just doesn’t shift smooth anymore and feels kind jumpy or notchy. I used to be able to shift very smoothly to whatever gear I want without giving it a lot of gas. Say around 2000 rpm. Now I have to rev it up to 3500 rpm or more. This is making me drive too fast and waste a lot of gas.

I have done the “clutch test” to see if the clutch is going out. The car stalls as it should. Could it be a transmission problem?

Thank you!

Try shifting thru the gears without the engine running.

Does it shift into all gears easily?

If so, that’s an indication that the clutch master cylinder is leaking internally.


Be sure to check fluid in clutch reservoir, if it’s low you may have a leak.

I must say that your English is excellent as well as your sentence structure and punctuation. I can only dream that someday my second language skills were as good as yours are currently and English may be your 3rd language for all we know! We see posts from native born English speakers that have VERY questionable skills, to try to put it mildly and that is being kind, so Bravo !

@Tester has pointed out what I was going to mention and his test to prove it out is also spot on.

What happens when the clutch master or slave are not fully bled or are degrading in performance is that when you step on the clutch it does not fully disengage the clutch disc and in doing so the clutch drags a bit, which turns the transmission input shaft making it hard to shift while running, just like you are experiencing now.

Sometimes the clutch master and slave are perfectly fine…and it is the pressure plate that fatigues…requiring more “throw” of the slave to fully allow the clutch to disengage, but you always start with the easiest items to monitor or replace first, so… Clutch master, Slave and then the dreaded Pressure plate would be the suspects, in that order.

You could see if bleeding the system improves the way it shifts and if it stays fixed just roll with it…but it may work better for a short period of time and progressively get worse, this is actually good news because it points to easily replaceable (usually) parts. Master or slave. The pressure plate condition never improves and requires more and more “throw” of the slave to function… so its easy to tell.

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You mean this? Fluid level seems okay. This is not my car. I just googled it.

I just tried shifting with the engine off and it does go into all gears easily.

Thank you! =)

Yes that’s how it feels. Something is still engaged as I am trying to go into the next gear. How do you bleed the system? Is it something I can do myself?

Then that’s an indication that the clutch master cylinder is leaking internally.

When this happens, the hydraulic fluid in the master cylinder leaks past the cup seals when the clutch pedal is depressed. This causes no hydraulic pressure to be produced to operate the slave cylinder to disengage the clutch. So it would be the same as if you tried to shift gears without stepping on clutch. The gears grind when trying to shift.


Quick question. Is this the reservoir for the hydraulic fluid? If the master cylinder is leaking, you should be losing fluid right? The fluid level is good on this reservoir.

The thing behind the reservoir that looks like a drum has signs that something was leaking in there. The paint looks like it is coming apart. The fluid level however is okay.

Or maybe this reservoir is for something else?

That would be the brake master reservoir. The item behind it is the brake booster. You need to look for another reservoir very similar to this, but smaller. You may be able to bleed the system without getting under the vehicle, in fact you probably can. Follow the line that comes out of the clutch master …it goes to the slave cylinder and the bleed nipple on the slave is how you bleed it. Some systems are set up differently and its not that easy to ID the clutch master sometimes… VW comes to mind as they dont use a traditional clutch master reservoir…

If it used to operate properly and now seems as though it needs bleeding…then this is how either the master or slave fail. You can try bleeding it just to see if things improve, if they do not…the clutch master will need to be replaced. However the culprit can be either one, especially if you see the slave cyl is wet with fluid externally and or under the rubber gaitor on the slave…

I guess the master fails more often than the slave if you were to ask that question. The failure mode is exactly as @Tester describes.

Not hard to bleed the system really… Personally regardless of the actual culprit… I change them both, just so they are on the same page…but that’s just me.

Okay I will try to this myself. Thank you! Thank you all for the help! =)

Look for a reservoir that is in line with the clutch pedal… It would be close to the brake master in that photo, but it would be more to the right…directly in line with the clutch pedal.

The clutch master cylinder is leaking internally, as past the cup seals, not externally, so there will be no fluid leaking.

Your vehicle uses the brake master cylinder reservoir for the clutch master cylinder too.


Agreed, I had to look up whether it shared the brake master for the clutch. I was mentioning wetness in regard to the slave…or under its rubber gaitor.

With the info they have I’m sure they will get the issue handled.

That is your brake fluid reservoir. Some cars also use these for the clutch also. I don’t know if yours is one of them but if there is not a similar reservoir in that vicinity, I assume it is.