2007 Honda Element w/ 70,000 miles - NOTE: I have driven a clutch for 40 years! NEVER burnt a clutch. Had NO symptoms of clutch problems - driving into Denver (from Tucson) and suddenly could not get out of neutral - could not shift into any gear. When I turn off the engine I have no problem shifting (when the clutch is not engaged) - to me, sounded like a hydraulic problem. BUT NO!! Denver Honda dealer insisted I needed a new clutch - $1,300.- later I drive back to Tucson where my Tucson Honda dealer looks at the evidence and opines that I did not need a new clutch, but he “was not present” when the system was taken apart and he cannot critique another Honda dealer’s work. My other older Honda (1998 Civic) has 220,000 miles on original clutch, I taught my son how to drive on the Civic clutch, and that clutch keeps on going fine. Whats up with the Element - - or, whats up with Denver Honda dealer?
This may be difficult or impossible to answer unless someone else has had an identical problem and I could only guess. It sounds like a hydraulic clutch slave cylinder problem. Is it possible that the transmission needed removal to access the slave cylinder and the dealer installed other wear parts including a new clutch disk and throwout bearing as long as he had it opened up?
$1300 for a clutch job sounds high to me but others may know better.
For next time, ask for the old parts to be returned to you in a plastic bag for a post mortem analysis. If it’s something large like a cylinder head or a transmission, that may not be so easy.
With 70k miles on your Element, chances are the fluid level was low in the m/c for the clutch. Coming up to Denver’s higher altitude probably made a pressure differential in the m/c which caused the clutch to not have enough pressure being pushed through the system.
This happens here all the time (I live in Denver) when taking an older vehicle up into the really high (13k+) elevations.
The easy solution is to pop open the brake fluid and clutch m/c covers for a couple of seconds to get the systems to this altitude’s pressure.