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New clutch needed?

My 2004 Forester (73000 miles) with 5-speed manual, is sometimes hard shifting into gears. The Subaru agency says that there’s ‘not much left’ on the clutch and I need a new clutch @ $1300. Does hard shifting , no clutch slipping, indicate new clutch is necessary?

Hard shifting is usually due to the clutch not fully releasing. If it is not adjustable, about all you can do it make sure your foot goes all the way to the floor and give it a moment between gears.

A warped clutch plate is one reason a clutch might not release completely. If the master clutch cylinder and slave cylinder are operating properly then something in the clutch could be worn or warped.

73K miles isn’t a lot, but Ithaca is very hilly and if you have to start on hills frequently that could reduce the life of a clutch.

Clutches can fail in three ways that I’m aware of.
1.They can fail to disengage so that shifting into 1st is difficult if not impossible unless you shut the engine off. I think this is the situation that you are experiencing.
2.They can slip, which is usually most noticeable, at first, in higher gears. Eventually a clutch worn out in this manner may fail to pull the car at all.
3. The anti chatter (sideways mounted) springs in the clutch plate can fail. This will make it very difficult to start out smoothly from a stop.

It’s sort of surprising a clutch would give out at 73k, but it indeed could still be a failing clutch. In which case the only solution is a new one. But first, make sure the linkage from the clutch pedal to the release arm is properly working before replacing the clutch. If the linkage is a cable, it may simply need to be adjusted or replaced. If it is hydraulic, the clutch master or slave cylinders may need replacement. All much less expensive than a new clutch. Might be worth it to have a second opionion at an independent mechanic, ask friends/relative/co-workers for an inde mechanic recommendation.

To answer your question, NO. The problem is in the adjustment.

I’m not surprised that the dealer want’s to just replace everything to ensure ensure no comeback (callback?) and maximize profit.

I would go to a good independent shop.
First check any freeplay adjustment, then replace the master and slave cylinders before the clutch itself.