Paging Dr. Transman618 and the other Dr's on staff :-)....Paging Dr. Transman



Hey all…Here’s the problem with my 147k miles, 1993 Honda Civic EX Coupe, 5 spd manual transmission:

The other day driving back home (15 miles) I noticed that rowing through the gears has become a bit more difficult than usual. Nothing outrageous or anything…just that it required a bit more force to it than normal, and somewhat a bit notchier. No grinding or any other noises were observed. Got home OK.

After about an hour I had to leave again, but… I was unable to put the car in gear. Any of the gears. If the engine is running, the gear lever will not move into any of the forward gears or reverse. Once the engine is stopped, I can shift through the gears without any problems, however the unusual slight notchiness mentioned previously is still there.

Then, with the engine running I tried to force the lever into 1st (clutch pedal fully depressed) and grinding noise occurred. I did not force the issue further. Then, with the engine OFF I engaged 1st; as I started to crank the engine, the car lurched forward, even though I had the clutch pedal fully depressed. After the initial shock subsided and I regained my composure, I tried again…this time with the parking brake on, and the right foot firmly planted on the brake pedal :slight_smile:

As I started cranking the engine, the car again lurched forward. This time being forewarned, I did not cut off the engine immediately. I let it idle for about 5-8 seconds. During these 5-8 seconds a rather loud whine/scraping noise (not grinding) was coming from the transmission side of the engine bay-at this point the hood was up and it was quite easy for me to point to the source of the noise.

I tried the same thing with REVERSE:

With engine OFF, engage reverse. The moment the engine started cranking, the car lurches backwards, even though the clutch pedal is fully depressed. Same loud whine/scraping noise was present during the 5 seconds the engine was running. In both cases above, I did not dare release the clutch to see if the car would even move. So at present, I do not know if the car would actually move/drive under its own power.

After this I stopped any other attempt at driving the car.

Here’s some additional history/info on the car:

-purchased brand new by me.

-still with the original clutch and master & slave cylinders.

-no clutch fluid leaks anywhere. Level is where it should be.

-tranny oil changed as follows:

@ 20k with SAE 10W-30 Mobil 1 Synthetic

@ 50k with SAE 10W-30 Mobil 1 Synthetic

@ 80K with RedLine MTL

@ 110K with RedLine MTL

@ 140K with RedLine MTL


Any suggestions as to what might have gone wrong with it?

Many thanks, B.

The clutch is not disengaging when you step on the pedal. It’s probably a problem with the clutch hydraulic system. Either the master cylinder or the slave cylinder is bad, probably leaking internally since the reservoir is full. In other words, when you step on the clutch, the fluid is leaking around the o-rings in one of the cylinders instead of pushing the release lever as it should. Not unusual considering the mileage.

You don’t need a transmission specialist for this. There’s nothing wrong with the transmission, and perhaps not with the clutch itself. The noise you heard while the engine was running was the clutch disc scraping against the flywheel and pressure plate, trying to make the car move.

Don’t keep messing with this as you’re causing a lot of additional clutch wear.

If you could drift down a hill in neutral with the engine running and slowly engage 2nd gear you’ll find the car drives fine, and if you synchronize the engine speed correctly you can still shift gears, even without depressing the clutch.

I wouldn’t try this for long, though. Simplest fix is to replace both the master and slave cylinder at the same time, then refill with clean hydraulic fluid and bleed. You should be good to go.

Well at the mileage you’ve got, it might be time for a new clutch. Sounds like you have a combination problem of a worn clutch and hydraulic issues. To be done with it just replace the clutch as well as master and slave. If you want to systematically sort it out, bleed the clutch system and make sure there is no air in the system. Hope you changed the clutch fluid once or twice in your ownership. Likely one or both of the cylinders is leaking down too…edit: scratch the clutch part, I mis-read part of the post. Agree with MC on the hydraulics though.

The clutch bearing actuator arm is moved forward and back by the (in some cases adjustable) extension rod from the slave cylinder. I have seen at least one case in which the divit in the arm was worn through by the rod, and this caused an actuation failure such as the one you describe. It was a long long time ago, on a 1967 datsun truck that had well over 200k miles but it was easy to see. Still, the most likely cause is worn out o rings in the master or slave. It may not be leaking externally. Or it may be that the leak is not yet apparent because the boots are now full of fluid, which is what they are there for anyway, to keep dirt out of the cylinder, and to catch leaky fluid. It is a good idea to replace them both with factory originals rather than re-builts if you can get them. With this many miles, I would also expect clutch slippage to begin pretty dang soon, and a preventive clutch job is in line here.

This is an actuator problem, with leakage at either the slave or master cylinder, or a mechanical problem, as have been mentioned above. It shouldn’t be a transmission problem, nor is the clutch worn out (it would slip, instead of failing to release).

If you find that the clutch release hydraulic system is operation correctly, I would suspect a seizing pilot bearing. That would explain the lack of disengagement and the noise you are hearing. Sadly to replace the pilot bearing, the transmission has to be removed so you will probably be replacing the clutch kit anyway.

Let us know what the real problem was.

The clutch disc can seperate and the pieces “bloom” into a thick mass of friction plates and steel flex plates that will fill the gap between the flywheel and pressure plate regardless how wide your throwout bearing seperates them. It has served you well and you have been kind to it for it to have lasted that long. Find a good shop.

Well, you didn’t need such a long post. It was obvious from the first paragraph that your clutch isn’t releasing. Most likely loosing hydraulic fluid.

Thank you all so much for your replies.
Well, given your input so far, the mileage of the car, and the fact that for the past 30k or so miles, the clutch has had some chatter first thing when cold, I have decided to go ahead and change the clutch as well as the cylinders (master & slave).

I am in the process of finding a good independent shop to do all these. Up until now, I have done all the maintenance and small repairs on the car myself, but this one, I simply cannot tackle on my own. I have been fortunate that the only 2 times I needed a shop was when the timing belt service was needed, and I used one of the local Honda dealerships. Their prices on the timing belt package (belt, water pump, coolant, 3 accessories belts, oil seals, etc) were very competitive: $370 the first time in 2000, and $456 the second time in 2008.

Thank you again.

I would change the master and slave first.
A lot less then doing the whole clutch and it will probably fix your main problem.
Plus, there’s little duplicated work if/when you get the clutch replaced.
In the future change the clutch fluid when you change trans oil.