Problem with gear shift/clutch

Hello. I have a 1998 Chevy Prizm Manual/Stick shift (the sister to the Toyota Corolla). 143,000 miles- the clutch/gear shift has never been replaced or worked on. No problems until last Friday after my car sat without driving for 2 weeks. When I started my car, it wouldn?t shift into reverse (it made the grinding noise as if the clutch wasn?t completely in). It also wouldn?t shift into 1st gear- I couldn?t force it. I turned off the car for a couple minutes, then let the car run for a couple minutes, (then prayed to God to fix my car!), and finally after about 5 minutes, I was able to shift with difficulty, but it worked. Now, every morning (early 6:45am- I live in Southern Pines, NC and the mornings have been chilly- 45 degrees) it is difficult for me to shift into gear, particularly 1st, 5th, and reverse. However, once I have driven about 30 minutes, it seems to be fine. After work I also do not have any problems. I haven?t had it looked at yet do to my work schedule. Is it possible the gear shift just got a little rusty from sitting for 2 weeks, and just needs to run for a bit, or warm up now? Thank you for your assistance and advice!

First thing to do is check the level of fluid in the clutch reservoir. If the fluid is low it would explain your shifting difficulties. It sounds like the clutch is not disengaging all the way when you step on the pedal, and insufficent clutch fluid would definitely cause this to happen.

The lack of driving for two weeks has nothing to do with this.

There are many causes for clutches to drag. Some are difficult to determine even after removing the clutch and autopsying. Continuing to drive with tha clutch dragging rapidly trashes the transmission.

McP’s advise is good, except sitting for a while CAN, under certain conditions, cause a clutch to “drag” (not release completely). One frequently overlooked problem is the splined transmission shaft the clutch disc rides on. When you release the clutch (push in the pedal) the disc must be able to move back away from the flywheel just a little in order to release. If the splines on the shaft it’s riding on get rusty of packed full of dust and clutch particles, the disc can not move away from the flywheel and the clutch will drag until it does manage to regain a little movement…

SOMETIMES, there is access to the transmission input shaft and a squirt of something like PB-Blaster (a penetrating oil/lubricant) frees up the clutch disc to shaft joint and the problem is solved…

I’m familiar with these Toyotas. When was the last time the gear lube for the transmision was changed? Old, dirty gear lube will cause this problem as well. A simple gear lube change will make a world of difference.

Thanks for the input! Is the fluid in the clutch reservoir the same as transmission fluid? If so, I just had my transmission fluid flushed about 30 days ago, so it would be full. I drove the car for 2 weeks without any problems, before the car sat for 2 weeks- and then the shifting problems started. This morning I let the car warm up for 10 minutes before driving and I was able to shift, but it still isn’t smooth as it used to be.

Thanks for the input! Is the gear lube the same as transmission fluid? If so, I just had the transmission fluid flushed and changed a month ago, so it should be full.

Thanks! When I take the car to the mechanic, I’ll have him check out the “splined shaft” (which of couse I’m not familiar with). I copied your message and will show it to him. Maybe just a fluke, but I let my car run for 10 minutes this morning before driving it and was able to shift. It still was not smooth, but seemed better. Random- does anyone know a good mechanic by Fort Bragg, North Carolina?

Manual transmissions don’t need to be ‘flushed’, it’s just drain and fill. And no, this is different than the fluid level in the clutch master cylinder. Check your manual, it should tell you how to check it, where it is, and what fluid to put into it.

Thanks. It probably wasn’t “flushed” then- just drained. I’ll have them check the clutch master cylinder then. Thanks again.

Praise the Lord- I took the car to a mechanic and had him check the clutch master cylinder fluid, which was really low. He filled that, and the car runs great again- shifting really smooth:) No charge:) Thanks so much for your help!

Good! But now you’ll need to keep your eye on the fluid level. Did he show you how to check it? Check it every time you get gas for a while, until you get an idea how stable the level is. If it drops in a short period of time, it means you have a leak that needs to be fixed.

Here’s something like what it looks like, the half of it on the right hand of this picture should be visible in the engine compartment just in front of the driver. What you’re checking is the level of fluid in the plastic tank. It should have markings on it.