Problems with Clutch

I own a 1998 Suzuki Sidekick. I have replaced nearly everything including the motor and clutch. My trouble is with the clutch that is approximately 2 years old and has 44k miles on it. When fully warm - after driving for about an hour - it is extremely hard to put the car into gear from a dead stop - any gear. When I try to get the car into reverse it sounds like the gears are grinding and thuds when I move the stick into position.

My mechanic said the clutch is going bad- and it is out of warranty.

A few FYIs:

I do not ride the clutch

I do not let my hand rest upon the shifter

I have own/driven several standard shift cars

It is not slipping

Any ideas?

Your clutch is not releasing. It could be the master/or slave cylinder, or the pressure plate. It also could be a leak in the hydraulic line. You may or may not get away with not replacing the clutch, do some diagnostic work or find a different mech. willing to.

Let us know what you find out.

Thank you very much for your quick response. I read your reply to my husband and he has an additional question: Is there an adjustment that can be made aside from changing the master/slave cylinder - such as adjusting the pedal. He has also noticed that the trouble only happens when the car is fully warm and therefore wonders about the viscosity of the fluid and if there is perhaps an issue that might (hopefully) be simple and less costly.

I really appreciate your assistance. I want you to know we are not in doubt of the information you gave we are just interested in perhaps a fix that my semi-handy hubby can take care of.


The problem is with the clutch master cylinder.

The master cylinder is mounted to the firewall in the engine compartment. When the master cylinder is cold it produces the proper hydraulic pressure and the gears shift normally. As the master cylinder gets hot from the engine heat under the hood, the bore of the master cylinder expands. This prevents the worn seals in the master cylinder from sealing. The fluid then by-passes these seals where the proper hydraulic pressure is no longer produced. This then prevents the clutch from fully disengaging when the clutch pedal pressed. So the transmission gears are still spinning inside, and when trying to shift the gears they grind. Let the engine cool back down and it shifts normally again.


Makes sense to me!! Cars several years ago had an adjustment for the clutch.

Good call tester.

I have a 1999 Suzuki Grand Vitara with a hydrolic clutch (5 speed manual transmission). I too have been experiencing hard shifting to the extent I could not shift into reverse. I had the slave cylinder for the transmission replaced and shifting into reverse was better; some times it would be very smooth and some days it would still be hard to shift. If I drove in 1st before going into reverse, I could shift into reverse almost effortlessly most of the time. The forward gears were OK this whole time.

Yesterday I could not shift into other gears (forward or reverse). When I stopped at a light and depressed the clutch, I would stall. It appears that I have lost pressure in the clutch pedal as it goes to the floor effortlessly. I checked the transmission master cylinder and it is full. To get home I needed to drive in 2nd as I could not shift without turning the car off and then shifting.

How bad is this? Am I looking at major transmission repair?

@gfboggio, full or not, the master cylinder is bad.

gfboggio, it is wise to replace both the master cylinder and slave cylinder together. The two cylinders work together and wear together. When one goes bad, the other is not far behind. Doing it this way prevents you from having to do most of the job all over again in the near future.

The leak that’s been described that causes failure of the clutch to release is internal to the master (or slave) cylinder from one internal chamber to the other. It doesn’t leak to the outside, and the master/slave cylinder stays full.

And just for the sake of clarity, it’s referred to as the “clutch master cylinder”. There is no “transmission master cylinder”. But it’s okay, I understood what you meant.

PS: I agree with Busted Knuckles.