Puzzler: Starting/Driving Honda w/o clutch fluid


#1

Here’s the puzzler, below is my answer:

A buddy and I were out late one night. When we got back to the parking lot, my car was the only one still there. At the time, I was driving an otherwise very reliable Honda Accord. As I was preparing to start the engine, I stepped on the clutch pedal and it sank to the floor. I could start the car in neutral, but there was no way to shift it with the engine running.

The fluid in the clutch master cylinder had been leaking out slowly. I’d been meaning to get it fixed, but I just didn’t have any time. I’d been topping off the reservoir with a can of brake fluid that I had in the trunk every two weeks or so, and I guess I just forgot. So, I opened the trunk, while I reassured my friend that just a few ounces of fluid, a few quick pumps of the clutch pedal to remove the air in the system, and we’d be back on the road.

I found my can of fluid, but it was bone dry. Desperate, I started rummaging through the trunk. I found the usual stuff: a jack, a spare tire, a deflated football, my high-school diploma, a picture of my mother-in-law, a can of oil, some antifreeze and a jug of water.

I knew I couldn’t use any of those things, especially the liquids, as I was afraid they would contaminate the fluid that hadn’t yet leaked out and damage the other rubber parts and seals in the clutch system.

What to do? Just then, my friend walked off to a burger joint across the road to take care of some urgent business. Ten minutes later, he returned with a spring in his step and something in his hand, claiming that what he was carrying would solve our problem and get us home.

What was he holding and how did it work? And, no he didn’t pee into the cup.

Here’s a hint: He didn’t buy anything.

You just need something to wedge in the way of the Neutral Safety Switch, so the car thinks the clutch is in neutral. Start it up in first (hopefully it isn’t pointing uphill!) and float the gears all the way home. Coast all stop signs (emergency situation; it didn’t say “legal” solution); avoid at all costs stopping at a red light (though creeping up on one at 1 MPH is okay). If circumstances conspire to force a stop–turn it off, put it in first, start as before.

This falls under “been there, done that.” Had a clutch hydraulic line decouple and lacked the tools to fix onsite. The auto parts store was 3 miles away, and I didn’t feel like walking!


#2

Uh, meant “thinks clutch is DEPRESSED,” not “neutral.”


#3

I’ve done this on an '84 Corvette with a broken pressure plate spring. From a dead stop, put into 1st gear, depress clutch pedal, crank the engine. When the car fires, drive it away, shifting without the clutch up through the gears. To stop, pop into neutral, stop and turn off the car. Repeat. Got me 10 miles back home.

I didn’t need any cup!


#4

This is AN answer, but not THE answer.


#5

No need to fool the safety switch, just push down the clutch pedal and do as you describe.