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Repair bills leave me feeling crushed like a bug

Last week while driving my 2003 VW New Beetle, six-speed with Turbo, 67K miles, the clutch pedal dropped completely to the floor, never to rise again. Initially I thought this was a clutch cable or problem with the clutch, but when I had it towed to the dealer, he told me that this car has a hydraulic assist on the clutch. He tried to bleed the lines and get the clutch working again, and almost did, but the pedal dropped again. He then reported to me that the master/slave cylinder was bad and needed to be replaced. I was OK with that. He also said the clutch and flywheel should be replaced because they’d been soaked with hydraulic fluid. Is this true? Why does this necessitate replacement?

If, and it’s a big “if,” the clutch disc was soaked in hydraulic fluid it would have to be replaced. If hydraulic fluid soaked into the friction material the disc is junk.

The flywheel, however, is metal and can be cleaned. I see no need for a new flywheel.

Also, the location of the slave cylinder would have a lot to do with whether or not the clutch disc is soaked. On some vehicles you could lose ALL of the clutch fluid and the clutch disc would not be affected.

Someone with more intimate knowledge of the slave cylinder set-up on this car can probably give you a more definitive answer regarding the clutch, but the flywheel is just dealer profit.

If you need a clutch you also need a new pressure plate, but not a flywheel.

Well, we can’t see and examine the car, but if the slave cylinder was leaking, it is entirely conceivable that the clutch is soaked with hydraulic fluid.

However, unless the flywheel was damaged by a worn out clutch plate, I don’t see why the flywheel would need to be replaced. Cleaning the flywheel with an appropriate solvent should take care of fluid that spilled on it.

How about asking to be taken into the shop so that you can see the situation for yourself?
And, how about asking why the flywheel can’t be cleaned?

Since VW dealers are consistently ranked the lowest of all auto dealers for customer satisfaction, I do suspect that there is some “padding” of the bill, particularly if they think that you are not auto-savvy.

Have you considered having the car towed to an independent VW specialist?
Most areas have one of these places, due to the incredibly high customer dissatisfaction with VW dealers.

I agree also that the flywheel just needs to be cleaned not replaced. Always avoid dealerships even for warranty work. Independent mechanics are a far better deal.

It’s possible the clutch got soaked because the slave cylinder suddenly sprung a big leak. He probably could clean the flywheel, but maybe that’s too time-consuming and he’d rather replace it.

Have the master and slave replaced and drive the car for a while and see how the clutch operates before you have any more repair work done…And unless you enjoy paying double for your repair work, stay away from the dealers shop…

Quite true and the reason for the clutch replacement is that fluid is embedded in the friction material of the clutch disc. This cannot be cleaned out.

Fluid on the disc usually means a flywheel with burn marks. A burnt flywheel means a trip to the machine shop and depending on the going rates there a new flywheel may be a more viable option rather than spending the money to surface a flywheel and discover after the fact that too much material from the flywheel has to be removed to clean it up.
The flywheels are thin anyway and one can only take so much off. Too much off and the clutch operation will be affected.

Thanks for responding. All this info is helpful (if disappointing).

Don’t be replacing the clutch on the ASSUMPTION it has been soaked with fluid. That seldom happens…The “Service Adviser” at the dealership is a commission salesman…

It appears your slave cylinder is external to the transmission so it is unlikely that the leaking fluid got onto the clutch disc. Do as Caddyman recommends and drive the Bug with the new master and slave cylinders. If the clutch shows signs of slipping, have the clutch replaced with a kit and evaluate the flywheel at that time. There are very few labor steps repeated if the clutch is replaced at a later time.

If I am mistaken and the slave cylinder is inside the transmission bellhousing, the transmission will have to be R&Red. Replacing the clutch kit at this time is then cost effective. Again have the flywheel evaluated as to machining or replacement.

Let us know what the final outcome of this situation becomes.

Has anyone on this forum ever seen a clutch damaged by a leaking slave cylinder? Any make, any model…

No, but the slave cylinder used to be outside the bellhousing. Some are now with the throwout bearing.

I haven’t. But, then, how many here have ever seen a rear axle come free ehile the car was moving and slide completely out of the housing (RWD)? Mine did on my '72 Vega.

It’s plausible that under heat and pressure the fluid could get absorbed into the surface of the clutch plate pads.

No way could it damage the flywheel, however. Might leave a nice burnt-umber colored coating, but that can be cleaned.

Yes, SAAB 900. More than one.