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Ruined a clutch in 30 feet?

So here’s the deal. I have a part time job as a garage attendant in a condo-co-op . Most of our residents park their own cars, but we park the cars of those without assigned stalls, visitors and guests, employees of a business in the building, and the odd resident here and there. The owner of the business in the building drives a 2004 VW Passat with a manual transmission. I’ve been driving a manual for 32 years, and my own car is a manual. My mechanic tells me the clutch in my old car is almost brand new. As for this lady’s car, I’ve parked it (and other manual transmission cars) in that garage numerous times. Well, she says I ruined it. One day she brought it in the garage, and I parked it. The clutch felt weird and soft, and I had to scoot the seat waaayyy up to engage the clutch, more than I normally do as a short person. I pulled the car up, backed it into a slot like always, pulled it forward a little to straighten it out, and slid it into place. The clutch was soft, but I was more worried about locking the keys in the car as I had done that in another car the day before. I turned it off, pulled the hand brake, and left it in gear. Like I’ve done many times.

So I get a call from work that evening. The car won’t go in gear, and the owner of the car is furious and blaming me. The car had to be towed out of the garage. It ended up at the dealer, with the owner adamantly claiming I ruined her clutch. She’s in and out of the boss’s office demanding the condo association pay for the repairs. Boss and the operations director where I work have been very supportive of me, not blaming me at all. After about 2 weeks, the VW mechanic did finally say that he found some discoloration on the clutch and that he couldn’t say that me, or the several people who tried to move it before it was towed, did at least some of the damage.

Frankly, I think this woman either doesn’t know her clutch was going bad and sincerely thinks I ruined it, or she is cynically trying to get a brand new clutch for free. She says that this 8 year old car only has 40,000, but I wonder if those 40,000 were driven with a heavy left foot.

Love to see what people think.

It doesn’t sound to me like a bad clutch, just a bad master or slave cylinder. The problem sounds completely hydraulic, not mechanical.

Well, the mechanic says it was a bad clutch. I don’t think I can ruin a clutch in 30 feet without a sincere effort noticed by all in the garage. I am not mechanically inclined at all (although I love Car Talk).

I’ve seen a clutch ruined in 3 feet. It was a Corvette who’s idiot owner was trying to do a burnout, and ended up smoking the clutch instead of the tires. Assuming you didn’t do that, you didn’t wreck it in 30 feet.

An 8 year old car that is driven primarily in local, stop & go conditions can need a new clutch after 40k miles, particularly if the usual driver is not skilled with the use of the clutch. Conversely, a car that is driven on the highway for a goodly percentage of its miles might be able to go for 175k-200k miles on its clutch, particularly if the driver is very skilled at driving a manual trans.

That being said, it is possible to give a clutch the death knell in just 30 feet…if that clutch was already beginning to slip badly. This is not like an on-off switch, with the clutch being totally healthy one minute and then being ruined a moment later. It is a matter of degrees, or a matter of increased wear until the wear gets to the critical point.

This could just be a case of timing, with the OP being in the unlucky position of being the last person to drive it before a very badly-worn clutch stopped functioning altogether.

I don’t think it was your fault, because (a) you are an experienced driver of manual transmissions, and (b) you noticed the clutch felt wrong as soon as you got into the car, before you even moved it.

The owner could well have ruined the clutch herself through 8 years of bad technique, and it was your unlucky day that it failed on your watch.

She can’t prove that you did it. You can’t prove that you did not do it. Have you ruined other cars? Have you been seen abusing cars? No? Sleep well!

The clutch is a normal wear item like wiper blades. There is no warranty on brakes or clutches. Don’t let her lay off her clutch repair on you, which is exactly what she is trying to do…

I had a 4 cyl truck, and ended up smoking the clutch a few times pulling the boat out of muddy or pea gravel launches, the clutch was still fine at 70k when I sold it. We in our family have a saying for situations like this, you are absolved. Sounds like she is similar to the wicked witch of the west. Ranks a 10 on the bs meter.

These types of stories are common in the service shop as well.
The time bomb is ticking on many a time sensitive and wear item.
Heaven forbid OUR hands are on it when the clock runs out.

It’s in for an oil change and WE ruined the clutch ? I don’t think so.

You may have a similar situation.

My gut feeling is that you had nothing to do with this problem. It could be that a clutch master or slave cylinder is failing and that can be the cause of a clutch not fully disengaging. In turn that leads to wear and the discoloration the mechanic was referring to.

Clutch hydraulic failure on a 9 year old car is not a rare thing and it could also well be that the lady has put those 40k miles on in that length of time by doing a lot of stop and go driving which is tough on a clutch.

As to not going in gear maybe the following could be considered if backing the car up was necessary for her to leave. Reverse gears are generally straight cut and sometimes when you have one straight tooth matched up against another straight tooth the transmission may not want to go into reverse. Maybe she went into panic mode too quickly.

I also concur with Mr. Green.

If the car ran out of gas while you were parking it, would you be responsible for this too?

Unless there are other justifications not mentioned in the OP, I think the owner is being unfair.

You touch it, you own it is not really that rare an event.

A parking attendant is not the culprit here. This clutch was failing, the owner is just clueless or trying to make some money on the deal.

Hard to believe you ruined that clutch unless you did a 30 feet burnout. It was likely on its way out and you happened to be the last person that touched it.
It does suck, though, because it would be difficult to prove one way or the other. She apparently already has her mind made up.

I worked with a guy who went out to dinner with his in-laws. The in-laws had the big comfy car for 4 and they insisted he drive. The exhaust system basically fell apart on the way and they blamed him. They were adamant he pay to have it fixed and his wife agreed with her parents!

Wow. I’m sure the new muffler outlasted their good relationship.

About 20 years ago the husband of my sister in law trashed the 350 in his Chevy pickup and money was tight due to his starting a new job recently. Feeling sorry for him, I remembered a small obscure salvage where I knew the owner casually. I dropped by and found that he had just taken in a beat up Chevy with a 350 and would sell the entire motor, pulled with accessories and all, for 250 dollars. Even better, the vehicle could be test driven before it was stripped down.

I sent the hubby by, he test drove it, and bought the motor. I installed the motor Scot free with the only additional expense being the cost of a couple of jugs of coolant. The truck fired right up and ran great. He came by, picked it up for a test drive, never came back, and never said thanks.
Thank you wasn’t a requirement but common courtesy would dictate it.

The part that sent me ballistic was hearing a week later that he was telling people I had screwed him over good even though the truck was running great and there were no problems at all. He avoided me like the plague and a few weeks later filed for divorce and moved.

Can’t even do repairs for nothing without being accused… :frowning:

That incident Twin Turbo described is pretty low and if I were the guy the in-laws wouldn’t even get a Merry Xmas from me when that time of year rolled around no matter what the wife thought about it.

She is trying to pull a fast one on you just the parts alone our over 500.00 on a good day more like 700.00 plus the labur not a cheap job. people have to learn that the clutch pedel is not a foot rest.

@TwinTurbo–When I was in 6th grade, I was teaching my neighborhood pal who was in 5th grade how to ride a bike. He was doing well until the front fork snapped and the wheel went one direction and he and the bicycle went the other way. I told him it wasn’t his fault, but he ran home and got his mother who came over and tried to pay for the damage to the bicycle. My dad wouldn’t accept the money and said that my friend had nothing to do with it. I then got reamed out for mistreating my bicycle. My dad had seen me ride it over daredevil ramps that my brother and I had set up and had also seen me jerk the front wheel up while riding to do a “wheelie”. I’m certain that the woman “dogged” the clutch in her car just as I abused my bicycle. It took me a month to save enough money for a new front fork.