Saturn Clutch Gone for Good?

Hi – I have a 2001 Saturn SL2, with a manual transmission. The clutch pedal recently gave up – it goes to the floor with no resistance, and I can’t shift. I understand that this car has a hydraulic clutch, and that the hydraulic system has failed. My mechanic says the whole transmission system should be replaced, at a cost of about $1800 (though he hasn’t been able to look at the car 'cause it’s stuck in my driveway!) Before I donate the car to charity, could the problem be anything simpler? Or is it a straitforward diagnosis? Any assistance would be welcome!

If this is just the hydraulic parts, we’re not looking at an $1800 bill.

Open the hood, and look for the fluid reservoir for the clutch. Sometimes they’re connected to the brake reservoir, but if not, it’ll be right next to it. If it’s empty, then you’ve lost the hydraulics. To test it, you could fill the clutch reservoir with brake fluid (get the manual out, but I think it’s Dot3), and just start pushing the clutch in. It will NOT work properly, but if it comes back at all, then you know it’s one of the two parts below. Even replacing both won’t get you anywhere near that price.

Clutch Slave Cylinder $40.

Duralast/Clutch Master Cylinder $50.

(Hope the links both work for you)

We’re talking 2.5 hours max (I think that’s too long, but I don’t have the timesheets for this work) to install those, and at a markup of 100%, and $100 an hour, you’re talking less than $450…which is extreme, IMO.

I think you need to find another mechanic. If this is indicative of the work he’s been doing for you, it’s not likely he’s been doing you any favors.

A failed clutch does not a failed transmission make.


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Thanks for the advice, Chase. Just one comment – The clutch pedal does come back up now – there’s just no resistance when it goes to the floor. It feels like it’s not connected to anything.

And in defense of my mechanic – he sends out all his transmission work, and he hasn’t actually looked at the vehicle. But you could still be right!

Your mechanic must have a big boat on which he needs to make a payment.

The clutch and the transmission are two different things. A bad clutch does NOT mean you need a new transmission. A bad clutch hydraulic system does not mean you need a new clutch.

Find another (better) mechanic.

“I called my dentist and told him I have a toothache and he said the whole thing needs to be extracted and an implant put in.”

Sorry, couldn’t resist. But it’s just as impossible for someone to diagnose a car problem over the phone. If the car was driving and shifting ok with no grinding, shuddering, or slipping before the pedal went dead, you likely have a hydraulic problem. Likely, not positively, as there is always the chance that something mecahnical like a shift fork happened to break.

Anyway, have the car towed to a reputable local shop, and if it is just the hydraulics, you should on the road again for a few hundred, plus a tow bill.

OK – the way he explained it was that to replace the hydraulic system on this particular car, you needed to pull a lot of stuff apart and that it wouldn’t make sense not to replace the clutch at the same time (the car has 110,000 miles on it with the original clutch). 12 hours of labor.

I’m trying to determine that, given the symptoms, if there could be a simpler expanation than needing to replace the hydraulic system.

So far it sounds like I need to take it somewhere else!

Thanks for the comments.

I hate to say it, but he’s simply not correct. You don’t need to pull all that stuff apart. Both the clutch master and slave cylinders are external to the transmission.

I would agree with one part of what you posted: If indeed you did pull all that stuff apart, then he’s right…it would be silly not to just replace the clutch with this mileage on it. But getting to that part - having it ripped apart - isn’t where you’re going here.

I think the others have sufficiently backed me up here…get another quote. If you have a friend who can do brake work, he can also do this clutch work. Ask around. You may even get a buddy to diagnose it for a six-pack. I’d be happy to.

It IS possible that something has drastically failed, like the clutch throw-out bearing, or arm…however, they’re unlikely to just fail suddenly without some warning (getting weaker over time, something). Have you climbed under your hood yet to look at it? I’m sure you can tell where the engine stops and the transmission begins, and you should be able to locate the slave cylinder on the transmission by looking for it.

Are there any fluid marks on the ground under this thing??

Unless you’re holding some piece of information back that we’re not getting…


What you are describing maybe something inside the clutch, not just a hydraulic problem. You could have a bad slave cylinder, but I’m leaning to something in the linkage inside the bellhousing. It has nothing to do with the transmission though.

At this point, check the slave cylinder first. I really don’t think that it is the issue, but its an easy check so I would not overlook it. If the slave cylinder is activating the rest of the linkage, then just plan on putting in a complete new clutch assembly.

A clutch assembly consists of a new clutch plate, pressure plate, throwout bearing and pilot bearing. The total, with labor should run about $900, tops. One thing though that could run this up more would be if you have a broken flywheel bolt that has gotten stuck between the clutch plate and the flywheel or clutch plate and pressure plate.

What you are describing is something that has gotten between the plates. Hopefully it is just a piece of loose clutch material or damper spring. If it is a flywheel bolt, then it can get expensive. If the bolt broke clean and the remaining section can be removed easily, then the cost additional cost would not be too bad. I have heard of cases where the remaining bolt would not come cleanly out of the crankshaft, and that could result in having to replace the crankshaft, worse case.

Replace the mechanic before you replace the clutch assembly. It may be something as simple as a fluid leak.

Hey…the Wife had an interesting thought…

Maybe this mechanic has really good ratings because he gives out an outrageous quote for maintenance, and then when he fixes it for $250, you’re ecstatic! He just saved you $1550!

Just to keep this going – The fluid level in the clutch reservoir (in this car, it’ s the same as the brake fluid reservoir) is full. So the master cylinder is OK. I guess it could still be the slave cylinder.

If your master cylinder is leaking internally, the reservoir level will not go down. If the slave cylinder was leaking, that would be an external leak which would cause the reservoir to go down. The leakage would show up as fluid draining from the dust boot if the slave cylinder is external to the bell housing or from inside the bell housing if it is internal. The master cylinder can leak externally which would cause the reservoir to drop but you would see the fluid on the firewall side of the unit.

Question I have an 02 saturn 160xxx miles good clutch pedal but at high rpms it want to over rev instead of bogging down is there a way to adjust pressure plate ?

It isn’t your clutch causing the over-rev, it is something in the engine controls.

Is the Check engine Light on?

Are you trying to say that when you floor the gas pedal the engine is revving up by itself instead of bogging down?

If so, your clutch is shot.

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yes going 70 or whatever speed and try to go around someone it will rev and not speed up gotta feather the pedal

Worn clutch .

Yep, the clutch is shot.

My god! Who is your mechanic? He’s a not very bright. It’s probably the slave or master cylinder gone out. Hopefully it has an external slave cylinder. If not, you’ll have to pull the transmission to get to it

Classic clutch worn out.

Brighter than that idea

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