“I have a 1997 Mazda 626 w/ 198k miles… The clutch is making a squealing noise when depressed and I am losing break fluid.”
Are you mistaking brake fluid for hydralic fluid? If the fluid is really coming from the hydralic clutch mechanism (not the brakes) you likely have a leaking slave cylinder, or a leaking master clutch cylinder. The squeeking could be a symptom your clutch is about to fail.
You should get the car to a mechanic ASAP. Leaking brakes aren’t good, nor is a leaking clutch. If the issue the brakes you could lose the ability to stop, and if it is the clutch you could lose the ability to go. Both are pretty critical, so you need to find out what it going on. What is the fluid that is leaking and where is it coming from?
I am not sure where it is leaking from… but my break light came on, I checked the fluid and it is below “LOW” which the light came on a few days ago and then went out and then back on today… Today is the first that the clutch started squeaking… Also, when I was at a complete stop, with the clutch depressed, and in gear the car would shut off… But if I was at a stop and put the car in neutral, it would continue to idle as normal… I parked the car today, needless to say, and I will get it to the mechanic as quickly as I can… but it seemed very all of a sudden and strange…
Your brake system and your clutch system are unconnected and unrelated, even though they both use hydraulic fluid.
If your shifting were working normally but the system squealing when you have the clutch pedal depressed, you’d probably have a worn out release bearing. That’d mean you’re due for a new clutch, as a worn out release bearing (also callled a throwout bearing) would suggest a worn out clutchplate and pressure plate assembly. The whole shebang is a “package deal”.
However, since the engine shuts off unless the shifter is in neutral, it suggests that you may have a leak in the clutch hydraulic system and the clutch may be dragging.
The low brake fluid may mean you need a brake job. As the pads wear out, the pistons in the brake calipers/cylinders remain more and more extracted, and more of the fluid stays in the calipers/cylinders when you let the pedal up.
All of these items are things that I’d normallly expect on a car of your vintage, and none of them would suggest that the car doesn;t have many more good years left. But they all need to be addressed…especially the brakes.
This car uses the same reservoir for the brake system and the clutch hydraulic system. The reservoir is filled with brake fluid. As tsm commented you probably have a leak in the clutch slave cylinder or clutch master cylinder. It might be fairly massive as the light went “out” after filling but came back “on” a short time later. Recheck the level of the reservoir.
The squeek might be related to a leaking slave cylinder. A mechanic listening in the clutch area might be able to localize the squeek location more precisely. Wouldn’t it be nice if a new slave cylinder cured both problems?
I would hope that the common reservoir is designed so that the clutch hydraulic system cannot drain the entire reservoir thus disabling the brake system. Take a look and let us know.
Hope this helps.
Good informative post @Researcher!