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Who said push-starting can't hurt the car?

1996 Saturn SW2
I tried to push start the car because I left the lights on. I put it in first gear and popped the clutch, didn’t work and I tried it the second time, then something happened and now it’s as if the car is not in gear at all. When I finally got the car started, the car seemed to move very very slightly when I released the clutch, but then it doesn’t engage at all now. I can still move the shifters smoothly into all gears without any noise or difficulty.
Did I just mess up the pressure plate or did I damage the transmission?

Next time, try third gear and don’t “pop” the clutch, let it out smoothly…After you pull the tranny, you can tell us what you broke…Does the clutch still “feel” the same? If so, you may have twisted the mainshaft off or tore the center out of the clutch disc

You may have damaged the clutch when starting the vehicle. I always use second gear when push starting a manual transmission vehicle. It’s a lot easier on the drivetrain. Have a good mechanic check out the vehicle because it may just be a simple problem. If the clutch went out during the starting process then it was on it’s last legs anyway.

Lift and support the driver’s side front wheel, shift to 4th gear and attempt to spin the wheel. If it turns listen under the car for the location of the “disconnect.” If there is a weak motor mount one of the drive shafts might have pulled out of the side gear. And the clutch is a weak link, the clutch hub can shear out of the friction plate, But yes, the transmission could be damaged.

Push starting should normally not damage anything. When I owned a Fiat in my college days it was frequently my normal starting technique. Never a problem.

You said very little about your technique, particularly your speed. If you had another vehicle push you past 20 mph, then you popped the clutch while in first gear, you were asking for trouble.

Now there’s little to be done but to limp over to a mechanic for an inspection. Likely the clutch, possibly the transmission. Good luck.

Wow, I’m surprised how active this forum is by getting such quick responses.
I was simply rolling down the parking structure definitely going less than 10 mph. Maybe because it was freezing this morning and had a lot more resistance in the engine than normal.
The clutch pedal still feels normal and so is the shifter. I do hear something rattling intermittently. So it’s totally possible that I sheared off the input shaft? You would think the clutch is the weaker link since it’s been slipping occasionally when I drive it hard.
:frowning: It’s been such a great car …

First thing to check would be the front half-shafts…Are they both still connected to the transmission and the wheel hubs??..

Well, you use a higher gear to push start a car. !st gear puts too much strain on the system.

Seems strange. That’s how I’d have to start my Morris Minor back in the 60’s quite a bit. Hand push it down the street and hop in and pop the clutch. If I was lucky it would start and I wouldn’t be late for work. We pushed it up and down the hills in the drive-in once too, trying to start it. Think you might need to have someone look at it now. Good luck.

I think you have hit on many points yourself as to why it happened.

Bing, would you use 1st gear to start your MM? Oh it can be done, but a higher gear is easier on everything.
It depends on how low your car is geared.

Thanks for the replies.
At this point, it seems like I sheared off my right half shaft (CV axle). So let’s hope that’s the only thing I broke.

At that age, it’s entirely possible that halfshaft was on its way out anyway, and the jolt from the push start just finished it off. This is the first time I have ever heard of anything being damaged by push starting.

Related story: When I was a teenager, my father had a Cavalier five speed. The starter went bad on it, but he didn’t have the money to replace it right away. He removed the starter from the engine, placed it on the passenger floorboard so he could exchange it right away, and just push started it every time he needed to go somewhere. Most of the time, he would park half a block up the street from the house so he could roll the car down the hill to get it going, and choose strategic parking spaces wherever he went, either on hills or with plenty of wide open space around it. He drove the car for a month that way before getting a new starter for it. Nothing was ever damaged, so I have no worries about push starting cars.

NO, it doesn’t hurt a car to push start if you use a higher gear and just let the clutch out moderatly. It certainly saves the starter!!

EllyEllis “Bing, would you use 1st gear to start your MM? Oh it can be done, but a higher gear is easier on everything. It depends on how low your car is geared.”

Man, that was 45 years ago. Pretty sure I just used first but it would pop out of first unless you held it in gear so might have used second pushing it down the street.

Long ago, when a Harley was my primary transportation, it quickly became apparent that pushing anything off to start the engine required shifting into 2d or 3d gear. Even on a steep hill, after being pushed up to walking speed releasing the clutch would lock the rear wheel solid in 1st gear. In 2d the engine would light off and drive away after rolling a few feet and popping the clutch when re-starting a warm engine. But today, some vehicles will not start when pushed, or when a remote starter switch is used. The ECM on some vehicles will not trigger the start sequence unless the ignition switch is moved to the start position where a signal initiates the process of turning on ignition and fuel relays.

"At this point, it seems like I sheared off my right half shaft (CV axle). So let’s hope that’s the only thing I broke. "

Check your motor mounts…A broken mount may have contributed to the half-shaft failure…

It is very likely that a motor mount is broken and the inner CV joint pulled nearly free of the side gear and broke the tip that extends beyond the retaining ring off in the side gear where it fell into the housing, ready to trash the final drive when a new joint is installed.

Well. I am going to stick my neck out again but I doubt very much that a motor mount is brokem.

hey quick question, maybe you’ll know. I’ve got a 1990 ford ranger 4 speed with a over drive. should I still start it in 2nd or is 1st okay?