Would you trust this clutch?

Hi all, the 99’ VW I just bought has an odd feeling in the shifter every now and then. It happens about 50% of the time and is most noticeable in the lower gears. When shifting there is sometimes a little resistance in the shift lever when going into the next higher gear. This is sometimes accompanied by a “thunk” sound in the transmission.

The clutch doesn’t slip when I give it some gas and the “thunk” sound isn’t really loud, just worrying. It doesn’t do it all the time in any particular gear and I can’t detect a pattern of any sort.

I don’t know if this is related or not but the shift lever itself is rather “floppy.” I’ve never had trouble finding the gears but you can move it around about 3/4" in all directions while it’s in gear. I read in the manual that you shouldn’t rest your hand on the shift lever because that can cause wear, perhaps the previous owner did that a lot?

According to the repair records the clutch was replaced about 11k miles ago and the parts listed on the invoice are a clutch kit, crankshaft seal, flywheel, and cv joint gasket.

Is this something that should be looked at by a pro?


My guess is there is mechanical wear of the shift mechanical system. How many miles on your bug? Mostly city or highway miles?

The floppiness is worn out shift lever linkage bushings.
The clunk sounds like the clutch isn’t fully disengaging, due to a weak clutch cable or worn out clutch master and slave cylinders.

Get the motor mounts checked.

Most FWD stick shift cars use a cable shifter similar to the mechanism that moves outside rear-view mirrors…When they wear or are incorrectly adjusted, shifting can become vague and difficult. You can test the clutch for “dragging” by shifting into reverse…It should slip in with no gear grinding. If it “fights you” going into reverse, then the clutch or its linkage has a problem…

There is a set procedure for troubleshooting, testing and adjusting these shift mechanisms…And yes, loose or broken motor mounts can play a role here…

The car has about 126k miles and has mostly been driven in the city.

Is there a way to judge when the clutch cylinders are about to fail completely or am I already in that zone?

It feels normal when I put it into reverse and it doesn’t seem to make the “thunk” sound either. It just happens in the forward gears for some reason. I’ll check out the motor mounts, I’ve heard Tom and Ray talk about checking these yourself and I’ll see if I can enlist some help.

If it does turn out to be a bad master and/or slave cylinder would it be wise to have a new clutch put in at the same time? Sort of like changing the water pump while your timing belt is being done?

Thanks again

Master & slave cylinders are generally much easier to get to than the clutch itself.

If it were the hydraulic system, you wouldn’t be able to get it into reverse at all unless the engine was not running…

That’s good to know, I hope it turns out to be something minor (and cheap!). I had a bit of sticker shock browsing through this car’s repair records haha.

I appreciate your help everyone. It’s always worrisome when there’s some noise or issue that you’ve never had before.