EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


October 28, 2012

Hydraulics likely to blame for loose clutch pedal

It’s been awhile since you helped me with my Toyota 4x4 truck starter. All has been going well with the new starter and the rest of the truck. A new problem just began this week. I went to start my truck, and the clutch pedal nearly went to the floor before I felt any resistance. I could get the truck into gear, both forward and reverse, and drive it without trouble or noise; it just felt strange to suddenly have so much free play in the clutch pedal before engaging each time.

The week before, the clutch pedal felt normal and shifting was not a problem — no grinding or difficulty getting it into gear. The pedal free play was normal too. Then the sudden change in the pedal after not driving it for a week. So I checked the clutch cylinder fluid reservoir, and it was full. There are no leaks inside or outside the cylinder. I checked under the truck, and the slave cylinder looks dry. The line looks dry too.

Did my clutch suddenly go while sitting in my driveway? Or is it time to flush and replace the fluid and hope that will bring it back to normal? The truck has a lot of miles on it, and I don’t know when the clutch was ever replaced. What else should I check before deciding whether a costly new clutch is needed? The truck is a 4x4 and I think it’s beyond my skill set to do a clutch myself.

Great job, again, describing details and performing spot-on inspections — you’d make a super technician. Your truck, like most modern stick-shift vehicles, uses a hydraulic process to connect clutch pedal motion to the clutch mechanism within the transmission bell housing. As the pedal is depressed, a pushrod applies force to the clutch master cylinder, pushing a piston about one inch. Hydraulic force is applied, via fluid through a steel or plastic line, to the slave cylinder, which is bolted to the bell housing. The slave cylinder piston moves similarly, and a second pushrod applies force to the clutch fork. This process is infinitely smoother and usually less trouble than the cable or lever mechanisms used in the past.

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