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Old 09-24-2017, 02:20 PM   #1
scottjk
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Dazed Catastrophic clutch failure

1997 SC2, DOHC, 5-SP Manual, 180k miles.

Back in March of this year, my clutch failed. My search foo came up with ways to diagnose it and I found that it was the hydraulics. Pretty simple. About $100 and an hour's time.

Now it get's dramatic:

Department of Vocational Rehab offers to have my car repaired by one of their vendors, we'll call them 'Acme'. I was rather nervous about it, because, frankly, being a client of a government agency would make me a natural target for an unscrupulous auto repair shop. I had expressed concerns about that, but allowed them to have my car diagnosed and an estimate made. My concerns were essentially justified, Acme sent an estimate that was a fishing expedition, outlining a full clutch rebuild, the parts alone priced at three times the market value and the total cost of the job well beyond the Blue Book value of my car. They did agree with my diagnostic for the hydraulics. However, the 'diagnostic' described for the clutch itself was impossible, without actually opening up the clutch for inspection. Not only that, they broke the cable bushing at the stick in their efforts to try and get it to shift into gear.

So, DVR told me that they wouldn't have my car repaired, and I pretty much threw a fit, describing in detail how the estimate was wrong and why. So, I demanded that another diagnostic be done by a mechanic recommended by a friend.

Fast forward six months, last Friday.

My mechanic looked at it and then called me, telling me that my assessment of the hydraulics was correct, but that the bell housing was cracked and had a hole punched through it, the flywheel teeth chewed up, and parts of the plates were rattling in the bottom of the bell housing.

So, now I'm confused, and I have to ask...

In March, when the hydraulics failed, I didn't hear a sound, or feel anything, just the expected feel of the pedal going a bit soft and not being able to shift while the engine was running. The car started normally, without unusual noises. I was able to get it into first gear and start the car and limp to a convenience store nearby and get it towed. Before this, the clutch didn't slip and was grabbing solidly. Considering all this, how could all this damage happen without my noticing it? I would think I would have felt or heard SOMETHING, right? Acme's estimate did NOT mention any damage at all.

Or did Acme trash my transmission to validate the estimate, in anticipation of DVR's approval of repairs?

I've always taken care of my car, and I never abused it, so, I'm wondering if I was victimized here.

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Old 09-24-2017, 03:59 PM   #2
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Default Re: Catastrophic clutch failure

If your car is at your mechanic's, go over there and either jack up the front end or get the car on a lift to look. If your transmission bell housing is cracked, it should be obvious. Don't guess or accept descriptions, look for yourself.

Unless you can prove shop damage, wild speculation won't get you anywhere.

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Old 09-24-2017, 04:02 PM   #3
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Default Re: Catastrophic clutch failure

No, I doubt "Acme" sabotaged it. Clutches can have sudden and rather dramatic failures. Some of what you posted is unclear to me, but even if we had a Q & A session to get all facts clear, I don't think my feeling of no sabotage would change.

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Old 09-25-2017, 08:37 AM   #4
alordofchaos
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Default Re: Catastrophic clutch failure

Did you drive it during the 6 months? Differential pin failure can happen without warning and put the pin through the case. Pictures of the damage might help. See if you can tell what direction force was applied - for example, if you are outside throwing a rock through glass, you will have most of the glass inside, and vice versa.

Can't speak to the rest of the damage.

you may also want to talk to a lawyer (after the Q&A and if it appears it was sabotaged). Some states have consumer protection laws that allow for punitive damages - document everything. A lawyer may work on contingency and tell you if a legal remedy is worth pursuing

You may want to mention general area in which you live. Someone on here might be willing to replace the clutch at a very reasonable rate but if your car is not driveable, you are very limited in geographical area

Quote:
However, the 'diagnostic' described for the clutch itself was impossible, without actually opening up the clutch for inspection. Not only that, they broke the cable bushing at the stick in their efforts to try and get it to shift into gear.
Your state's auto repair facility licensing department might be interested, and if it's a chain, their regional manager might be interested as well. Cable (shifter) bushing should be an easy fix

If you search google using the string in italics below, then click on images, you'll get pics of what diff pin failure looks like (one example below)

differential OR diff pin failure through site:saturnfans.com



This is why I am a little distrustful of shops
http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=168295

^ ^ ^ a heads up for unscrupulous shops, a couple of years after the above incident, I was talking to a guy about it. He seemed interested, and was - reason being, he was the state administrator of the bureau that licenses mechanics and auto repair shops. I still had copies of the paperwork and he said they would investigate if I wanted, even though it had been a couple of years

Shortly after the incident described at the link below, I was talking about it on a car forum. I got a PM from a guy who wanted more info - he was a regional manager for the chain and very much a "car guy", knew all the other regional managers, and wanted to at the very least rip them a new one.
http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...25&postcount=4

...
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7/2010 Craigslist white 1997 SC2 project
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Old 09-26-2017, 09:41 PM   #5
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Default Re: Catastrophic clutch failure

I did manage to drive it half a mile in first gear to a safe spot for the tow truck to pick it up. After that, I had the tow drop it off in my usual parking spot at home and did some reading here, and then performed a clutch travel test to see if it was the hydraulics or the clutch fork. It wasn't the clutch fork. Then I just left it there, to work out how to get it repaired. (long story, not relevant)

When I drove it to the safe spot, there was no unusual noise, no noise AS the hydraulics failed, no unusual vibration, etc. Just a pool of DOT. 3 spreading out from under the car after I parked. (It was raining, so the sheen was pretty noticeable.)

I allowed it to be towed to 'Acme' to get an estimate on repairs. The estimate described a clutch rebuild, but not any damage to the bell housing. Had it towed back home and about five months later towed to my mechanic with me riding shotgun.

HE finds the damage.

So, now I'm considering my options, like asking the state to investigate, or
sell it off as a project or parts car, or as scrap.

The only way I can fix it is, obviously, a new or used tranny, and my mechanic quoted a price of nearly $900 based on what he found.

I don't know if it's a diff pin failure... but it sure looks like someone reefed on it with a breaker bar causing the flange to crack like that, then backed the bolt out.

My mechanic said the bolt might have shot off somewhere, but... the threads look pretty intact to me, rather than having the bolt ejected. Come to think of it, I don't think there SHOULD be threads there, but they were made if the bolt was backed out. I should look at the specs.

Now, my mechanic said that there was internal damage and debris, probably parts of the clutch assembly, and some of the teeth on the flywheel were chewed up... again... I didn't hear a sound at the time. Everything but the clutch pedal seemed normal.
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Old 09-26-2017, 11:14 PM   #6
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1998 SC2
Default Re: Catastrophic clutch failure

Does NOT look like a diff pin. Good used 5 speed transmission is not really expensive and the swap is DIY possible. The trans will come out through the wheel well after removing the rear cradle bolt and loosening the front one. It weighs about 60 pounds.

I suspect most/all the loose parts are from a destroyed friction disk.

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Old 09-27-2017, 06:30 AM   #7
Waiex191
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1999 SL2
Default Re: Catastrophic clutch failure

Which bolt is missing? Where there is a threaded hole visible? I think that is holding on a little steel cover at the bottom of the bellhousing. That is a fairly non-structural part. I could believe it was just a clutch coming apart and not sabotage. When the parts fly out they may wing around until the next engine stop, then settle in the bottom. If they wedged between the flywheel and bellhousing they could easily cause that damage on the next start.

Sorry for your troubles. Any way you slice it that sucks!

...
Bryan Cotton
'99 SL2, owned since new
5 speed manual
Rebuilt at 204,067 September 2017
Engine, subframe, diff pin mod, brake lines, headliner, alternator, and so on!

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Old 09-27-2017, 07:31 AM   #8
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Default Re: Catastrophic clutch failure

That is the lower dust shield bolt hole. looks like the small (6mm) bolt was removed and the sheet metal cover bent-pried out. for a lookie-loo inside.

Replacement used trans - 200-250 for a low mileage late model unit
Replacement flywheel and stage 2 clutch assembly - 175.

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Old 09-27-2017, 11:46 AM   #9
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Default Re: Catastrophic clutch failure

The Dex 3 on the ground is suggestive that the crack happened before Acme got their hands on it. No idea how they missed the crack, though

Like OldNuc suggests, used trans might be the way to go

Sorry

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Old 09-27-2017, 02:31 PM   #10
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Default Re: Catastrophic clutch failure

Oh I can believe it. My neighbors was driving down i5 and his van broke down while he was on the freeway. He was towed to a local shop who discovered the battery was fine so the starter must be bad. $500 later car still wouldn’t start. He’d run low on oil and the engine was seized. They refused to refund the starter.

-Robert

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Old 09-27-2017, 06:48 PM   #11
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Default Re: Catastrophic clutch failure

Quote:
Originally Posted by Waiex191 View Post
Which bolt is missing? Where there is a threaded hole visible? I think that is holding on a little steel cover at the bottom of the bellhousing. That is a fairly non-structural part. I could believe it was just a clutch coming apart and not sabotage. When the parts fly out they may wing around until the next engine stop, then settle in the bottom. If they wedged between the flywheel and bellhousing they could easily cause that damage on the next start.
Hmm, I see your point... angle of the pic is throwing me off, still, I don't see how Acme missed it. If they HAD pointed it out... (shrug). The dust cover mount point that OldNuc mentioned makes sense, too...

Yes, the threaded hole... the mechanic took the pic, so I haven't looked at it directly, and I should... I might get away with a bit of weld-all and pin down that dust cover somehow, but, yeah... I suspect a rebuild is warranted, and that damage won't hold together for that, weld-all or not.

I'm still on the fence about it though... I'm a pretty careful driver, and rarely, and I mean RARELY pushed it to it's max potential. No accidents. I know what the clutch looks like, so, I'm scratching my head as to why it would fall apart like that. I guess I'll have to pull it to find out.

I'm searching for a transmission, but they're as rare as frog's hair, plenty of automatics, though, with asking prices that could replace the entire car at a used lot.

Can anyone throw some sources at me for the Seattle or King County area?

Does it specifically have to be sourced from the same model and year or is there a range?

I'm game for trying to pull it through the wheel well. Why not? I replaced the starter, and that was an adventure!

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Old 09-27-2017, 06:53 PM   #12
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Default Re: Catastrophic clutch failure

Quote:
Originally Posted by alordofchaos View Post
The Dex 3 on the ground is suggestive that the crack happened before Acme got their hands on it. No idea how they missed the crack, though

Like OldNuc suggests, used trans might be the way to go

Sorry
Sorry, it's a manual, not an automatic. That crack would only release dust.

DOT 3 is for the hydraulics used for engaging/disengaging the clutch, instead of cables and levers. A seal around a piston gave up after 20 years.

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Old 09-27-2017, 07:07 PM   #13
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Default Re: Catastrophic clutch failure

The manual transmission fluid is also DEX-3. There should not be any fluid in the bell housing however unless the trans is overfilled and the seal has failed.

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Old 09-28-2017, 07:54 AM   #14
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Default Re: Catastrophic clutch failure

My bad - I see you wrote "DOT" but I read that as "DEX" because we were talking transmissions.

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