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Old 02-19-2007, 05:58 PM   #1
BarnOwl
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1998 SL2
Default Clutch Hydraulics Diagnosis

This one comes up enough that I'm going to get it made into a How-To.

Symtoms

The car is hard to shift especially into 1st or reverse while running but, will shift smoothly with the engine off.

Quick Tests

On a level surface, with the engine running, hold the clutch in for a minute or two. If the car starts to creep forward after waiting a bit, it's a good indication that the problem's hydraulics. If it starts to creep right away, it could be another problem.

When the car is hard to shift, try pumping the clutch a few times. If it gets easier to shift, it's probably a hydraulic problem. If not, you really don't know.

While the above tests will give you a pretty good idea what's going, on they are hardly definitive. Given that the price of a clutch hydraulic assembly is more that $100, you really want to be right when you buy one.

The Definitive Test

First check the clutch pedal travel as shown in the picture below. It needs to be 135 mm to 156 mm (5.3 - 6.2 in). If it isn't, there's some obstruction or the dash is damaged.



If the pedal travel checks out, there's a small access hole next to the slave cylinder (see pic below). Stick a piece of stiff wire in that hole till it touches the fork and mark the wire where it goes into the hole. Do the same thing with the clutch pushed all the way in. The distance between the marks should not be less than 11.18 mm (0.44 in). If the distance is too small, it's the hydraulics. Otherwise, your looking at a damaged fork or pressure plate.


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Old 02-19-2007, 11:25 PM   #2
Greg1
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Default Re: Clutch Hydraulics Diagnosis

Well done!

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Old 04-25-2008, 03:17 PM   #3
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Default Re: Clutch Hydraulics Diagnosis

Great article!
One question I have, is I measured my clutch pedal travel at 5-1/4 inches. There is no way to make it greater. Unless you cut out part of the factory carpeting. I wish it was greater! no obvious damage to an parts or mechanisms.

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Old 09-10-2008, 09:57 PM   #4
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Default Re: Clutch Hydraulics Diagnosis

If you are confused, as I was, as to where this access hole is near the slave cylinder, read on.

Here is a picture of the thing you are looking for: http://www.saturnfans.com/photos/sho...hp/photo/44240

You'll see it looking from above sort of near/under the battery. You can also get a good look at it by looking in from the side. Look from just in front of the driver's side front tire. Only from this position could I see the access hole.

Last edited by kurtr; 09-10-2008 at 09:59 PM.. Reason: Clarification

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Old 05-31-2009, 09:54 PM   #5
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Default Re: Clutch Hydraulics Diagnosis

Clutch Hydraulic Diagnosis

If you suspect a hydraulic problem with your clutch, bleed the system. This may take some time and a lot of fluid to insure that all air is out of the system. The most likely cause of fluid loss or air in the system is a bad seal in the clutch cylinders. Most time it is the Slave and it is the cheaper of the two repair and replace. So if you are guessing side with the cheaper. Use only Dot3 brake fluid or Delco Supreme #11 brake fluid. Do not over fill the reservoir. Do not over torque the bleeder screw or hose fittings(only 12ft lb.). Make sure the bleed screw dust cover is in place or water will leak in to the screw and cause rust in the slave cylinder.

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Last edited by shae marks; 05-31-2009 at 09:56 PM.. Reason: signature

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Old 07-14-2009, 10:07 PM   #6
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Default Re: Clutch Hydraulics Diagnosis

Quote:
Originally Posted by shae marks View Post
If you suspect a hydraulic problem with your clutch, bleed the system. This may take some time and a lot of fluid to insure that all air is out of the system. The most likely cause of fluid loss or air in the system is a bad seal in the clutch cylinders. Most time it is the Slave and it is the cheaper of the two repair and replace. So if you are guessing side with the cheaper. Use only Dot3 brake fluid or Delco Supreme #11 brake fluid. Do not over fill the reservoir. Do not over torque the bleeder screw or hose fittings(only 12ft lb.). Make sure the bleed screw dust cover is in place or water will leak in to the screw and cause rust in the slave cylinder.
Yes but, Saturn clutch hydraulics do not have bleeder screws. Some early models did have a screw for filling at the factory but, most do not. The system is nearly impossible to bleed. There is another post in the How-To library that details about the only way I would try it. It involves dismantling the slave cylinder while keeping the system full...good luck.

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Old 04-02-2010, 04:14 PM   #7
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Default Re: Clutch Hydraulics Diagnosis

Great article, it helped me with my practical!!

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Old 06-28-2010, 12:55 PM   #8
jerrussell1976
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Default Re: Clutch Hydraulics Diagnosis

Where exactly is the access hole to the test? I searched and I searched for it and I cannot find it. Does someone have an actual picture that they can point the hole out? I have a 1998 Saturn SL.

Last edited by jerrussell1976; 06-28-2010 at 01:00 PM.. Reason: adding information

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Old 08-02-2010, 07:39 PM   #9
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Default Re: Clutch Hydraulics Diagnosis

one thing i noticed, i cant find screws for bleeding unlike the ABS Hydraulic Assembly. Dismantling the slave cylinder is too much work, is there an easier more practical way?

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Old 08-16-2010, 11:17 AM   #10
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Default Re: Clutch Hydraulics Diagnosis

In the quick test, do you hold the clutch in with it in 1st, reverse, or neutral? Do you have to remove the air intake and battery to get the wire into this hole? When looking from the side, are you looking past the tire, and if so, do you have to remove the black plastic shield inside the wheel well? What if it is a damaged fork or pressure plate? thanks, Will

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Old 10-12-2010, 05:22 PM   #11
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Default Re: Clutch Hydraulics Diagnosis

Just a tad confused on the The Definitive Test. I did the test on my car, and im comming up with basically double of the 11.18 mm. Is this normal or is something not right here? I know if your under the 11.18 mm your going to have issues, but what if your well above the 11.18 mm?

Thanks

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Old 11-28-2010, 03:57 PM   #12
GorgeGeorg
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Default Re: Clutch Hydraulics Diagnosis

I also have a question on the travel distance.
My pedal travels just over 6" which in the proper range.
But my test of the 'clutch fork travel' distance is about 0.55"
which is a little more then the suggested distance. A small
amount of the difference could be measurement error.

How critical is this distance?

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Old 05-16-2011, 10:15 PM   #13
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Happy Re: Clutch Hydraulics Diagnosis

Great post, it really helped me! I had a tough time figuring out where the slave cylinder was. I just searched Google images to see a picture. I could get to it from under the car, but it was really tight, so I ended up having to remove the battery and the battery tray. Then it was pretty easy. I used a clothes hanger and I noticed that depending on which way I angled the hanger, it would sink to a different depth. I figured out it was best to have it angled slightly down. I poked it around and had my wife engage/disengage the clutch and I knew I had it when I finally saw the hanger move. Then I took the measurement. All my measurements are fine, so I guess it's my clutch assembly that needs replacing. Thanks again. Good luck to the rest of you.

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Old 12-11-2011, 05:19 PM   #14
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Dizzy Re: Clutch Hydraulics Diagnosis

Barn Owl, I read your post from 2007 on pedal travel and fork travel for the saturn clutch. I have a 1998 SC1 that I just finished putting a new clutch in. Should have known something was wrong because it went back together too smooth,(except for a seal on the output shaft giving me and $80 headache, cost for the tool to install the seal).
Like many other posts, upon starting the car, I had difficulty shifting gears while engine on, no problem shifting engine off. I did the measurements and I fall right on the .44" on the fork and almost 6'' on the pedal.
While the car is running, and I start to release the clutch pedal, the car starts to move. Like the other posts, its almost immediatly that clutch starts to engage. The slave does not have any leaks when checke for that.
When I first pushed clutch pedal after installation of clutch, pedal felt like there was nothing there, even after pumping on it. I checked the slave reservoir to see that it was low, so I put some brake fluid in it. After that, I went to pump the clutch and it was as hard as a rock. Not knowing what to do next, I removed the slave from the clutch housing and the freakin actuator rod fell into the housing...I almost cried, but remained cool. Got a magnet on a rod and fished around til I felt a "click" and lo and behold there was the rod. I put the rod back in the boot on the slave and guided it into place and re-attached everything. Pressed on the cluch and it seemed better than it was the first time, and at least I could depress it.
Would adding fluid to the system cause the clutch to act that way?
Thanks for any information,
dano

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Old 07-12-2012, 05:36 PM   #15
dude33333
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Default Re: Clutch Hydraulics Diagnosis

Thanks for the great article.
I would like to confirm that using your logic, I definetly have a hydraulic problem before I replace the system ($135 for the part at pep-boys).

I have the "symtom"

of the "quick tests" it DOES creep right away. and it is NOT easier to shift after pumping the pedal.

"definitely" I measured about 1/4" movement of the wire when inserted into the hole.
I measured it without a helper, so propped the clutch pedal down and remeasured, not sure if that makes a difference. Also, I forgot to measure the pedal travel, but Ive owned this car for 9+ years and it seems about right, although, the point where I feel a little preasure is way down to where the pedal is almost bottomed out.

So I should replace the hydraulic system right?
THANKS!

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Old 07-15-2012, 11:08 PM   #16
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Default Re: Clutch Hydraulics Diagnosis

Too little too late for me since I pulled out the slave cylinder to try to do the wire test (not quite understanding what to do). However, while looking on the internet regarding clutch fork issues I did stumble across this video which shows exactly what the wire test should look like:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=099IRHql-qc

Hope this helps someone out.

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Old 07-17-2012, 11:37 PM   #17
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Default Re: Clutch Hydraulics Diagnosis

Another item for reference is this pic I found elsewhere on the forum for the recommended clutch pedal travel vs fork travel.

http://i202.photobucket.com/albums/a...ravelgraph.jpg

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Old 08-20-2012, 08:57 PM   #18
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Default Re: Clutch Hydraulics Diagnosis

On my 98 SC2 the wire measurement was .53, is this still within the limits of being ok?

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Old 05-26-2013, 12:39 PM   #19
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Default Re: Clutch Hydraulics Diagnosis

Thank you BarnOwl for posting this "Clutch Hydraulics Diagnosis". This lead me to deciding to attempt the Hydaulics Fix as opposed to replacing the Clutch.

1st symptoms: Difficult to shift gears with engine running, shifts fine with engine off.

1st Fix attempt: Check Hydraulic Fluid level; to my surprise the "Cap" to the brake master cylinder was off and laying in the engine compartment. Fluid level was below the reservoir so I added "Dot 3" brake fluid, but filled above where the bladder when extended in the cap which would cause the fluid to spill out, so I compressed the bladder and replaced cap. I then had to pump the clutch pedal to get a feeling of pedal pressure.

2nd Symptoms: Soft Pedal; clutch pedal engaging very low to the floor, clutch pedal felt spongy. Air in clutch hydraulics?

Next Step - Research internet - Find SaturnFans.com Forum - Yeah!

Following steps in this thread checked:
Clutch Pedal Travel: 5.5 inches
Slave Cylinder Access Hole Check: .55 inches

So the access hole test revealed way above the .44 in distance, indicating problem with the clutch or pressure plate. Dagnabbit, I don't want to replace that clutch...

Still thinking that with a spongy clutch pedal that I have air in the hydraulics, and no simple way to bleed the line, I purchased the AutoZone.com Pre-filled unit Clutch master and slave cylinder assembly for $95:
Duralast/Clutch Master Cylinder
1998 Saturn SL1 1.9L MFI SOHC 4cyl
Part Number: 10331CC

Followed directions from other posts on this forum "Clutch Hydraulic System Replacement" and "How To: Clutch Hydraulic system with pics", along with that nice YouTube video on "Clutch Master and Slave Cylinder Install on 1998 Saturn SL2".

All went well during the install - Except, when removing that clip attached to the Clutch Pedal it sprung off somewhere and after extensive searching the floor and dash, I just couldn't locate it. So what should've been a 30 minute install resulted in a trip to the pull-n-pay boneyard and 2 hours later and 20 minutes of fiddling with attaching the salvaged clip, I successfully replaced the hydraulics.

After slowly pumping the clutch pedal, the pressure felt correct and shifting was back to normal with engine running.

Thanks again "All Y'all" for posting your diagnostics.

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