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Old 09-16-2022, 02:06 PM   #1
steve seibel
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Default Saturn SL-1 clutch not *fully* dis-engaging

Car -1997 Saturn SL-1, manual transmission

Symptoms-- on flat ground, when I push clutch pedal full down and shift into first gear, I sometimes see a very slight decrease in motor rpms on the tach, and the car sometimes starts creeping forward very slowly.

Likewise when I shift into reverse, except that then of course the car starts creeping backwards very slowly.

Neither symptom (slight rpm change on tach, slight motion of car) seems to be completely replicable *every* time I shift into gear with the clutch pedal full down. Sometimes it will happen once, then I'll repeat the test right away, and it won't happen. But it happens at least half the time it seems.

Background info-- the car recently got *very* hard to shift, and I discovered that the hydraulic clutch reservoir was essentially empty. So I filled it up. It immediately became easier to shift -- suggesting that when the clutch stays partly engaged, pressures on surfaces inside the transmission change in a way that makes the car hard to shift-- but still it seems a *little* harder to shift than it used to be. So-- could air have gotten into the hydraulic clutch system? Could that be playing a role in the current symptoms, specifically the evident failure of the clutch to fully disengage when the pedal is pushed fully down?

(I don't know where the fluid leaked out from.)

Additional background info-- the clutch and the slave cylinder (but not master cylinder) were replaced about 6 months ago. The mechanic who did the work warned me that I'd notice that now the clutch pedal must be pushed almost all the way in to dis-engage the clutch. He said this would moderate a bit as the clutch wore in. I don't know if there's any chance that the current symptoms-- the slight rpm drop when car is shifted into gear with clutch pedal full in, and the slight creeping tendency when car is shifted into gear with clutch pedal full in-- have been present ever since the work was done. I doubt it, but I never specifically checked for those things as far as I recall till the recent shifting difficulties, and the symptoms are subtle enough that they might not be noticed unless someone was specifically looking for them.

So basically, I guess I'm asking, is it most likely that my current problems are caused by air that has entered the hydraulic clutch system, or not? And if so, is there any significant chance it will work its way out of the system over time? Or do I need to go ahead and fix the issue right away?

Thanks--

Steve
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Old 09-16-2022, 02:35 PM   #2
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Default Re: Saturn SL-1 clutch not *fully* dis-engaging

Here is the bleeding procedure I used:
Quote:
I think we have successfully bled the clutch hydraulics. Clamped the master loosely in the vise. Took the cover off. Hung the slave down low. Pumped the slave rod in and got bubbles out. Clamped it all the way in to evacuate most of the fluid and dumped it out. Refilled before we let it out. The clutch feels way better, but we can't test it as the brakes are all apart. Also the car is on jackstands
Unfortunately the Wagner set is NLA.

The slave and master should be a set and never taken apart. So if they replaced the slave and it didn't work right, no huge surprise. What your mechanic said makes no sense to me.

I'd get a stock set from the junkyard, do my bleeding procedure, and you should be good to go.

Edit:
http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=174367
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Last edited by Waiex191; 09-16-2022 at 02:46 PM.
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Old 09-16-2022, 07:11 PM   #3
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Default Re: Saturn SL-1 clutch not *fully* dis-engaging

When my car was doing something similar, i just went to RockAuto and bought a new Master/Slave set (filled and pre-bled) to install in my car. works perfectly now.
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Old 09-16-2022, 08:21 PM   #4
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Default Re: Saturn SL-1 clutch not *fully* dis-engaging

Although I agree air in the system is a likely culprit, why not do the simple "wire test" before fussing with the hydraulics?
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Old 09-17-2022, 12:39 AM   #5
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Default Re: Saturn SL-1 clutch not *fully* dis-engaging

Do the wire test which was mentioned before. If it is out of spec, I would replace the clutch hydraulic system with a pre-bled fully assembled unit.

I would also suggest not driving it the way it currently is, as only partial disengagement will wear the clutch, and synchros in the transmission, which will lead to major shifting issues down the road.
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Old 09-17-2022, 08:40 AM   #6
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Default Re: Saturn SL-1 clutch not *fully* dis-engaging

Thanks for the info so far. I need to look up that "wire test"-- not familiar with that. Btw just to clarify my original post, after the work was done on the clutch about 6 months ago, I did notice, like my mechanic alerted me, that the clutch pedal had to be *nearly* all the way down to dis-engage the clutch, but I'm about 90% sure that I would have noticed if the current symptoms of clutch not being fully disengaged *even with the pedal all the way down* were present.
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Old 09-17-2022, 09:11 AM   #7
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Default Re: Saturn SL-1 clutch not *fully* dis-engaging

Quote:
Originally Posted by billr View Post
Although I agree air in the system is a likely culprit, why not do the simple "wire test" before fussing with the hydraulics?
Can you tell me a bit more about this "wire test"? How much disassembly is required? Where can I read about how to do this? Thanks.

(Have been doing a search on this-- ok I found a link -- but can't see this illustrations expanded to large size, get forum error message --)
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Old 09-17-2022, 09:49 AM   #8
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Default Re: Saturn SL-1 clutch not *fully* dis-engaging

No disassembly required.
Link: http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...78&postcount=1
I happened to save the pictures for later...attached to post.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Clutch_travel.JPG (31.7 KB, 8 views)
File Type: jpg Access_Hole.JPG (58.5 KB, 7 views)
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Old 09-17-2022, 01:42 PM   #9
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Default Re: Saturn SL-1 clutch not *fully* dis-engaging

I am wondering about the repeated comments of the pedal having to be "almost all the way to the floor". I would never try to shift without the pedal being all the way to the floor. That is the only condition in which it is supposed to be fully disengaged.

I replaced two clutches earlier this year; LUK 41-115 with only pressure-plate, friction disk, and TO bearing. Both initially engaged very close to the floor, but they both did disengage properly with the pedal all the way down.
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Old 09-17-2022, 09:11 PM   #10
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Default Re: Saturn SL-1 clutch not *fully* dis-engaging

Quote:
Originally Posted by billr View Post
I am wondering about the repeated comments of the pedal having to be "almost all the way to the floor". I would never try to shift without the pedal being all the way to the floor. That is the only condition in which it is supposed to be fully disengaged.

I replaced two clutches earlier this year; LUK 41-115 with only pressure-plate, friction disk, and TO bearing. Both initially engaged very close to the floor, but they both did disengage properly with the pedal all the way down.
Thanks for the note. Of course, I too would never intentionally try to shift without the clutch pedal being all the way down, except maybe as a one-time special diagnostic test. Basically what my mechanic was alerting me to, was that after the work, on shifting, I could expect the clutch to re-engage when the pedal had only come a short distance off the floor, where as before, it needed to come up much higher. That's a good thing for a driver to be aware of. (I guess I said it the other way around, that he was telling me when it would disengage -- maybe I should edit that to make it more clear. It's when it will re-engage, is that is most pressing interest to the driver, and that's undoubtedly the way he phrased his comment to me. But the two parameters seem likely to -- usually-- be highly correlated to each other. Certainly with a simple direct mechanical linkage you'd expect them to be essentially 100% correlated, right?)

I'm about 95 to 99% sure that the condition I'm seeing it now, where there is subtle but detectable evidence that the clutch is not quite fully disengaged even with the pedal *all the way down*, is not the condition the mechanic returned the car to me when he did the clutch work a few months back.

Last edited by steve seibel; 09-17-2022 at 09:19 PM.
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Old 09-17-2022, 09:13 PM   #11
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Default Re: Saturn SL-1 clutch not *fully* dis-engaging

Quote:
Originally Posted by fetchitfido View Post
No disassembly required.
Link: http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...78&postcount=1
I happened to save the pictures for later...attached to post.
Thanks *MUCH* for the re-posted pics in your last post above; helps greatly.
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Old 09-18-2022, 12:54 AM   #12
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Default Re: Saturn SL-1 clutch not *fully* dis-engaging

Quote:
Originally Posted by fetchitfido View Post
No disassembly required.
Link: http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...78&postcount=1
I happened to save the pictures for later...attached to post.
OK-- results of wire test and clutch pedal travel test--

Clutch pedal travel-- ok, there's a bit of freeplay (about 10mm) at the top of travel, gravity usually pulls it down to the bottom of the freeplay.

Pedal goes way essentially to the floor and almost appears to be being blocked by the carpet, but it isn't quite.

Measuring from top of freeplay travel is 155 mm, measuring from bottom of freeplay travel is 145mm. Specification is 135 to 156 mm. Seems good there, right?

Wire test-- it was a bit hard to line everything up to make marks exactly consistently with clutch in and out but the results were about 8.45mm of travel, maybe +/- .5 mm , or +/- 1 mm at very most. That falls short of specified minimum travel of 11.18 mm. Thus indicating a problem with the clutch hydraulic actuation, right?

So-- next question-- how to tell if the problem is air in the system-- (given that I know that the fluid in the clutch reservoir got extremely low before I added some), or some other problem with the slave or master cylinder?
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Old 09-18-2022, 01:29 AM   #13
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Default Re: Saturn SL-1 clutch not *fully* dis-engaging

Quote:
Originally Posted by steve seibel View Post
OK-- results of wire test and clutch pedal travel test--

...

Wire test-- it was a bit hard to line everything up to make marks exactly consistently with clutch in and out but the results were about 8.45mm of travel, maybe +/- .5 mm , or +/- 1 mm at very most. That falls short of specified minimum travel of 11.18 mm. Thus indicating a problem with the clutch hydraulic actuation, right?

So-- next question-- how to tell if the problem is air in the system-- (given that I know that the fluid in the clutch reservoir got extremely low before I added some), or some other problem with the slave or master cylinder?
Retook the measurements -- got 8.5 mm this time; 8.9 at the very outside. And http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/showthread.php?t=94634 says "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."

So-- next question-- how to tell if the problem is air in the system-- (given that I know that the fluid in the clutch reservoir got extremely low before I added some), or some other problem with the slave or master cylinder?

Thanks
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Old 09-18-2022, 07:47 AM   #14
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Default Re: Saturn SL-1 clutch not *fully* dis-engaging

maybe a bit of a brute-force attack to bleed the hydraulics but i have found that rapidly depressing (fully!) and releasing the clutch pedal for a minute or two can really sort out some of these weird air bubbles. no points for elegance but it has gotten me results in the past. the slave cylinder is lower than the master cylinder so air bubbles will tend to rise until they get to the reservoir. just my 2Ę but it's worth a shot.
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Old 09-18-2022, 09:37 AM   #15
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Default Re: Saturn SL-1 clutch not *fully* dis-engaging

With hydraulic systems like brake lines and clutch lines, there's no real return path for the fluid to take (like a power steering or auto transmission hydraulic system). Unless you open the far end and prevent new air from entering the near end pretty much all you do is move the bubble(s) back and forth. The S-Series hydraulic system is bled at the manufacturing level then sealed off, unless the replacement master or slave has a bleeder screw in it there's no surefire way to get air out.

Rapidly pumping the pedal I wouldn't expect to work, but it's free to try and cheaper than buying another set of hydraulics.
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Old 09-18-2022, 09:39 AM   #16
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Default Re: Saturn SL-1 clutch not *fully* dis-engaging

Pulling out the hydraulics is not hard. Try that bleeding procedure I linked. It it gets better, it was air.
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Old 09-18-2022, 10:44 AM   #17
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Default Re: Saturn SL-1 clutch not *fully* dis-engaging

Quote:
Originally Posted by fetchitfido View Post
With hydraulic systems like brake lines and clutch lines, there's no real return path for the fluid to take (like a power steering or auto transmission hydraulic system). Unless you open the far end and prevent new air from entering the near end pretty much all you do is move the bubble(s) back and forth.
that is very much true, but the air is still lighter than the fluid. with an upward-sloping fluid path, by agitating the fluid the air slowly rises towards the reservoir. i believe this is a design feature and one reason no stock provisions for bleeding were provided.

i'm not saying i agree with this design, and i certainly wish a means of bleeding had been provided stock, but i've spent enough time working out bubbles in stock clutch hydraulics to confidently say that pumping the clutch pedal, and hence master cylinder, definitely gets results.
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Old 09-18-2022, 11:23 AM   #18
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Default Re: Saturn SL-1 clutch not *fully* dis-engaging

The plus of pumping the slave, instead of the master, is that it pushes the bubbles in the correct direction so they may be able to escape via the reservoir.
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Old 09-18-2022, 11:55 AM   #19
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Default Re: Saturn SL-1 clutch not *fully* dis-engaging

I think he basic problem with bleeding these is that goofy "can" in the middle of the line. It looks like a built-in bubble trap! I cut one open, still couldn't figure out what purpose it serves...

PS: be sure there isn't a new carpet pad or rumple in the carpet that is preventing the clutch pedal from going all the way down
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Old 09-19-2022, 12:41 AM   #20
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Default Re: Saturn SL-1 clutch not *fully* dis-engaging

Quote:
Originally Posted by ultravioletnk View Post
maybe a bit of a brute-force attack to bleed the hydraulics but i have found that rapidly depressing (fully!) and releasing the clutch pedal for a minute or two can really sort out some of these weird air bubbles. no points for elegance but it has gotten me results in the past. the slave cylinder is lower than the master cylinder so air bubbles will tend to rise until they get to the reservoir. just my 2Ę but it's worth a shot.
It seemed that helped. I pumped it hard like that for about 5 minutes straight. Later I noticed that with clutch pedal full down and engine running, there is no longer any slight drop in the rpm on the tach, or slight tendency for the car to creep forward or back, when I shift into first or reverse. The clutch pedal *definitely* now must be let rise a slight distance (guessing possibly as much as 3/4"?) off the bottom of the travel before the car starts to creep forward or back, showing that the clutch is starting to engage. In fact I'm not 100% that that's any different than the situation when I got the car back from the mechanic after he replaced the clutch about three months back. Maybe the pedal had to come up a little higher before starting to engage, but maybe not. Anyway it's way improved over what I described at the start of this thread, when there was evidence it was still partly engaged even with the pedal *fully* down.


Then I did the "wire test" again and came out with a distance of 10.8 mm, which is still below the 11.2 minimum referenced in an earlier post, but an improvement over the 8.5 to 8.9 mm I measured yesterday.

There was some evidence that the hydraulic fluid level in the reservoir had dropped slightly. It's always hard to check that with precision because of the way the diaphragm pushes out a bunch of fluid if you fill the reservoir anywhere near the top, but the level was about 1/4" below the line that goes all the circumference of the reservoir, and that line is usually where the fluid level seems to end up if you fill it to near the top and then let the diaphragm push some out as you close the lid, and then open the lid again to see where the level ended up. (BTW the "Wagner" brand replacement master cylinder I picked up, but haven't installed, lacks this particular line. It's a slight bend or angle in the interior wall of the reservoir, not an actual inscribed line, and may not really be intended to serve as a reference line of any kind.)

I think I'm going to go pump it hard for a longer period of time, and then do the "wire test" one more time, then decide how to proceed next-- pull the system off to bleed it more comprehensively as advised, or call it good, or replace all the hydraulics as a unit. *If* the reservoir was anywhere near full when I got the car back from the mechanic a few months ago after he replaced the clutch and the slave cylinder (but not the master cylinder), then obviously there's a significant leak somewhere.

Thanks for the advice so far. It's all appreciated, even the parts that I haven't followed (yet)--

Last edited by steve seibel; 09-19-2022 at 12:51 AM.
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