Accord Manual Transmission question

My daughter is driving a 94 Accord LX (5 speed manual transmission). She says that it has become difficult to shift when the car is cold - particularly difficult to get into reverse. The car has approximately
90,000 miles. She's too far away to do any "hands on" diagnostics so I'm going to advise her to take it in for service.
Just looking for some advice and suggestions from the internet experts so she can be prepared for the "mechanic vs. young lady" negotiation ;-)
Thanks for any advice.
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clutch, but she should thank any shop that wants to start there for their time and move to another one. The most likely cause, and the right place to start in any case, is with the gear box lubricant. It would be a good idea (and affordable) to drain the old lubricant and refill it with Honda Manual Transmission Lubricant (MTL). Since it is already being troublesome it doesn't make sense to use any substitute, which can cause balky shifting anyway. Similarly, just "topping up" the fluid can leave it mostly filled with inadequate lubricant.
If a shop recommends that as the first step, it is probably going to do right if more is required. I don't think any more will be necessary.
One check she can do is to push the clutch in while at a *complete* stop (parking brake set) and gently hold the shifter against the reverse position. If it willingly shifts into reverse after several seconds delay the lubricant level is probably low or the lube is no longer lubricating well. It also means the clutch is almost certainly not the problem - in that case it wouldn't get better as she waits for the gears to spin down. If it still resists, the next step is to get it into reverse (while still stopped), then shift back into neutral and again into reverse, while holding the clutch down the entire time. It should slip right back into reverse because the gears are still lined up. If the tranny doesn't want to go right back into reverse it is because the gears have moved, and that means the clutch is dragging. Repair of that involves clutch replacement, since addressing any of the reasons for a clutch dragging requires 90% or more of the labor of clutch replacement. Most people elect to live with that until they get a windfall to pay for it or until they trade the car off.
Mike
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Thank you very much Mike. That's exactly the kind of advice I was hoping for.
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ooops! Some more details just came in. She went out to use her car this morning and can't get it out of first gear. Not even to nuetral. Says the clutch pushes in and there seems to be enough resistance to indicate that a cable or something simple isn't broken. Says the pedal doesn't just spring back to the "home" position though.
Sound like a clutch replacement? Any ballpark costs if it is?
Thanks again
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(although it could simply be low on fluid... caused by a failing cylinder.) The master cylinder is in the engine compartment on the top of the firewall, in front of the driver. It is the smaller cylinder farther outboard than the brake master cylinder. The fluid reservoir is on top of that. IIRC it requires fluid that at least is specified to be "Honda compatible." If the level is low there is about a 100% chance one of the cylinders (master or slave) is leaking. It is very rare for an actual clutch failure to cause the pedal not to return.
My experience that replacing either clutch cylinder alone is inviting the other to fail within a couple months, with all the aggravation that goes along with it. Doing them both at the same time is the way to go.
The parts are the main cost... I'd guess in the $200 range for genuine Honda and 1/2 to 3/4 that for good rebuilts. Unlike starters and alternators, the rebuilt cylinders from almost any source should provide good service. Add about an hour labor, or as much as two hours depending on how the job is priced by the garage, and she should be in good shape. This is also consistent with her other symptoms since the clutch may not have been disengaging when she pressed it.
Calling around for quotes on the specific job (replacement of both clutch cylinders) will probably yield quite a range of prices. The job is almost too simple to mess up - any DIYer who has done brakes can do the clutch cylinders - so the best quote from any place she feels comfortable with or is recommended by a friend is a good way to go.
Filling the reservoir and warming up the engine may be enough to get it working halfway again, but it will deteriorate in a hurry so I don't recommend relying on getting it anywhere. It makes a mobile mechanic look attractive. Or...if she has a DIYer in her circle of friends who has successfully replaced a brake master cylinder, it is a couple hours work for amateurs with decent wrenches and sockets plus a brake bleeding hose. It is all done while standing up and leaning over, except pedal adjustment under the dash, and the areas are easy to access (except the pedal, of course.)
Mike
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ZRexRider wrote:

refill and bleed, and keep refilled. that'll keep her going until the replacements you order come in.
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master/slave setup -- and I believe that vintage Honda did not use a cable like the INtegra. A clue would be a lack of fluid in the master cylinder reservoir. If there is fluid a simple operation of the clutch to see if the slave moves the clutch at that point. Pouring fluid in the master reservoir is problematic because the system may have to bled to work properly.
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Just went through this on a '94 Civic. The fluid was gone in the clutch reservoir. Leaky slave. I drove an our to my son's college, filled it with fresh DOT 4 and pumped it up enough to get it home and replace the slave.
If she is savvy enough to put fluid in, she can probably pump it up enough to get it to a shop and save the tow, but she is going to want to drive it this way, and worry about the fix when she "Has Time" (yes, I know kids). Make her take it straight to the shop, leaky fluid will eat paint, and if it's leaking, she could damage her car, and the car behind her!
G-Man

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option of driving with the clutch stuck "engaged." You know the drill: start in gear (with the useless clutch pedal depressed), shift slowly and gently by listening to the gears rattle as you match the engine speed to the new gear....
My only real caveats there are to warm up the engine in neutral first to avoid combining a cold start with starting in gear, and not to try it where she might have to stop on a significant upslope. In hilly areas that definitely relegates driving clutchless to an emergency situation.
Mike
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Thanks Everybody!
My daughter's friend is helping her out. She followed the advice produced by all of you and had him check the hydraulics first. Sure enough - Master cylinder leaks, fluid level dropped too low. Charging her $200 to replace it and re-fill the system.
Hopefully it ends there but it sure was nice getting some good pointers.
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if she can afford that. It's an even easier job than the master cylinder, but it isn't all that big a deal to keep an eye on the fluid level either. The cylinder will probably start leaking before it quits altogether, which will give her some warning. The only duplicated labor then is the filling and bleeding of the system... no biggie.
Mike
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ZRexRider wrote:

--------------------------------
There's two 'brake fluid' reservoirs under her hood. The one for the clutch sounds like it's LOW on fluid. It's the tiny one. She needs some DOT3, and if she's lucky it will pump out the air the first time she tries it. Tell her not to shake the can before pouring (it's not paint) and to keep a dampened rag handy in case she spills ANY. If she does, she should wash the spill area with soapy water. Tell her to put some fluid in the other reservoir too.
'Curly'
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My 2 cent's worth:
Cent #1: I had a 95 del sol. Took it in for a major maintanance. They drained the manual trans fluid, but did not put new fluid back. I drove for a week with no problems. Then went on a long trip (more than my normal 30 minute commute), and the trans failed after an hour and a half of driving. Destroyed a couple of gears. You can guess the rest (By the way, the dealer accepted all responsibility... replaced all damaged parts (with a salvaged trans) and replaced a 150,000 mile clutch in the deal). Lesson 1: even severe abuse/damage may not be immediately apparrent, low fluid levels can do severe damage without immediate symptoms. If you park on gravel and/or do not pay attention to the spots under your car when you drive away, you may not know you have a leak.
Cent #2: Under extreme cold conditions, hard shifting is not uncommon, at least until everything warms up. There are trans fluids, other than Honda branded ones, that may give better cold start performance. Red-line has been reccommended to me before. Just make sure that what you use is appropriate to your car.
Oh well... it was worth every penny you paid for it.
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ZRexRider wrote:

Sometimes fresh transmission fluid can help in such a situation. I would change it out with the correct Honda dealer oil and see if anything changes.
John
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