My son tells me that he is experiencing clutch chatter (he did not know what
it is until he described it to me) on his 03 Civic when cold on initial
start off. The car has only 44k miles, which suggests he has not taken care
of the clutch as perhaps he should have since I have gone past 100k on many
manual shifts with no clutch problems. He tells me the clutch should be a
simple replacement he and a friend can do since it appears you do not have
to remove the engine or tranmission. I suggested that he would be better
off having the dealer replace it (my only experience with clutches dates
back to late 60s Vettes). My estimate of the cost to him was around
$500.00. He thinks that's too high and the job is within his capabilities.
Any recommendations on this undertaking. Is he correct. What about cost at
the local Honda dealer?
If he's hooked on DIY, he should just change the MTF (get ti at Honda
dealer) and see if it solves his 'problem'. He should also bleed the
clutch while he bleeds the brakes (overdue). A Civic of that age
shouldn't have any troubles unless he's been using it to pull tractors
out of the mud :-(
Replace the clutch without removing the transmission? Dunno... the only one
I've done on a FWD car was on my son's Acura. The tranny had to rotate about
30 degrees when it went into place so the tranny jack was useless. I
actually pulled a muscle in my face trying to get it in position and seated.
Really - it hurt for days.
It may seem odd, but he should try a bottle of injector cleaner and give it
a tankful to see if it helps. Dirty injectors often show up at low rpms and
high load - the conditions that he complains about. It's cheap, easy, and
can't hurt. I've had pretty good results.
highly unlikely that it's the clutch at that mileage. investigate for
oil leaks. iirc, there was a similar clutch problem reported here a
while ago and it was a broken friction plate spring, but at much higher
mileage. that kind of fault is uncommon though. as curly says,
eliminate all the simple stuff first.
if replacement /is/ necessary, it's not that easy - need at least to
have sufficient room to fit the alignment dowel for the friction disk
before bolting down the pressure plate - and you really need to have the
transmission out of the way to do that properly. trust me on this - you
don't want to try mating a transmission up to a misaligned clutch.
unless he has some experience, i don't think this is a first time
amateur job. at least go to a junk yard and mess about with with some
scrap vehicles first to get an idea of what's involved. but if learning
is not the objective, if you do that and price the time, it's probably
cheaper to pay a shop to do it.
Chatter is usually due to heat checking on the flywheel, or a bent
friction disc, both caused by abuse. If he's been particularly brutal
with the clutch (drag racing, showing off), it's possible to badly
damage those parts very quickly.
Chatter can also result from oil on the friction disc, something that's
highly unlikely at this car's age.
Tranny HAS to come off. Also the lower balljoints and the driveshafts.
It's a very big job to do in your driveway without a hoist.
Then let him do it, on one condition: It's HIS responsibility to pay for
bent input shafts ($$$$), and HIS responsibility to get it to a garage
when he can't get the splines to line up after trying all night.
He'll pay close to $1,000 at a dealer, including parts, taxes, and
flywheel resurfacing (if they'll do that instead of replacing the
It's worth paying $90 to have the dealer properly diagnose this
"chatter", to make sure it's not something that will go unsolved after
the expenditure of ten times that amount.
That's an exaggeration, TeGGeR. Shoot, with moderate experience and very
careful use of the clutch alignment tool before reassembly I got my son's
tranny in place in about an hour or so. Of course, most of that time was
spent wrestling with an 80 pound irregularly shaped freezing hunk of metal
inches from my chest (remember, it mustn't put any appreciable weight on the
input shaft so the only way to rest is to take it completely back down)
while trying blindly to get it to line up within less than a mm in two
dimensions and in two axis... but since I didn't have nightmares about it
later it couldn't have been that bad, right? <8^P
Seriously, 'tww', you don't want to get into this if you have any choice. It
is one of the most physically demanding and frustrating things you can do on
a car. If you can use a transmission jack (I couldn't because the tranny had
to rotate once in position) it is less demanding but is no quicker - it can
still take forever to find the magic position. Every time I've put a tranny
back up I've wondered "Why won't it seat? It looks perfect except it won't
go together that last cm."
Appreciate the info from all. I have this before on a 69 Vette on
jackstands. And, you had to remove the transmission. Frankly, I don't think
he has the expertise despite training on motorcycle repair. I will have to
drive the car myself to see exactly what the problem is -- and I hope it is
not abuse. Heck -- why race a 115 hp Civic.
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