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.
In that case... a word of warning for her. The problem *could* be in the
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.
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?
That sure sounds like the clutch master or slave cylinder has failed
(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.)
Replacement clutch runs around $600.00. Easy to check the operation of the
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
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!
Depending on her driving experience and adventurousness, there is also the
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
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.
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
Good deal! I still recommend replacing the slave cylinder at the same time
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.
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.
As far as all other advise, I agree.
My 2 cent's worth:
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
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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