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Shifting problem, civic won't go into gear

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Shifting problem, civic won't go into gear

Old 08-06-2007, 07:38 AM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 5
Default Shifting problem, civic won't go into gear

Hi there,
I have a 1997 Civic EX manual with 155k miles I cannot get to shift without ramming and grinding the gears into place.

I am a DIY kind of person, but my brother typically helps me out with car work. He's out of the country for a year so I'm on my own with this one! I'm looking for advice on how to troubleshoot and repair this problem. I'll give as many details as I can, sorry if this ends up pretty long.

The problem started about 3 weeks ago. I suddenly noticed that the gears required a lot of pressure to shift into place. The problem quickly grew worse, and nearly stranded my wife once, so I started checking things under the hood. To my embarrassment, I found the clutch reservoir was completely dry. So I added fluid and had a friend help me pump the pedal while I opened and closed the bleeder valve. The fluid that came out was very dark, almost black, so we bled it until it ran clear with the new fluid. Now, I was watching carefully, but never really noticed any air coming out of the bleeder valve. We went through 1 and 1/2 reservoir tanks of DOT3.

We took it for a test drive, and it seemed to work slightly better, shifting smooth a couple times, but most of the time it was still shifting hard. So my next thought was maybe the master cylinder was not getting enough pressure from the clutch pedal. In my old Civic (92), the clutch disengaged pretty quickly when the pedal was pushed down, but in this Civic I have to press it a bit further before it disengages. Never been a problem, but I figured I would check it out anyway.

So I adjusted the pedal to take out any extra free play, being careful not to put any pressure on the master cylinder. I seemed to gain 1/2 to 1 inch, and the pedal felt tighter and disengaged the clutch sooner, like my other Civic. This seemed to solve the shifting problem as it was back to shifting smoothly again and I thought I had the thing licked.

Now we fast forward to Saturday. Had my wife out about town for her birthday and suddenly the same problem happens, only this time it's very sudden without any warning. I cannot shift into gear AT ALL and am stranded at a light. After much time and coaxing, I manage to get it into 2nd, but cannot shift even with the clutch pedal pressed in fully. I am able to shift using the rolling method, matching the RPMs to the speed of the car and grinding it in to get us home.

After doing much reading on these forums and comparing my symptoms, my theory is that the clutch may be fine, but is not disengaging for some reason. I can somewhat confirm this by a couple things.

For one, when I get the car into a gear, for example 2nd or reverse, the car begins moving slowly as if the clutch is slightly engaged, even though I have the clutch pedal to the floor. It does not feel squishy or weak like some people have said they experienced.

Second, while we were out, I tried turning the car off and starting it again while in gear, and it nearly didn't even start. It growled low and the lights dimmed like the battery was almost dead, but I think it was because the engine was partially engaged to the tranny.

All the gears shift through just fine when the engine is not running. I checked and rechecked the master cylinder and slave cylinder hoses and connectors for leaks, and everything appears dry.

Can running the master cylinder dry like I did damage anything?
Could it be a problem in the tranny or with the throw out bearing (I am unfamiliar with the throwout bearing, I have just read some about it) or is the Master Cylinder/Slave Cylinder to blame?

This is our only vehicle, so I am pretty short on time. I don't do any fancy driving, though according to some things I have read on these forums, I may be burning the clutch some (Holding the clutch down while in gear at a stoplight, giving it gas as I shift, etc.)
I believe everything to be stock, but can't be sure. I bought it used as rebuild at 114k. I am taking today to try and get this solved, any help you can offer is greatly appreciated!

Old 08-06-2007, 07:50 AM
HCF Member
Join Date: May 2006
Location: London, Ont.
Posts: 859
Default RE: Clutch / Master Cylinder? Manual shifting problem – won't go into gear

might be the slave cylinder, had that problem with my car, couldn't get it to go with the pedal pushed all the way in.
Old 08-06-2007, 09:24 AM
Recognized HCF Member
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 10,023
Default RE: Clutch / Master Cylinder? Manual shifting problem – won't go into gear

If the reservoir is dry again, pull back the boot on the slave cylinder and check for fluid leaking out. But if you still have fluid and it doesn't work, the master cylinder is dead. It's not terribly expensive to just replace both cylinders and be done with it.
Old 08-08-2007, 11:27 AM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 5
Default RE: Shifting problem, civic won't go into gear

Hey guys, thanks for the replies.
Here's an update on what I've done. I took the clutch master cylinder and slave cylinder off, took them apart and gave them a good cleaning. They seemed to be in pretty good shape. So I put them back together and back on the car, but still have the same problem.
I pulled back the boot that covers the slave cylinder and release fork and watched how far the rod pushed the release fork while someone pressed the clutch pedal in. It seemed to be working OK. I still have my old 92 civic parked, which is also a manual, so I took a look at the slave cylinder/release fork on it. Both cars appear to be working the same, with the slave cylinder pushing the release fork back just as far on both.
Does this effectively rule out the master and slave cylinder being the problem?
Here are pictures of both the master and slave cylinders:

So at this point I have to assume something in the transmission itself has gone out, perhaps the throwout/release bearing? I've begun to disassemble the transmission and will just have to see what I find inside. I am not totally sure of what I am looking at, so I can post pictures here if someone could give me some advice. Any other advice at this point on what the problem might be is appreciated.
Thanks again, David
Old 08-08-2007, 11:36 AM
Recognized HCF Member
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 10,023
Default RE: Shifting problem, civic won't go into gear

If you're sure the cylinder is making full travel, then it is something within the clutch assembly itself. I'd still consider a new master cylinder just to be sure.

A bad throwout bearing will make lots of noise when you push the clutch pedal in, so probably not that. Could be a multitude of things like cracked disk or cover, lever not moving properly, little spring on the lever gone, bad pilot bearing. What's in common to all that stuff is the transmission needs to come out to work on any of it, but it's not a big deal since you like taking stuff apart anyway.

Technically you're not going inside the transmission, it's in the clutch area between the engine and transmission.
Old 08-09-2007, 07:31 AM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 5
Default Cannot seperate transmission!

Thanks so much for the posts. Even though I am not 100% sure what the problem is, from everything I am gathering I have growing confidence that something is going on between the transmission and engine, and pulling this thing is the best thing to do at this point to figure it out.

So I've been working the past couple days on disconnecting everything from the transmission (Thankfully, I work from home so I have the time available), and am ready to pull the bell housing from the engine. But I cannot for the life of me get it to go! The instructions simply say:

19. Pull the transmission away from the engine until it clears the mainshaft, then lower it on the transmission jack.
CAUTION: Take care not to bend the clutch line.

One side of it has a nice split going, so my thought is that the split would continue on around. But it hasn't. The other side is holding on like there is still a bolt there. But I've been over and over the manual detailing every bolt, and all of them are removed. I've also been all over the housing and find nothing else that can be removed.

So it seems I am stuck here until I get a break through, literally. Does anyone have any experience and advice with this part of it? I've tried hitting the housing from all sides with a mallet to loosen it up, I've hoisted the engine and transmission together to match each other, I've got a come-along AND ratchet strap putting pull pressure on from the end of the transmission, shoot I've been under the car with my foot against the housing kicking and shoving with everything I've got while holding onto the rotor until the whole car seems it's going to rock off the blocks!

What gives?

I know I need to pull it straight out and have attempted to adjust everything multiple times to ensure I am putting directly pressure away from the engine. I've put a screw driver in the side with a crack and gently pryed/twisted, but that doesn't seem to separate it any more

I've taken some more pictures here for details. If you have any ideas, I could use them! Thanks!

Old 08-09-2007, 07:43 AM
HCF Member
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Posts: 5,180
Default RE: Cannot seperate transmission!

I had that same problem with a diff housing one time. Turned out I didn't remove one bolt. Anyway, I would try using a pry bar. Start at the part of the trans where it is completly split and move to where it is not at all split. The act of prying it might show where and why it isn't completly spliting apart. Be careful though, because if there is a bolt or something in the way and you pry it hard, it will break.
Old 08-09-2007, 08:40 AM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 5
Default RE: Cannot seperate transmission!

After 2 days of wrestling with this thing, I finally found it. Sure enough, it was 1 bolt holding it all on. The crummy diagram I have makes it appear the bolt is above the starter - and there was a bolt there, which I took out. But the actual bolt holding it together is sandwiched between the starter and the transmission. I found it by doing the exact steps you mentioned with the crowbar Agent, and when I crammed my head down inside the cavity, I barely saw the corner of another bolt under there.

I am both relieved and frustrated. I can finally move on, but I should have been here two days ago! Oh well, that's the way it goes sometimes. Once I got the bolt out, the whole things simply slipped off, very easily. Must have been all that pounding I did hehe. Anyway, I hope I haven't tweaked or damaged the housing/rods/transmission in any way with all the force I was putting on it.

Off to take the clutch plates apart...
Old 08-11-2007, 07:44 AM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 5
Default And the winner is...

Done. Finally finished up the job yesterday, and the new clutch works great!!

All my hopes came true in that I was able to see the problem once I pulled the tranny. At first everything looked like it was in OK shape. But after a closer look I found the problem. It turns out that a piece of metal broke off the clutch disk, worked it's way around the disk, and lodged itself inside the diaphragm, keeping it from disengaging. This would explain the intermittent and then sudden symptoms I was seeing. This piece of metal was flying all around in there, and it looks like it did some grinding in the process.

I bought a new clutch kit and just went ahead and replaced everything while I was in there - Clutch disk, diaphragm, and release bearing. Greased the release bearing and fork up really good, and boy does it feel smooth! The clutch pedal is smoother and softer than ever, I never really realized how tough it was to press down before.

Thanks everybody for your help and input, I really appreciate it. It feels good to have this one under the belt.

Take a look at the pictures!

Old 08-11-2007, 11:18 AM
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 23
Default RE: And the winner is...

Very nice pictures.
Excellant post , nice to have a web site at your hands to help someone out..

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