Clutch Problems?  Solutions by V8 Archie!

Manual transmissions are MORE FUN, but do require some maintenance and occasional replacement of parts. Most questions I hear have to do with bleeding the system or inadequate release of the clutch when the clutch pedal is engaged. The final part of this three part series appears in this issue. Here are my tips on this subject!!!

Fiero Clutch: Symptoms & Cures

Others may have discussed some of these cures long ago, however, I would like to make this section reflect the collective knowledge of all those who have come before be they here, moved along, or in Fiero heaven.

The symptoms:

A) The car moving when starting the engine with the transmission in gear and the clutch pushed in.

B) Hard to shift into reverse or first gear with the engine running.

C) You say, "I just put a new clutch in and it still does not work right."

D) You can get it into gear, but it grinds.

E) You push the pedal all the way to the floor to engage.

What to look for:

1) Obvious leaks: You cannot expect it to work if you have a puddle on the floor!

2) Is it bled properly? You can put in a new pedal or replace all the parts, but if you bleed it the way the books tell you it will never work.

3) Do you have the steel pedal? In my opinion, the Aluminum pedal causes 95% of the above symptoms. If you want your new clutch to last a long time, or your old one to last longer, check the clutch pedal. 1984 thru 1986 originally had aluminum pedals and they have an inherent design flaw. If you have the aluminum pedal I HIGHLY recommend replacing it with the steel pedal PN 10066423. Since GM has discontinued this part, if you cannot find a used one, the Fiero Store has recently added this item as their part number is 66423 listed at $29.95.

4) You have the steel pedal and still have the symptoms: Check this note: Some factory built '87 & '88 Fieros were miss-assembled and the banjo was put onto the pedal up side down. Make sure your banjo is mounted with the loop facing in the UP position. Also, I have seen one case where the factory installed steel pedal had a similar problem (to the aluminum pedal) and when replaced with a new steel pedal the problem was cured (I feel this would be quite rare, but even GM is not perfect). In addition, check for other cures in the hydraulic system below.

5) You have checked the above problems and are still looking for a cure: Your problem could still be a leak!!! Carefully peel back the carpeting under the clutch pedal and inspect for a master cylinder leak. You see, the fluid leaks around the piston into the boot then runs out of the boot down behind the carpeting in the driver’s side foot well. The only way to discover this type of leak, aside from removing the carpet, is to look/feel for fluid under the carpet in the area where the master cylinder enters the passenger compartment. In all cases of a leak and some cases of air in the system an observation can be made. With a helper in the car have them push the pedal in all the way and hold it while you closely observe the clutch arm (in the engine compartment). As the pedal is depressed you will see the arm moving toward the engine, hold the pedal in and closely observe the arm. Does it retain its position or does it slowly begin to return (move away from the engine)? Observe for at least a full minute. If it does start to return you have got a LEAK SOMEWHERE or a lot of air in the system.

6) If you are always "topping off" the reservoir on the clutch master cylinder and you have read this far then you missed something…. you have got a leak somewhere.

Here are some observations I have made on the way to somewhere else:
A) The Pontiac owner’s manual states that the Fiero clutch is self-adjusting. In truth, it is not adjustable.
B) The bore size of the Master Cylinder and the Slave Cylinder is the same size.
C) Through one full stroke of the clutch pedal, the piston in the Master Cylinder moves 1.20" maximum.
D) Because of C) the maximum travel of the piston in the bore of the slave cylinder is 1.20"
E) To properly operate the stock Fiero Clutch you need 1.15" of travel in the hydraulic system to properly engage and dis-engage the clutch.
F) Because of E) any inefficiency in the operation of the total system, (i.e. leaks or bad pedal or banjo on upside down) will cause one or more of the symptoms listed in the start of this posting.
G) The Fiero Master cylinder has a "bleed back hole" inside of it. This feature relieves line pressure when the pedal is all the way out; thus preventing the T.O. bearing from riding against the clutch while engaged.
H) Because of G) changing the length on the slave cylinder shaft (runs between the slave and the clutch arm) will not correct any of our symptoms.
I) The act of changing the length on the slave cylinder shaft has only one effect on the operation of the system; it changes the relative position of the beginning and ending points of the piston travel in the slave cylinder bore. It will not change its efficiency.
J) Too long of a shaft will cause the piston to "bottom out" in the back of the slave bore making the pedal not return to its full up position and thus not allowing the "bleed back hole" to do its job.
K) Too short of a shaft will cause the piston to run into its stop (a snap ring) at the end of the bore. If the piston reaches the end of the bore before the pedal is fully depressed the banjo will bend, a bad thing. So, change the length of that shaft with caution knowing that Archie told you it would not do any good.
L) No amount of praying will make a ruined clutch work any better, although it might get you home.
M) Replacement of the stamped steel clutch arm on the transmission with the cast one is way over rated. While its being replaced will not hurt anything, I have only seen bad ones on about 3% of the cars I have worked on.
N) While some advocate replacement of the master and slave cylinders, I have only replaced one master and three slave cylinders on the over 100 Fieros I have worked on; a failure rate of some 2%.
O) Oh!!! Did I mention that having the banjo mounted upside down screws up the geometry, thus negating the effects of B), C), D) & E).
P) Another problem I have seen is loose or missing transmission to engine attaching bolts. Believe it or not a couple of loose bolts will cause our discussed symptoms.
Q) Also check the slave cylinder mounting to ensure that the slave cylinder is not moving or flexing on its mounts.