Alternate Method for Clutch Removal by Ken Campbell


I have just recently finished reviewing the article in the Nov/Dec Issue of Fiero Focus on “Replacing Your Fiero Clutch” by Jeff McCaffrey.  The method Jeff used of removing the entire engine/transaxle/cradle at once is good if you plan on doing a lot of engine work while replacing the clutch as Jeff did.  If the clutch is the only thing that will be replaced I recommend that you use a different method, which is similar to what is described in the GM Pontiac Fiero Service Manual (Haynes manual OK, but don’t use the  Chilton’s manual).  This method is simpler and can be done in your garage with only hand tools.  The description that follows is for a V6 Fiero, but should be similar for a four cylinder.  Here are the basic steps I followed during the two clutches that I replaced.


1.        Jack up the car to approximately waist height.  I put the front wheels on ramps and put a wooden 4”x4” or 6”x6” beam across two jack stands just in front of the engine cradle.  (Elmer Schild gave me this great idea)  This is just about the balance point for Fieros. So to keep it from teetering back, I added weight to the front. (I used 3-80# bags of concrete, one laying on the spare tire, and one in each of the driver’s and passenger’s foot area as far forward as possible.)


2.        Saturate the four-cradle mounting bolts with penetrating oil. Then, try to loosen them slightly, but don’t remove them yet!  (These #!#?#! bolts really like to rust in place)  Good Luck!  (I eventually had to cut out one of the front bolts.  Ask Paul Vargyas about the fun he had with a rear bolt!)


3.        I made a jig (similar to GM Part #J-28467) out of two wooden 2”x4”s which I wrapped a chain over to support the engine and transaxle from the engine lifting lugs.


4.        Disconnect and/or remove the following:

a)        Remove the rear wheels (Great time to do the rear brakes).

b)       Remove air duct between air cleaner and engine and disconnect the positive battery cable.

c)        Disconnect EGR tube at the EGR valve and remove exhaust cross over pipe heat shield and crossover pipe. (O2 sensor must be unplugged at the wire harness.  Be careful with the ERG tube since it likes to crack at the end weld and then must be replaced – very expensive!)

d)       Disconnect the transaxle shift cables and unbolt the clutch slave cylinder from the transaxle. (Don’t disconnect the slave cylinder hydraulics or let anyone push the clutch pedal until it is back in place).

e)        Remove the lower part of the rubber splash skirts from the cradle and disconnect the parking brake cable at the calipers and cradle.

f)        Separate the lower rear ball joints from the steering knuckle and disconnect the outboard end of the tie rods.

g)        Disconnect the speedometer sending unit (unplugs) and drain the transaxle.

h)       Remove all engine and transaxle mount bolts from the cradle.

i)         Put a jack under the back of the cradle and remove the two back cradle support bolts.  If everything is disconnected (I don’t think I forgot anything) the cradle with the exhaust system will pivot down in one piece.  Once this is down, move the jack to the front of the cradle and remove the front two cradle bolts.  The cradle with the exhaust system attached can be removed.  Now the engine and transaxle is hanging from the wooden 2”x4” jig.

j)         Carefully pop the axles out of the transaxle.  They are held to the transaxle sort of like an extension is held to a socket.  Be very careful since the transaxle housing is a very expensive aluminum casting.  (I use the flat end of a crow bar to sort of pry them out.  Sometimes having someone pulling slightly on the brake rotor while prying will help.)  Don’t let the axles hang down once they are loose since this could overextend the CV joints and cause them to be damaged. (I used a piece of coat hanger to wire them up.)

k)       Unbolt the inspection cover and transaxle from the engine.  Carefully lower the transaxle.  Again be careful not to let it fall.  (Falling could damage the expensive aluminum housing or you since you are probably underneath, guiding it.)


Now the clutch is exposed and accessible.  If the flywheel needs to be resurfaced (as usual) the starter is also accessible and needs to be removed first.  Like in Jeff’s article, I also had to replace the oil pan due to rust and it was caved in. (This unsolved mystery happened since my teenage son started driving the car.)


Reassemble in the reverse order.  The only hard part is lifting and aligning the transaxle to the clutch disk.  (Both times this took three people. One to lift, one to try to position it, and one to yank and wiggle it around until it finally lined up). Remember this engine is held up by the chain and is also swinging around as you move the transaxle.  Don’t get excited near completion and forget to refill the transaxle.


Replacing the clutch isn’t a real difficult project, but it is time consuming. (Don’t try it in a single weekend, maybe not even in two weekends!)  One person can do most of this project, but it is much easier with two people.  My teenage son, Scott, and his friend, Jim Chobot, were a great help to me.

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