No Clutch !

Submitted: Thursday, Aug 05, 2010 at 12:01
ThreadID: 80526 Views:4250 Replies:9 FollowUps:14
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This is long - but stick with it - made me think a bit.

I'm sure the 4wd gods drive Toyota's and are out to get us. They have tried several times in the last year but the Patrol keeps rolling and the issue almost invaribly turns out to be some sort of man made problem and not the cars fault, but I'm still trying to understand this one, maybe you can help ?

Briefly in the last few weeks we have bounced the car mercilessly over the Canning corrugations, run suspension torture tests thru local desserts and it has survived, so we took it on a typically Victorian winter mud slide recently which should have been easy on the mechanicals if less so on the body panels, then half an hour later while still on a slight downhill 4wd track I pushed
the clutch engaging 1st gear and the pedal went straight to the floor and didn't come back up.

Haven't experienced that since the regular clutch cable failures on a VW I had 40 years ago.

Before the failure I was coming down a moderate slippery slope, and I had to turn right to drop steeply into the bottom of a gully on Stillmans track.

Its a bad turn in these conditions, the sort where you just inch forward 3 or 4 inches and let the car stop and go again in an effort to not build momentum - there comes a point though where the car will just slide from the back end first thru the ooze, and you just have to turn into the slide.
I was only 20 meters from valley floor this time when the slipping began and turning into it directed the car to close to the edge where there were logs and branches the car had to negotiate.
You could feel the thumping underneath, but then a few seconds later its all over, your in the valley floor and need to accelerate fast to get the momentum to get up and out the otherside.

So first reactions !
Car is moving, clutch is on the floor but engaged, so I gently press the brakes to stall the car.

Its a whole 7 degrees and drizzling but I get out and look underneath - its clear, no caught up branches or anything.

What could have happened ?
Pop the bonnet, have I run out of clutch fluid ?
No ! there is no fluid on the ground either, so a hose can't have split.

Thoughts race thru your mind - I had the clutch replaced at 1/4 million clicks a few weeks ago and am a believer in the theory that whoever touched it last stuffed it up.

Ok, so I'm on the muddy but mild track by myself, its effectivily a dead end track but optimism shines, I got a phone signal, a full hot thermos, food in the car from last trip, I'm not going to die unless my wife finds out I got mud all over the mattress which is still setup inside the car.
This forrest is only 15km from Alexandra town, maybe for the first time ever I can get some value from that RACV top cover I took out before the Canning !
No thats not going to work - it would take a good 4wd rescue vehicle just to even get in here.

I have to get myself to somewhere where I can check things out more thoroughly, and that a tow truck has a chance to get to.

With the car still locked in first gear, I hit the starter and the car lurches forward and starts, I'm rolling at 5kmh, Yippee !
But you can't stop and I have to turn around to get out, and this track is narrow.

I note that I am sweating but have no choices but to take a leap of faith and stall the car and attempt a 3 point turn across this track, this will require multiple ingear starts and stalls on battery power on a slope!
Its a bit awkward, but with some tree touches I manage to complete the turn and begin a slow drive out to a flatter secondary dirt road and cleared area.

Get under the car and look around - something is strange, the clutch is operated by a lever that pokes out from the gearbox and is connected to a slave cylinder by a short pushrod.
It doesn't look right, the pushrod end should sit in a depression in the clutch lever, but its not , the pushrod appears to have popped out and is jammed alongside the lever.

Sorry about poor quality - but 1st picture is with the pushrod back in place and almost re-assembled.

2nd picture shows the slipped out pushrod to the left of the U shaped clutch lever.

Image Could Not Be Found

Image Could Not Be Found

Nothing actually looks broken though.

Just maybe if I could pull off the slave cylinder and put the rod back in place I could limp home.
A 14mm spanner should just get in there - but the bolts are seriously tight and the spanner slips off.

Lying in mud, poor light and cold, I think - this is bad, I just want to get out of here !
I realize though that this situation could make or break my efforts, it would be very easy to round this bolt and it will be all over.

Rarely actually do this, but reinforced by Bob Coopers survival course message
at recent Exploroz Wiluna lecture I stop, sit down and take the time to have a warming cup of coffee.
I need to get this seemingly straight forward matter right.
Then take almost 1/2 hour in this awkward situation to slowly clean the bolt head and fully seat the spanner, tapping it home with a hammer.
With gloves on, braced against the fuel tank and pulling on the short spanner as accurately as I can I applied every bit of force I could, the nut cracked, instant relief, but my hand flew backwards ramming deep into a bit of sharp stick and blood flowed generously.

The slave cylinder came off but dirt blood and oil was all around and I had to get out and clean up.
For some reason the bandage wouldn't stick so I put several tissues over the hand wound and held them on with 2 rubber bands.

Back under the car, I try and push the pushrod back into the cylinder, but it won't go !
I place a G-Clamp over it in an attempt to force it back in !
Idiot, this is a high pressure cylinder with no leaks, nothing is going to move it, you have to release the hydraulic pressure first.
I should have known this but you couldn't see the hydraulic line and my brain just didn't connect up the dots.

Time for more coffee.

A bit later, the nut was cracked, and the pushrod and its piston glided so smoothly back in.

10 minutes later everything is re-assembled and we are ready to give it a go, after I used an eye dropper to transfer some brake fluid to the now low clutch reservoir.

It takes a while and some pumping but slowly the clutch pedal shows resistance as air bubbles or whatever work there way out and another minute later the clutch pedal feels almost normal and we are out of here.

Its about 10 days later now but following an adjustment and clutch fluid bleed everything seems normal, no parts have been replaced and clutch feels better than ever.

Its hard to believe a complete failure has been recovered from with no apparent issues.
But I won't be happy until I have some logical reason as to how this
could of happened and what preventative actions may be taken.

My theory is that clutch may always have been adjusted to high and that fluid pressure just popped it over the edge one day maybe under the influence of being hit by a branch or servre car body shaking.

It has also been explained to me that a couple of mechanisms exist whereby the clutch is operated, the pushrod moves forward, a blockage or something prevents it from fully retracting and when operated a second time the pushrod simply moves out beyond its travel limit and pops out.

I guess the pushrod rod could have fallen out and been lost, but it just jammed, so maybe I am wrong and the 4wd gods drive Nissans after all.

Robin Miller

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Reply By: Member - Fred B (NT) - Thursday, Aug 05, 2010 at 12:25

Thursday, Aug 05, 2010 at 12:25
Hi Robin,
interesting story. I have a vague recollection of this happening on another vehicle... from memory, a Ford... but I can't be sure as it was a very very long time ago (for my memory that ..... pre 1984... I think.!
Took some doing to get it all functional again.
Fred B
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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Thursday, Aug 05, 2010 at 20:09

Thursday, Aug 05, 2010 at 20:09
Hi Fred

Yep , it wasn't so much the problem but the whole context of the situation that made it hard.

In a nice garage with lots of tools and lights I probably would have solved it in 10 minutes now nearly 3 hours.

But its another little lesson I have learnt about keeping yourself going in the bush.
Robin Miller

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Reply By: Gazal Champion - Thursday, Aug 05, 2010 at 12:45

Thursday, Aug 05, 2010 at 12:45
Hi Robin, there is every possibility that a stick came up and pushed the throw out for backwards and at the same time pushed the push rod to one side, and you would not have known till the next clutch depression, thereby creating the problem you encountered.

I used to get a similar problem with my XE falcon. It was a cable clutch which required a circlip to keep the outer case in its right place. Circlips used to drop out and clutch would go to the floor. Frightens the cr@p out of you the first time it does it in traffic.

Cheers, Bruce
At home and at ease on a track that I know not and
restless and lost on a track that I know. HL.

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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Thursday, Aug 05, 2010 at 17:50

Thursday, Aug 05, 2010 at 17:50
Stick theory is a possibilityBruce , it worries me though that it didn't happen directly after giving the car a hard time.

Still even when it happened I was on a less wild track and a sticl I didn't notice in the mud might still have been a culprit.

Agree it is a little scary - admittedly I wasn't in traffic like you may have been
but its a strange feeling when you can't just stop for fear of not going again
and you edge ever close to a dead end.
Could have been worse - I could have been facing a red light camera clicking a way at me not stopping and tearing thru traffic lights at 5kmh - wonder how they would have liked no clutch as an excuse !
Robin Miller

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Reply By: Member - mazcan - Thursday, Aug 05, 2010 at 16:32

Thursday, Aug 05, 2010 at 16:32
hi robin
i had the same thing happen to my petrol navara years back about 1989
i was in the bush getting wood and basicly making my own tracks in and out the open type trees and logs areas when i suddenly had no clutch and the pedal stayed on the floor

i was'nt in mud so on inspection found a stick had come up and dislodged the pushrod and it was in simular position to yours in the photo but luckily for me there was a scrape mark on the clutch housing and a small splinter of wood still jammed in next to the pushrod and it was in the middle of the day with plenty of light and i had a set of sockets to undo the bolts
i had to releash the clutch fluid pressure and remove the slave cylinder body and refit it then bleed it
i can under stand the plight you were in with mud and fading light and turning it around by stop stall/start method

and like you stated we dont always think clearly at first until we stop and take a breath or have a coffee in your case the mud probably elimated any signs of a stick or it may have been a direct hit in and out it's not the first time something like this has happened and wont be the last but it's very trying
it probably wont happen again to either of us again in a life time just put it down to experience
cheers barry
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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Friday, Aug 06, 2010 at 07:52

Friday, Aug 06, 2010 at 07:52
I hope your right about not happening again Barry.

The conditions do so affect the outcome don't they - just a really strong light would have even made things easier - still should be thankful that all all the things that could cause no-clutch this one was fixable in the field.
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Reply By: Member - MUZBRY(Vic) - Thursday, Aug 05, 2010 at 16:51

Thursday, Aug 05, 2010 at 16:51
Gday Robin
I'll go with the theory of the stick pushing the throw out lever and letting the rod fall.
Next time you need brake fluid, don't drink all the coffee, use it as fluid. You can clean and bleed the system later . If there is mud to be layed on , you know i don't mind !!!
Great place to be Mt Blue Rag 27/12/2012

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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Thursday, Aug 05, 2010 at 17:44

Thursday, Aug 05, 2010 at 17:44
Hi Muzbry

Had some coffee at Dandenong Plaza to-day and I reckon if I bottled it I could use it as grease as well as brake fluid it was so thick.

Robin Miller

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Follow Up By: Gazal Champion - Thursday, Aug 05, 2010 at 20:31

Thursday, Aug 05, 2010 at 20:31
Hi Guys, plain old water will suffice as modern brake fluid is water soluable. But be sure to clean the system out at your earliest chance. Modern hi temp brake fluids are hydroscopic, meaning they absorb water vapour out of the atmosphere and this causes hydraulic cylinders to corrode. This is one of the reasons why many advise changing brake fluid at regular intervals.
Cheers, Bruce.
At home and at ease on a track that I know not and
restless and lost on a track that I know. HL.

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Follow Up By: Member - MUZBRY(Vic) - Thursday, Aug 05, 2010 at 21:45

Thursday, Aug 05, 2010 at 21:45
Gday Robin
Try the Mad Cap cafe in the plaza. As the name says,,,its run by nutters,
I am in one of their training videos....i fit well.
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Reply By: Member - Christopher P (NSW) - Thursday, Aug 05, 2010 at 19:44

Thursday, Aug 05, 2010 at 19:44
Hey, good job in finding that we little problem and fix. me i carry spanners and sockets, no matter where i go. they pretty much sttay in the truck. in hindsight i think i'll be packing a little cheap insurance. if out in the mud a nice piece of tarp and a spare change of clothes, from now on. brake fluid bottle is under bonnet all the time, so have that available. same with some oil .

good job and a good effort.

Thank you for the tip as well.
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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Friday, Aug 06, 2010 at 08:00

Friday, Aug 06, 2010 at 08:00
I'm a bit like you in that Chris - and find that these days I keep more and more little bits in the car and hence at least have a chance at more types of fixes.

Didn't have spare set of clothes though.
Robin Miller

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Reply By: Member - Toyocrusa (NSW) - Thursday, Aug 05, 2010 at 20:37

Thursday, Aug 05, 2010 at 20:37
Hi Robin. I'm wondering why the dust boot around the clutch release fork is not engaged into the bell housing. Is it possible that the release fork for some reason froze for a split second on its way back to it's rest position. The pushrod normally relies on pressure from the fork to return it back inside the slave cylinder so if there was something like lack of lubrication on the fork ball or the inside of the release bearing( possibly from the boot not being engaged) it could slow the travell of the fork momentarily enough for the pushrod to drop out of the fork indent. Even though the clutch has been recently replaced I have seen people put them together without cleaning and relubricating these areas. Otherwise the stick theory sounds good. Regards,Bob.

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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Thursday, Aug 05, 2010 at 21:15

Thursday, Aug 05, 2010 at 21:15
I think that is an equally valid theory Bob , something could have frozen the fork return just long enough.

Another friend explained something like this to me and thought that maybe a spring in the actual clutch plate may have snagged also.

My picture doesn't fairly show the rubber boot position as I had disturbed it , but you have me thinking , it is quite a thick piece of rubber at the base and it was not properly on when I first looked at it, I didn't think about it much assuming that the jammed pushrod must have dislodged it, but its seems equally valid that a stick etc could have dislodged it causing it to stop that lever returning properly.

I still have to work through understanding the hydraulics as maybe an impurity etc stopped the return of high pressure fluid setting up a pop out on next use.

Robin Miller

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Follow Up By: Member - Toyocrusa (NSW) - Friday, Aug 06, 2010 at 06:33

Friday, Aug 06, 2010 at 06:33
Robin. I think if it was an impurity in the hydraulics then the pedal would have went "loose" as the fork would not have been able to return the pushrod back into the slave cylinder but would still have maintained pressure against it. There would have to have been a "gap" for the pushrod to fall out of the dimple which gets mainly back to something slowing the fork. You may have to set a camera for next time.LOL Bob.

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Reply By: Member - John Baas (WA) - Thursday, Aug 05, 2010 at 21:01

Thursday, Aug 05, 2010 at 21:01
Great story Robin, thks.

I'm one of EO's more mechanically challenged members so it's an inspirational effort.

I like another poster's idea about carrying a change of clothes. I'll do that from now on (I already do this in my boat). The sockets and the tarp's already there.

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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Friday, Aug 06, 2010 at 07:57

Friday, Aug 06, 2010 at 07:57
Thanks John - I have a theory about being challenged as well - " A problem always manifests itself such that you don't quite have the tools to fix it without undue pain" - but I might have plagerized that one from a guy name Murphy
Robin Miller

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Reply By: Charles Jenkinson - Friday, Aug 06, 2010 at 02:16

Friday, Aug 06, 2010 at 02:16
Great story, Robin.

I had a similar situation where the Nissan Gods must have been smiling, and my 80 Series blew the bottom seal out of its clutch master cylinder. I was driving through peak hour traffic in Perth city, while I was a University student. Luckily it wasn't in the bush!

At that stage I worked part time as the proprietor of an events management business, and was setting up for a wedding. Pulling aluminium trussing, intelligent lighting, sound and special effects gear in a trailer to the venue in Nedlands. Had to drive down Loftus Street/Thomas Road, and along Stirling Highway (for the Perth-ites, you'll know how busy these roads get during peak hour). I lost my clutch about 5 km into the trip, already in traffic. Ended up having to change gears without a clutch (although only with two grinds), and start in gear at traffic lights/other stops. Luckily the traffic flowed nicely between traffic lights, and wasn't stop-start. I had the RAC tow my 4WD to my mechanic after the truck was unpacked, and had a new master cylinder put in. Mechanic said he had never seen this particular seal blow! (This mechanic used to service my father's Lancier sports car when he was a University Student back in the 1960s. Maybe the Western Suburbs soccer vans he services never see the conditions that Gracie has seen...)

Luckily I had another vehicle of workers behind me and we were in UHF contact the entire time.

Perhaps this explains why 2nd gear sometimes is a little hard to find... Although I can give you another 360,000 reasons...

Changed my first clutch at 340K. Initially preferred the old one - had the better half take it down to the shopping centre a couple of weekends in a row when she bought the groceries. It soon felt a little more like the old one! :-)

Oh, and for the nay-sayers: I am not advocating driving without a clutch. In this case, my assessment of the situation was that it was better to get to my destination and have the car towed from there. I'm just lucky that my father taught me how to do it those years ago! It worked out for me that time, and I got the job done. I was glad to have the vehicle back with a working clutch that evening, though.

If only I could say that I fixed it myself :-)


Charles Jenkinson
Perth, Western Australia

Gracie "The Grey Ghost"
1991 Toyota Landcruiser GXL (HDJ80R)
4.2L 1HD-T Turbo Diesel
358,864 km and counting!

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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Friday, Aug 06, 2010 at 12:43

Friday, Aug 06, 2010 at 12:43
Wives and useful for some things all right Charles - I imagine that that drive through traffic stop/starting would have been harrowing and raised the stress levels. At least in my case the trees did not move very much - except one.
Robin Miller

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Reply By: Member - Bucky - Friday, Aug 06, 2010 at 05:37

Friday, Aug 06, 2010 at 05:37

Have you tried looking for answere, on the Partol forum ?
Strange happenings, but have you considered this ?
Is there a non return valve that can get stuck in either the server unit, or the fluid resevoir ?.
Maybe it's a simple spring attatched to a non return valve ?, that would cause a "double throw", like a tiny piece of crap may have snuck thru, that may have initially caused a very tight clutch, till it moved into or past the return valve, then caused the double throw .

I would have thought that the trip to Willuna, and the Canning would have caused damage there, as it happened, and not some time later, but fatigue is a strange thing.

And as you say, everything is now fine, and one thing is for sure, it will remain in the back of yoiur mind for some time, and the dredded "what if" syndrome has struck.

Cheers Mate
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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Friday, Aug 06, 2010 at 07:55

Friday, Aug 06, 2010 at 07:55
I don't enough about that stuff Bucky , might do some reading up on how the fluid returns etc , but I do know when it could happen next - right about the time I'm stuck in 1/2 meter of snow this weekend.
Robin Miller

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Follow Up By: Member - Bucky - Friday, Aug 06, 2010 at 09:04

Friday, Aug 06, 2010 at 09:04
Bugger the snow..... too cold for this "coast dweller"

Cheers Mate
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Follow Up By: Member - Bucky - Friday, Aug 06, 2010 at 09:23

Friday, Aug 06, 2010 at 09:23

I have had another look at your post, after I have been up for a couple more hrs, and have come to the conclusion that my first reply was a lot of dribble, and not read properly... Der me !

I would only now imagine that as you slid over the rubble, something has dislodged the pushrod from the slave cylinder.

Amazingly you have not brocken anything.... Well done, or should I have said that was lucky.

Anyway the main thing is that you got away with just reseating everything..
Personally I would put a rubber kit into the slave cylinder, as the main rubber may well be damaged.

And I thought of putting a different type of protection plate over the area.

Cheers Mate... and once again sorry about the earlier post


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