Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Oh Clutch.

Today's brief post covers the swift demise of the clutch in Flash, the 2001 TDI Jetta.

Full Yard
The stable of cars in my driveway and garage has steadily climbed over the last few years. During my humble beginnings with the ex, I had the '72 camperbus (Hapy) and a '01 Jetta TDI (Flash). I fixed whatever car she had along the way, but generally speaking, I have the car I drove and the bus I worked on. When I met Boo, her 2000 Saturn (Dude) was her daily driver. She has had the same mechanic for that car for years, so I pretty much don't touch it out of respect for their relationship. Between kids' cars: '01 Jetta Wagon TDI (unnamed), '87 Jeep Cherokee (Jaws) the '79 ZX (not named yet) and my extra project car (the oft-posted about MG), our yard and garage have 7 cars packed in. Of those, at least 3 are daily-driving: the old Jeep, an FR-S and Flash the Jetta. The most often used of them all has been Flash.

He is a real trooper. After re-doing the front suspension a couple of years ago (See: Daily Driving), and replacing his steering rack after Les Schwab failed to tighten the baffles during alignment (letting water in and fouling the rack), he's been very reliable. He has crossed over 200k miles and while the body has looked better and there are all kinds of little things that bug me, he runs great. At least until a couple of weeks ago.

Oh Clutch
A couple of weeks ago, something in the clutch pedal went "pank!" and a little hiccup could be felt about an inch above the floor when raising the pedal from fully depressed. The clutch had been slipping a little bit in first gear, and I had started hearing some noise when the pedal was depressed and engine at idle. So, I knew something was going. As I write this, I'm inclined to think it's the throw-out bearing, but a new one of those comes in the clutch kit and in order to replace it, you need to get that far in anyway, so I started thinking about the job. And then things went from screwy to un-drive-able. We had started driving the FRS more, and Flash had sit for a few days when the need arose for me to drive Flash to work. The clutch started acting weird almost from go. Everything was fine so long as I didn't depress the pedal, which sounds silly, but I knew I couldn't make it to the transit center and then home again so I aborted the drive and turned around. I got home, but he was banned from travel until I do the clutch job.

As I mentioned at the top, I have 7 cars littering my driveway and garage. The garage is officially a 2-car, but you really can't fit 2 cars in there, though there are 2 doors. Behind door #1 sits the MG, without a top. It can't move out since the steady fall rains have arrived. So, I will need to do the job similar to how I did the last front-end job on the Jetta (replacing the steering rack): with the rear-end sticking out the open door. I really don't like the idea of the garage being left unlocked like that, so this will take some extra planning. But first, parts need ordering, and I need to verify I have all the requisite tools.

I really don't prefer car parts from the NAPA or O'reilly's of the world. The parts for some cars are okay, but for the European imports, they generally aren't that great. Since Discount Import Parts (DIP) closed their Beaverton location, I'm effectively forced to buying online. Fortunately, TDI owners have a few in-community vendors like IDParts.com who offer OEM and better-than-stock parts.

I like the dual-mass flywheel in the Jetta, and am choosing to keep it rather than swap it out for a single-mass. There are lots of cheap "conversion kits", especially at the NAPA's, etc where you can get a clutch, pressure plate and flywheel for $200. Sounds too good to be true? It probably is. Especially when a good clutch and pressure plate (with throwout bearing, grease and an alignment tool) is close to double that. If you're gonna spend 6 hours tearing your car apart, put in a good part, right?

So, I ordered the dual-mass flywheel fitting clutch kit ($300+). I decided to get a new real main seal as well. These run around $35, and are the last line of defense between your engine oil and your clutch. When these leak, oil gets on your clutch, forcing a new clutch job. I have not yet decided if I will replace the seal. I just figured that having it in-hand could stave-off Murphy's Law.

Tempted Fate
I thought I was being smart getting the rear main seal. Maybe I was. Unfortunately, there is something more serious going on within my engine bay that has me stumped. I can't start the engine anymore, and the battery dies after a handful of attempts. Maybe the cheap NAPA-replacement alternator I put in had gone bad. Maybe the recently replaced battery failed prematurely. Maybe my starter failed. Maybe there's something more serious happening inside like the timing belt or injection pump skipped a tooth. I don't know. I can say, though, that I entertained thoughts of simply parting the car out and thinning the herd of cars by one. Since the Jetta Wagon doesn't currently work (bad automatic transmission), now I got thinking of combining those problems: I take the working transmission and all the other manual transmission bits out of Flash, combine them with the new clutch kit into the Jetta Wagon and part out the rest of Flash.

And then I was able to get him started. It required a boost from my charger, but he started and I was able to back him up a few feet. Sweetness, the engine is fine. It's a pure primary electrical issue: battery, starter or alternator or a combination. A couple of days after I moved him, I tried to start him again. No start and the clutch pedal wouldn't return back up by itself. Neat.

Projects Pile
I'm increasingly loath to look out my front window at a growing list of broken things needing repair. Hapy needs a radiator. MGB needs a top. 280ZX needs a door and an interior. Dude needs a headliner. Jetta Wagon needs a transmission or a 5-speed swap. Jaws (the Jeep) and the FRS are the only consistent cars and Jaws' transmission is starting to go. Clearly, I'll have plenty of material for the blog. It's just a question of when I'll have the time to do the work.

The forces at work these days (holidays, boys need my time, icy weather approaching) have led me to the decision to take the clutch kit and Flash to the local clutch place to do the work. I can't drive him in his current condition, so I'll just haul him over there. I'll get the battery checked first (pretty sure this is it since an overnight on the charger doesn't get enough juice in there for the engine to start), but if it's the alternator, I'll need to do that replacement after the clutch is done. Since the clutch job requires the removal and re-install of a starter, I sent a replacement starter (from Discount Import Parts, so it's not crap) with the clutch kit and Flash. It is actively getting worked on, so if things go well, I'll be driving him home tonight.

UPDATE (2017-12-10): the no-start issue was resolved by replacing the starter. The new clutch is so easy to depress, the gears engage nicely and he starts right up. The Clutch Doctor did an awesome job and Flash is back to being our daily driver, shifting the FRS back to occasional use.

Thanks for following along, and I'll have something with pictures next time :)

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