Thursday, May 19, 2011

Disengaged Clutch - An Exciting New Meaning to the Term

This morning I was driving my son to school, minding my own business. While approaching the busiest intersection of the 15-minute trip, I depressed the clutch pedal as usual, to downshift into first gear in preparation for stopping at a red light.

Everything was cool. Until I heard a mighty "SPROING."  And the car promptly stalled.  Looking at my feet, I noticed the clutch pedal was pressed all the way to the floor.  Not good.

Meanwhile traffic backed up behind me. I ducked my head under the front seat and immediately saw that the bolt that holds the clutch lever to the mechanism had popped off.  I re-emerged, waved the traffic to move around me, and frantically looked for the bolt under the floor mat.  There it was!

I re-inserted the bolt and got the clutch to re-engage, giving me an opportunity to quickly turn into the last driveway before the light. My son said, "Dad, will you be able to stop?"  I said, "Sure," wondering if I could, not really sure at all. But the car stopped in the driveway just fine, of course.

My son asked for a dollar to take the bus the rest of the way to school (a bus stop was located conveniently at the intersection) and I pondered the situation.  I engaged and disengaged the clutch a few times with my hand, enough to see that the bolt was not going to stay put on its own. Of the washer and nut there was no sign - they had vanished into a void, probably underneath the glued-down carpet.

I looked in the car for a pen, so I could write a note to explain why the car was there should the owners of the driveway and accompanying house become curious.  No pen in the glove box, naturally.

I thought some more and walked down to the main street.  Right there was a Meineke Muffler shop and beside it, a clutch repair place, What luck! But I had to wait ten minutes for opening time. I returned to the car and stared at my watch.

At eight a.m. sharp I returned to the clutch place. They had opened but had neither a bolt nor a nut that I might fit on the bolt from the clutch lever, which looked pretty stripped.

But then another garage door opened nearby and a pleasant Hispanic guy asked me if I needed help. This was a different shop altogether.  I'm still not clear what it was called.  I showed him my bolt and asked if I might buy a similar one from him with a nut to match, so I could rig the clutch to work and at least get home.

He dug around in his stuff and found a perfect match, although longer.  He wouldn't take any money from me.  Amazing!  I returned to the car and installed the bolt, cursing myself for not bringing my camera to document the proceedings.

1) The bolt that rescued me, later on

I wondered now why on Earth that certain factions of our government and population wanted to get rid of working Hispanic immigrants. Look how nice that guy was!  Geez.

Anyway, I called my garage, EuroCar Service of Seattle and drove the car there.  They rethreaded my original bolt back to a workable condition and installed a new nut. Best of all, those great guys didn't charge me, either.

2) All better now

A plastic bushing on either side is supposed to prevent wear. The one on the outside of the pedal was missing and that's probably why the bolt popped to begin with, having caused the assembly to wear excessively. The inside bushing was still in place.  So all I have to do is order one of the these bushings and put it back on.

I called my son and he got to school just fine. The owners of the house never peeked out the door to see what was going on in their driveway, and eventually I drove to the store, picked up some groceries, and went home.

Lastly, I decided to leave the rescue bolt in the glove box, in case this ever happens again.

Just another day in the life of owning a 44-year old car.


  1. that's the things that make driving those cars a neverending adventure ;) I'm glad it worked out fine for you.

  2. Hey Kit, I lost a connecting bolt on my Audi on the Sagamore bridge, heading for Boston. It was stuck in fourth gear. I drove to the Manchester airport OK, highway all the way, picked or dropped off someone, and then drove to 89N, then 91N to the border, stopped for customs, then on the 55 to the 10 and into Sherbrooke to the Volkswagen dealer where I left it to be fixed. Pas de problemo!!! About 1978-9 or so. Bruce