Jetta GLI - sudden clutch failure.

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Aug 15, 2020
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Atlanta, GA
GLI in signature (its the other half daily driver) the car suddenly started having issues on a commute home last Tuesday. Clutch not engaging until very top of pedal and shifting into gear was impossible and this was after a short drive on the freeway. Finally had the car towed to VW dealer today and they called to report failed clutch and failed slave cylinder - none of it covered under CPO warranty (I totally understand clutch is never a warrantable item) but I find it odd the slave cylinder failed and feel like that caused the clutch failure. The car was not exhibiting any type of worn clutch symptoms at any point prior to the failure happening and the clutch just magically wore out over the course of about 4-5 miles on the freeway in 6th gear.

Should I fight with VW on this? I firmly believe the slave cylinder failure caused the clutch failure and they are using the clutch as an easy out for covering any part of the repair (slave cylinder itself should be a CPO covered item). I am considering opening a case with VWoA regarding this.

Dealer quote for the slave cylinder and clutch replacement is $3300 - I about drove my ID.4 off the freeway when other half read that off to me. Slave cylinder is only ~$400 of that total. We are working on getting other quotes and will have it towed elsewhere (we have secondary towing coverage that is not through VW CPO) but before we do that wanted to see if we should pursue the slave cylinder failure causing the clutch failure.
 
Not knowing how many miles you have on that clutch, I would bet on the slave cylinder or low brake fluid and air in the system.
 
I firmly believe the slave cylinder failure caused the clutch failure and they are using the clutch as an easy out for covering any part of the repair (slave cylinder itself should be a CPO covered item).
Not likely. Is this an internal slave cyl or external? The internal ones are problematic, across multiple brands.

Sounds like the clutch just wore out, they don't always provide a lot of warning. The price they gave you isn't shabby though.
 
Edit: wrong car

The slave cylinder shold be covered by CPO. The clutch (if you actually need one) would be customer pay.

If the trans is out, at a minimum do the dual mass and RMS.
 
The OP said the clutch wasn't engaging until the pedal was nearly all the way up. That sounds like a worn out clutch. If the clutch slave cylinder goes out, wouldn't you get the opposite problem? It should become hard to disengage the clutch. Because springs hold the clutch engaged and it requires pressure in the hydraulic line to work against the springs to disengage it.

Similar to how when your brakes go bad (contaminated fluid, leaking cylinder), the pedal gets squishy and you have to push it further to have any effect - not the opposite.

PS: IME, when the clutch friction surface goes, it goes quickly without much notice. One day it works, the next day it starts slipping under load. But $3300 sounds ridiculous for a clutch replacement. A reputable shop (non-dealer) should be able to do it for less than half that price. The last clutch I did was in the old Subaru and that cost $1200, including a new dual-mass flywheel.
 
Thanks all. Failure was so odd though - never any slipping prior to this then bam the clutch is shot after tootling along the freeway in 6th gear. Car is a little under 90k miles.

We will probably have it towed elsewhere as even the dealer parts prices are about 2x what I can get them for on ECS Tuning which will save us ~$500. ECS Tuning parts are OEM (Sachs) for clutch and pressure plate and genuine VW for the slave cylinder.

The OP said the clutch wasn't engaging until the pedal was nearly all the way up. That sounds like a worn out clutch. If the clutch slave cylinder goes out, wouldn't you get the opposite problem? It should become hard to disengage the clutch. Because springs hold the clutch engaged and it requires pressure in the hydraulic line to work against the springs to disengage it.

Similar to how when your brakes go bad (contaminated fluid, leaking cylinder), the pedal gets squishy and you have to push it further to have any effect - not the opposite.

I was not in the car when the failure happened so its all second hand info. As I understand it was it was almost impossible to get into any gear and it took a lot of finesse to get the car home (~¾ mile), everything apparently was just fine (no slipping, no weird clutch action and no hard to get into gear) accelerating onto the freeway 4-5 miles earlier.
 
with a slave cylinder going bad.. pumping the clutch can help it temporarily (to get somewhere)
usually you can put it to the floor and still be in gear.
 
If it's hard to get it into any gear, and the clutch wasn't slipping, that sounds like it's hard to DIS-engage the clutch. Which sounds like a bad slave cylinder.
 
Thats why this is all so odd as other half reported burnt clutch smell once finally home and parked. My thought is the internal slave failed, leaked brake fluid onto the clutch and caused it to burn up - just a cascade of failures due to a failed slave cylinder but I don't have eyes on any of it so its just a thought. If they just said worn clutch I would have been like oh its time but the slave cylinder failure and the failure modes made me question it all.

On top of this was just informed dealer is trying to charge $190 for the tow when towing is supposed to be covered under the CPO warranty, don't recall seeing stipulation of only free towing if you have the repair made at dealer.

All a nightmare to say the least.
 
90,000 miles is early for a clutch failure. Has someone not familiar with how to drive a manual transmission been driving the car?

If not, it suggests a primary mechanical problem, something like your failure of the slave cylinder. It's not proof of course.
 
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90,000 miles is early for a clutch failure. Has someone not familiar with how to drive a manual transmission been driving the car?

If not, it suggests a primary mechanical problem, something like your failure of the slave cylinder. It's not proof of course.
Other half has driven manual trans for 26 years with only a 3.5 year pause with a Jetta TDI DSG so not an issue with new manual trans driver. The BMW 325i that the TDI replaced it had ~143k miles on the original clutch and it was definitely slipping when car was traded in but it had been slipping under certain circumstances for about 10k miles prior to being traded so it was giving plenty of warning.
 
Other half has driven manual trans for 26 years with only a 3.5 year pause with a Jetta TDI DSG so not an issue with new manual trans driver. The BMW 325i that the TDI replaced it had ~143k miles on the original clutch and it was definitely slipping when car was traded in but it had been slipping under certain circumstances for about 10k miles prior to being traded so it was giving plenty of warning.
Sounds like you know what you're doing.

I gave an older car (a '63 Chevy II with the 194 cu. in. I6) to my nephew and he took the clutch out twice in the next 6 months. He has always had manual transmissions ever since. I wonder why?
 
90,000 miles is early for a clutch failure. Has someone not familiar with how to drive a manual transmission been driving the car?

If not, it suggests a primary mechanical problem, something like your failure of the slave cylinder. It's not proof of course.
That’s a pretty standard life for a modern clutch on any semi performance vehicle. We used to do them on G37’s regularly at about 100k.
 
90,000 miles is early for a clutch failure. Has someone not familiar with how to drive a manual transmission been driving the car?
...
Which reminds me... 20 years ago we bought a Subaru Forester for my wife, 5 speed manual. 1st gear was so short she never used it, instead used to start from 2nd gear. I told her several times that was hard on the clutch and it would burn out early, and replacing clutches is expensive. It drove me crazy cuz I knew I'd be the one dealing with the problem, not her. She didn't listen, so I had to finally stop telling her cuz it just got her angry. Fast forward several years to around 75,000 miles, one day I come home from work she tells me while on the freeway, she was driving up a hill and suddenly the engine started revving up and there was this horrible smell. So I told her the clutch was dead and needed replacing. She asked how long does a clutch last, and I reminded her that my old Honda in the garage had 180k miles still with the original clutch. To her credit, after that she started using 1st gear when appropriate.
 
Kinda wonder if it's tuned since it was used, though even if it was un-tuned they should have caught the flash counter in the CPO process though. Recent VW clutches are not known for tolerating tuning much...
 
there are ALWAYS variables with wear items + IMO miles are a poor guideline! you could drive on the freeway almost forever + NOT wear out a clutch or brakes!! dealers -stealers are $$$$ as many have big overhead + want big profits. find a reliable independent + while its out a complete job is best. when i had a Quaife LSD put in my 2001 jetta 1.8T not stock, i had a single mass flywheel as well as a bigger VR6 clutch installed + it lasted until i zipped teeth off 5th gear at 25 lb boost + while the tranny got fixed at APTuning in lebanon my indy that removed it put in another clutch job at over a 100 thou + working well when traded at almost 200 thou, although a lot of highway miles on construction work was easier on the clutch. i enjoy a manual tranny as my 2011 SV 4WD fronty is + it got a clutch job at 35 thou 1G parts 400 labor from my honest fair small town shop. it was preowned + surely dont know how the previous owner USED-ABUSED it. a CVT repair would be a LOT more, + even a typical slush box
 
90,000 miles is early for a clutch failure. Has someone not familiar with how to drive a manual transmission been driving the car?

If not, it suggests a primary mechanical problem, something like your failure of the slave cylinder. It's not proof of course.
I thought the OP said it was CPO? A person can't account for the prowess with manuals of the (unknown) PO, in my view.
 
Be sure to at least resurface the flywheel. They didn't on my Volvo and the clutch action on the new clutch (replaced at 185,000 Km due to broken internal linkage) was never as smooth as the original. That was the only clutch I've ever had to replace (knock on wood).
 
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