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A clutch master cylinder contains a reservoir that stores the brake fluid. It is connected to the clutch slave cylinder through hoses. When you push the clutch pedal, brake fluid flows from the clutch master cylinder to the slave cylinder, applying the pressure necessary to move (engage) the clutch. It has internal and external seals that can fail. If the external seals wear out, the clutch master cylinder will leak brake fluid, reducing the amount of fluid in the car and causing the clutch to malfunction. You may also find leaked brake fluid down by the clutch pedal (inside the car). If the internal seals wear out, the clutch fluid will continue to circulate inside instead of being directed to the slave cylinder. In that case, the clutch pedal will go all the way to the floor when you apply the clutch.
Whenever the clutch master cylinder is replaced, it is recommended to replace the slave cylinder (connected to the master cylinder through the hose). When the master cylinder goes bad, it is extremely common for the slave cylinder to follow suit. Note some clutch slave cylinders are installed inside the transmission. To replace this type of slave cylinder the transmission has to be removed.
Usually during an oil change, mechanics check the amount of brake fluid. If you feel a change in the way the clutch pedal feels (softer pedals) when stepping on it, you should have a mechanic inspect the clutch master cylinder and hose. Clutch fluid should be changed every 24,000 miles.
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